Few things will get somebody a harsher punishment in professional baseball than cheating allegations. While off-the-field antics can tarnish someone’s career and the rampancy of the steroid era blurred these lines, people caught cheating get some of the harshest punishments imaginable.
In the fallout of the Houston Astros’ scandal, some stories have been forgotten. Former Atlanta Braves general manager John Coppolella recently learned this hard way in the years leading up to the Astros’ notorious scandal, receiving the dreaded MLB ban for his actions.
Cheating in baseball
Perhaps no other sport has a history of cheating like professional baseball. Whether or not this has to do with the sport’s culture or the severity of its ensuing punishments, baseball does not take kindly to cheaters. While not the first cheating scandal, one can go back over 100 years to the White Sox scandal to see how long this has been an issue.
From Pete Rose’s gambling scandal to dozens of others like it, baseball is known for its no-holds-barred approach to cheating once they believe a player is even remotely linked to a scandal. The Hall of Fame voting, which consistently shuns all-time greats like Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens based on alleged steroid-use, confirms this.
However, the Houston Astros showed that there’s some wiggle room if the league decides to make concessions to get to the bottom of this. The Astros saw this when several managers were fired while the players got a slap on the wrist. Years earlier, John Coppolella wasn’t so lucky.
John Coppolella’s rise
Coppolella was once a bright young up-and-comer with the Braves organization. Taking over the Braves’ baseball operations at just 26 years old, Coppolella rose the ranks until he became the team’s assistant general manager in 2012. However, it only took two years to get the coveted president of baseball operations role after John Hart was fired and eventually became the general manager, too.
Coppolella became known for his out-of-the-box approach and willingness to swing for big moves as a general manager. However, behind the scenes, he began to get a different reputation. People started hearing rumblings that Coppolella promised amateur playoffs perks for committing to the Braves’ organization.
At the same time, Coppolella was known as a brash negotiator who alienated agents and other teams during his negotiations.
One unnamed front-office worker who dealt with Coppolella spoke about this with ABC News.
“I recall some of the conversations I had with him, and his mind was always going,” said the unnamed source. “It was nonstop trades and waiver claims and minor-league deals. I think we’re all obsessed with this to a degree. But there’s a difference between a healthy and an unhealthy obsession. And with John, it was on the unhealthy side. I think it got to a point where it consumed and controlled his life
All of this crashed down on him in 2017, however, when his shady backroom deals caught up to him.
John Coppolella’s fall
Coppolella’s practices included latching onto international players early on and getting commitments from them before they were eligible. To some, it reeked of exploitation of the underprivileged. Coppolella stepped down from the team in 2015 amidst the allegations, but after two years of investigations, Major League Baseball took it a step further and banned him for life, according to Bleacher Report.
Coppolella expressed regret for what he did and claimed that the punishment humbled him. Furthermore, the players who Coppolella exploited had their contracts voided and were immediately released, with Braves being capped on what international players they could sign in the upcoming years. Coppolella has been quiet in recent years, but his situation reminds fans just how rampant cheating can be.