2017 Atlanta Braves
2017 Atlanta Braves / Franchise: Atlanta Braves / BR Team Page
Managed by Brian Snitker
History, Comments, Contributions
The 2017 Atlanta Braves moved into new digs, suburban SunTrust Park, which replaced Turner Field, which had been built for the 1996 Olympics but was already considered obsolete. There was not much hope that the team would be competitive, after a terrible first half in 2016 - although they had played better in the second half. There was some hope however due to the solid play of rookie SS Dansby Swanson and a few other younger players, in addition to All-Star 1B Freddie Freeman, although the lack of good pitching beyond ace Julio Teheran was a serious handicap. Just to put together a starting rotation, the Braves had had to sign a couple of 40-year-olds, Bartolo Colon and R.A. Dickey. They would obviously have to develop some younger pitching to go along with the position players, but that was a longer-term project.
The Braves opened their new ballpark on a great note as they swept the San Diego Padres in a four-game series April 14-17, giving their fans hope that they could be competitive this season, if not contenders. They still had to convince to the fans to make the trek to the far-northern suburbs of Cobb County, however: after two expected sell-out crowds on the first two days, there were plenty of empty seats in the next two games, in spite of their being played during the Easter week-end.
The Braves suffered a big blow when 1B Freeman, who had been their best hitter by a mile, went out with a broken wrist in mid-May. The Braves quickly acquired 1B Matt Adams from the St. Louis Cardinals and he stepped into Freeman's shoes effortlessly, hitting extremely well over the next six weeks. By the time Freeman was ready to return on July 4th, the Braves decided to keep both players in the line-up by having Freeman play third base. A few day earlier, they had put an end to the Bartolo Colon experiment, cutting him lose after he had gone 2-8 with an ERA over 8.00 in 13 starts. The Braves were playing well by that point, having claimed second place in the NL East - albeit not within shouting distance of the first-place Washington Nationals - winning 11 of 15 games from June 17-July 2. Because neither Freeman nor Adams had played enough to be considered for the 2017 All-Star Game, it was CF Ender Inciarte who got the nod. He was not doing badly himself, as at the end of June he was hitting .304 with 52 runs in 79 games, in addition to playing flawless defence.
What was otherwise a promising season was tainted by a front office scandal that was made public on October 2nd. General Manager John Coppolella resigned abruptly when it was learned that he was under investigation by Major League Baseball for improprieties regarding the signing of international prospects. Team Vice-President John Hart took over in the interim, then in mid-November, the Braves hired Alex Anthopoulos to be their new GM and Vice-President for Baseball Operations. Hart was given a non-executive role as a consultant, but resigned from that a few days later, just ahead of the Commissioner's announcement of sanctions against the Braves on November 21st. Having confirmed that the Braves had willingly circumvented international signing rules by diverting signing bonuses declared for certain players towards other more valuable prospects in order to make it appear as if they had not exceeded signing limits, the Commissioner issued a lifetime ban to Coppolella, in addition to a one-year ban to his deputy, Gordon Blakeley. 12 recently-signed prospects were declared free agents, and the Braves were prevented from signing anyone for more than a token bonus during the 2018-19 international signing period, and would see their bonus pool reduced by half the following year. They also had to surrender a third-round choice in the 2018 amateur draft, while it was likely that additional sanctions would be issued against lower-level employees who had helped to enable the scam.
Awards and Honors
- Mark Bowman: "Braves penalized for int'l signing violations", mlb.com, November 21, 2017. 
- Kevin Spain and Gabe Lacques: "MLB hammers Atlanta Braves: Former GM Coppolella banned for life, 12 prospects now free agents", USA Today Sports, November 21, 2017.