Maybe the Colorado Rockies just need a little scandal and shame. Afterwards, they did wonders for the Atlanta Braves.
For the first time since 1999, the Braves represent the National League in the World Series. When the first game begins tonight in Houston, where the Braves face the Astros, it will officially mark the end of a long period of suffering for Braves fans.
But the crowds that fill Coors Field every summer don’t want to hear about the suffering. For years, Rockies fans felt like everything was fine. Dick Monfort spent countless hours praising former GM Dan O’Dowd and even when he had to replace the struggling GM he didn’t dare venture out of the office .
Jeff Bridich took over ahead of the 2015 campaign and suffered two losses before qualifying for the playoffs in 2017 and 2018 to move back to an under .500 squad in 2019 and things haven’t improved since. In fact, they only got worse as Bridich signed Nolan Arenado for extra time before the 2019 season only to trade him before the 2021 season.
Bridich resigned his post on April 26 of this year, choosing not to stay and feeling the wrath of livid Colorado fans.
And what did the organization do? He appointed Bill Schmidt interim general manager and promised a full search for a new general manager at the end of the 2021 season.
In a classic Rockies move, they instead appointed Schmidt permanent general manager a few days before the end of the season and decided to forgo the search for the best possible candidate.
The Braves took a similar path in 2007. When longtime general manager John Schuerholz was named president of baseball operations, they promoted his assistant, Frank Wren, to general manager.
Wren was eventually fired, and the Braves brought in Johnny Hart – a stranger – to oversee baseball operations. But one of the main steps Hart took was to promote then deputy managing director John Coppolella to managing director. The Braves stuck with an internal name that everyone was comfortable with.
And oh boy, that backfired on him, but not at first and a lot of his moves during his tenure contributed to this World Series run.
One of Coppelella’s first notable moves was the acquisition of Dansby Swanson, the No. 1 overall pick in 2015, from the Arizona Diamondbacks.
He was responsible for selecting Austin Riley and Ian Anderson in the MLB Draft and the trade that brought in Max Fried. And then there are the international signatures.
He also signed Ozzie Albies as an international player. In total, it’s 75 percent of the Braves’ infield and two of its starting pitchers that are on the active World Series roster.
But his world was about to collapse around him.
Behind the scenes, Coppolella was bending several rules when it came to signing international players. He had committed several offenses and was also the target of criticism for tampering with players from other teams. He ultimately resigned as Managing Director and Commissioner Rob Manfred pronounced a life suspension.
The Braves were forced to release 12 players as they were considered illegal signings and Ji-hwan Bae’s contract was canceled.
In a way, it could have been the best thing that ever happened in Atlanta.
After such an embarrassing debacle, there was no way Atlanta would have someone in the building to succeed Coppolella. It wasn’t that they didn’t have to look internally, they couldn’t just look internally for the optics.
The Braves went for a GM candidate who would obey the rules and offer a new perspective that could use a stable core of the team and bring it back to its dominant culture it had in the 1990s.
They found Alex Anthopoulos in the Los Angeles Dodgers front office. He was general manager of the Toronto Blue Jays from 2009 to 2015, then moved to Los Angeles to serve as vice president of baseball operations. The Braves offered him to become executive vice president and general manager of the team and he agreed.
He didn’t want to touch the foundation of the team. He had a mainstay in Freddie Freeman and another potential in Swanson. At the end of April 2018, he called Ronald AcuÃ±a Jr. In April 2019, Anthopoulos signed AcuÃ±a on an eight-year, $ 100 million contract.
In 2018, Anthopoulos’ first season on the job, the Braves won 90 games and won the division. They had lost 90 games in 2017.
Anthopoulos has continued to invest in the win-now mindset while keeping the big picture of Atlanta in mind. And he was honored by his team reaching the World Series for the first time in 22 years.
The Rockies are 14 years from their last and only World Series appearance. Since Rocktober, they are on their third general manager. None of the three were hired from the outside and felt comfortable owning ownership due to their understanding of how the Rockies work as an organization.
The Braves tried this approach for some time. Wren was fired for a poor performance and Coppolella resigned in disgrace and is now banned for life.
All that has happened since then is that the Braves have won four straight division titles, netted a National League MVP in Freddie Freeman and have now qualified for the World Series.
At times the Rockies have built a solid core worthy of playoff baseball, but haven’t been able to use it to its fullest.
For the Braves, an outside perspective was imposed on them. The Rockies should be looking for him.