MLB reinstates ex-Braves GM John Coppolella from ‘lifetime’ ban
Five years after being hit with a “lifetime” ban from Major League Baseball, former Braves general manager John Coppolella has been reinstated by the commissioner’s office from his “permanently ineligible” list.
Two major league sources told The Athletic of Coppolella’s return in recent days. Then, late Sunday, both Coppolella and the commissioner’s office confirmed the decision, which was made by Commissioner Rob Manfred.
It was Manfred who suspended Coppolella in November 2017 as a result of what the commissioner said at the time was an extended period in which the Braves “circumvented international signing rules from 2015 to 2017.”
Asked by The Athletic if the league could provide insight into why Coppolella’s actions and words over the past five years had prompted MLB to reconsider and reinstate him, a spokesperson provided this statement from the league:
“We can confirm that Mr. Coppolella has been reinstated, given the more than five years he spent on the disqualified list, the remorse he expressed and the other steps he took in response to this matter.”
Coppolella, now 44, was suspended by MLB just over a month after resigning as GM, the day after the Braves’ final game of the 2017 season. His departure was described by the Braves at the time as due to “a violation of Major League Baseball’s rules regarding the international market of players.”
When contacted this weekend by The Athletic, Coppolella chose to respond with a written apology after declining an interview request:
“I want to thank Commissioner Manfred for accepting my request to be removed from the disqualified list. I am deeply grateful to so many people who have been involved in this process, including (executive vice president of legal and operations) Bryan Seeley and (senior vice president of investigations and deputy general counsel) Moira Weinberg at Major League Baseball.
“I am very sorry and accept responsibility for my actions. I want to apologize again to the Atlanta Braves organization, Major League Baseball, its fans and especially my family and friends. I am grateful for this decision and will strive every day to honor this opportunity.”
Regardless of the decision, it’s unclear whether the reinstatement will serve as a springboard for Coppolella to return to baseball. As Pete Rose could attest, most of those who land on the permanently ineligible list no longer work in MLB.
But others have been given a second chance — none more famous than former Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, who was suspended for life in 1990 by then-commissioner Fay Vincent but allowed to return to the team only three years later.
Recently, two of baseball’s most high-profile managers, AJ Hinch and Alex Cora, found work immediately after returning from suspensions for their roles in the Astros’ 2017-18 sign-stealing scandal. Of course, those suspensions were only for one year. But they still serve as an example of baseball people who were deemed employable after a controversial suspension.
It’s not immediately clear how wary other teams might be about hiring Coppolella. And Coppolella did not specify in his statement whether he has interest in resuming his front office career, which began the week after he graduated from Notre Dame in 2000. He spent seven seasons working for the Yankees in scouting and baseball operations, then joined the Braves in 2006 and ascended to the GM job in October 2014.
He was succeeded in Atlanta by Alex Anthopoulos, who has led the Braves to five consecutive first-place finishes in the National League East and a World Series parade, in 2021. However, their 2021 championship roster was equipped with a number of star players. drafted or acquired during Coppolella’s time in the Atlanta front office: Ronald Acuña Jr., Ozzie Albies, Austin Riley, Max Fried, Dansby Swanson and others.
However, that job is overshadowed by how Coppolella’s Braves career ended. In the 2017 statement announcing Coppolella’s lifetime ban, Manfred said the club had reported signing bonuses for a number of international players that were well below the actual amounts agreed upon. As a result, the Braves were forced to release 12 of those players and were hit with additional international signing restrictions for the next two years.
Three weeks after his suspension, Coppolella told ESPN.com he was “ashamed” of his actions and, in a lengthy email, offered an apology similar to the one he gave this weekend to The Athletic.
“To those in the baseball industry, including employees of the Braves and other organizations who feel that I was in any way disrespectful or dishonest, I apologize,” Coppolella said in his 2017 statement. “To the Commissioner’s Office, which spent many extra hours dealing with such an unfortunate situation, please accept my apologies. To Braves fans and to those in the front office who supported me throughout my time as General Manager, please know that I understand and accept your anger and frustration. To my family, who have stood by me throughout this ordeal, I love you so much and I am sorry for the pain my actions have caused you.
“I have learned the lesson of life, as mistakes have cost me my dream job and my future in the game I love. I hope other people, regardless of their profession, use this as a cautionary tale when making their own business decisions. I am ashamed and humbled and will try for the rest of my life to live with honor so that this is not my defining moment.”
Coppolella has not worked in the sport in any capacity since his suspension. He is currently head of talent acquisition for Capital Vacations, a timeshare company based in South Carolina.
He had previously spent several years as senior vice president for Diamond Resorts, a timeshare company located in Orlando, Fla. In his time away from the game, he also earned an MBA in finance from the University of Florida and graduated in 2022 with “highest honors,” according to his LinkedIn page.
But is he now ready to “graduate” from his banishment and return to that “game I love”? This is a mystery that will unfold in the coming weeks and months.
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(Photo by John Coppolella in 2015: Alex Brandon/Associated Press)