Just three years ago, after yet another losing season, Atlanta was in a state of scandal-induced, MLB-enforced chaos.
Their general manager, John Coppolella, resigned amid the league’s investigation into the team’s conduct on the international amateur player market. Upon completing the probe, MLB gave Coppolella — then just 38 years old — a lifetime ban, suspended one of his top lieutenants for a year, declared 13 prospects free agents and placed severe, suffocating restrictions on Atlanta’s international spending in the coming years.
The international market for young players, especially in Latin America, was and is considered baseball’s wild west. Corruption is common. MLB wanted to make an example of Atlanta and its former GM.
And then a funny thing happened: Under the pressure of penalties, Atlanta became a diamond. Led by president of baseball operations Alex Anthopoulos, it has turned into one of the sport’s model franchises and has found nothing but success, including taking a 3-2 series lead into Saturday’s Game 6 of the NLCS against the Dodgers.
Atlanta’s success starts at the top with Anthopoulos, who wasn’t the kind of Ivy League-educated, analytics-groomed baseball operations boss so many teams seek these days. He had a scouting background, had already run a team — the Blue Jays from 2009-15, getting the club to