1. The Braves hired Gordon Blakeley on Thursday as an assistant to the general manager. Blakeley is a tremendous hire. He has a great reputation as a terrific scout on the international market. However, how can the Braves hire an assistant to someone that has not been hired yet? Wouldn't a general manager brought in from the outside - like a Dayton Moore, for example - want his own people? Sure. That's why this points to what is becoming very obvious. The Braves future front office is in place right now, with John Hart and John Coppolella. Who knows what titles they will have, but these are the two that will likely be in charge for the next two years, with "Coppy" taking over probably when the new stadium opens in 2017. All along, it's been my belief that John Schuerholz told Hart, "Look, help fix this and get us into the new stadium. Then Coppy can take over." Schuerholz loves Coppolella, so why would he block him from getting a job as a GM by bringing in someone from the outside, knowing that if that happened Coppy would look for a GM job elsewhere? Schuerholz is loyal to those he believes in, and that's why this scenario looks perfect.
2. From the people I've spoken with in the organization, Coppolella is highly-regarded by not just Schuerholz, but respected by others he's worked with in the farm system, too. Most knew he was in a bad situation with Frank Wren, who was heavy-handed with everyone in his front office. Also, the belief that Coppolella is just a "stats guy" is unfounded. People have been very impressed with the scouting eye he has developed over the years, along with the people (like Blakeley) he looked up to and learned from. Coppy likes to learn. He asks questions, according to those who have been around him. That's a far cry from the previous general manager, who knew all and did not need to learn anything new.
3. Expect more big names brought in for front office positions. There will be more changes in scouting and player development. The Braves know this has fallen off for several years, with Wren relying on people like his brother, Jeff Wren, and other cronies who were substandard to the Braves way of scouting. This is the chance to have an All-Star front office to help provide Hart and Coppolella with the necessary staff to help built a top-notch front office, like Schuerholz had for so many years.
4. The Braves, particularly Bobby Cox, believe Fredi Gonzalez deserves another shot at managing with Wren now gone. The belief is Wren was so meddlesome in his management style that Gonzalez was not able to do his own thing. But obviously, with Gonzalez's contract up after 2015, he will be on a short leash. He'll need to prove to the new management team that he can gain the respect of the players in the clubhouse, which was a problem the last few years. The presence of Gonzalez on the Braves trip to Zebulon, NC Thursday to announce the High-A affiliation with the Carolina Mudcats was a good indication Gonzalez is coming back. Why would he join Schuerholz, Hart and Cox if he were not sticking around? Also, it told you more about Hart's involvement. If they were waiting on the new GM to make a call about Fredi, and that call has obviously already been made, then it tells you the GM they want is already there.
5. Obviously the internet is full of rumors about Bo Porter joining Gonzalez's staff. Who knows if that will be for the 3B coaching spot or the bench coach. You'd think Porter would want to be a bench coach again, considering his experience as a manager. But it's unlikely the Braves will fire Carlos Tosca, who is Gonzalez's most trusted assistant. Porter will replace Doug Dascenzo, who has already told friends he has been let go. Scott Fletcher, the assistant hitting coach, has also been told he will not be retained. So the Braves will now be looking for two hitting coaches.
6. Do not expect this to be a quick fix. This organization needs a restart. It's getting that in the front office. The major league mix did not work in 2014, and half of that roster could be changed by opening day 2015. Plus, the minor league farm system is in a mess. Expect heavy turnover that could force the Braves to plan for winning a championship in 2017, when the new stadium opens. I'm not saying they're not going to try and win next year, but this didn't breakdown overnight and it can't be rebuilt overnight. This will take some time. But if the foundation is laid with the front office, then you'll have to trust the people in charge that they are doing what needs to be done to get the organization on the right track, even if it means not being a championship-caliber club on paper to start 2015.
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