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Atlanta Braves are part of an FBI investigation, Grand Jury inquiry

SUN VALLEY, ID – JULY 08: Allan “Bud” Selig (L), former commissioner of Major League Baseball (MLB), chats with current commissioner Robert Manfred at the Allen & Company Sun Valley Conference on July 8, 2015 in Sun Valley, Idaho.  (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Maybe now, this explains why the MLB was so severe with Coppolella – because they knew there was more to the story… much more.  He was simply the tip of the iceberg.

Even as the Atlanta Braves are completing a remarkable run to a division title and looking forward to the playoffs that will follow, there is a new story out this week that could serve to both throw shade over their accomplishments and also damage the sport at large.

According to a Friday report from Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports, a Federal Grand Jury has been convened in response to on-going FBI investigations about the business of baseball in Latin America.

As part of this Grand Jury probe, “at least one former Atlanta Braves” official has been subpoenaed for testimony:

While the target of the inquiry could not be confirmed by Yahoo Sports, sources said investigators have subpoenaed at least one former Atlanta Braves official as well as people involved with the signing of Cuban star Hector Olivera, who agreed to a deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers before being traded to the Braves. Multiple witnesses have agreed to cooperate with the investigation, according to sources.

There are two such officials who would be the obvious targets for testimony in this regard:  John Coppolella and Gordon Blakeley… particularly Blakeley.

 

Blakeley a Focus?

While Coppolella is being mentioned prominently in Passan’s story, Gordon Blakeley was oddly omitted. Blakeley was a long-time (21 years long) official of the Yankees with a specific – and highly successful – role in International scouting and player acquisition.

Blakeley has been credited for landing Robinson Cano, Orlando Hernandez (‘El Duque’), Jose Contreras, and many more during his career.

His ‘last hurrah’ for the Yankees came in 2014 as he pioneered the ploy of exploiting a loophole in MLB’s international market spending rules by having his club throw big bonuses to many of the highest-rated Latin teens that year while choosing to accept the relatively paltry penalties for doing so.

It worked so well that many others copied the practice, forcing a change to the rules that was incorporated into the latest Collective Bargaining Agreement (attachment 46).

When Blakeley came to the Braves, it was this same tactic – perhaps with additional ‘efforts’ – that led to the place where we are today:  with the Braves out over $30 million in wasted bonuses and left with a shell of an International presence, both now and for multiple years still to come.

Certainly, with his unusual successes Internationally, it would be natural for investigators to want to speak with him.  If nothing else, the depth of his experience with serve as a Ph.D.-level history lesson in the development and expansion of the Latin baseball market.

Hopefully for his sake, it’s nothing more than that.

 

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