• Exclusives

    An Open Letter from the Smoldering Crater of Braves Country

    Editor’s Note: Bud L. Ellis sat down at his computer this evening, hours after Major League Baseball levied unprecedented and far-reaching penalties on the Atlanta Braves for improprieties regarding the signing of international free agents. In the wake of the punishment – resulting in 13 Braves prospects being declared free agents, limits on international free agency spending through 2021, the loss of a 2018 domestic draft pick, and the lifetime ban of former general manager John Coppolella – there is much anger pulsating throughout Braves Country.

    Consider this an open letter from a lifelong Braves fan:

     

    By Bud L. Ellis

    BravesWire.com

    ATLANTA – Good evening, Braves Country. I appreciate you joining me tonight as we digest the news of today, a day we will remember as perhaps the lowest point in the proud and storied history of Braves baseball.

    During the past few hours, as news of the penalties Major League Baseball enforced on the Braves trickled out, many fans I have talked to have displayed anger. There have been tweets and social media posts from many level-headed people, including myself, that amount to basically a primal scream of raging madness, frustration boiling over.

    No, I am not going to tell you to stop and stifle that frustration. I won’t do that, because I can’t do it myself. I am that angry at what has transpired, and the impact it has and will have for some time to come on our baseball franchise, a franchise many of us have poured countless hours, tears, joy and dollars into through the years.

    Instead, I am writing an open letter to address today’s events, a letter specifically addressed to several groups of people.

    Major League Baseball declared prized Braves prospect Kevin Maitan a free agent on Tuesday.

    Major League Baseball declared prized Braves prospect Kevin Maitan a free agent on Tuesday.

    First and foremost, to the 13 international prospects who signed with the Braves to pursue their dreams of playing professional baseball in the United States, I am sorry you were caught up in this. I feel like you were used by powerful people above you. Yes, some of you signed for a lot of money and some of you may have known very well what you were doing.

    But you’re also kids. The adults involved knew what they were doing was wrong. They did it anyway. They brought you miles away from your homes and your families, into a strange country, where you may not have been able to speak the language, drive a car or balance a checkbook. I sincerely wish each of you the absolute most success, and hope you will not look at the Braves logo as a symbol of greed and deceit. That’s not who we are nor what we represent.

    To the powers responsible for fostering a culture and order of conducting business that is disgusting and embarrassing. You exploited your powers to influence misdeeds, underhanded practices that directly reflect on the logo of a baseball franchise that has prided itself on integrity and honesty for long before you arrived, and will do so again long after your sordid names are forgotten.

    You will carry this disgrace to your graves.

    To current Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos and the remainder of the Braves baseball operations staff, you will hear many people scream that our franchise needs to respond, to do something to take this away in one fell swoop. I get it, I really do. We all want to move away from this darkness and despair as quickly as possible.

    But, do not act in rashness. Realize for the massive hit sustained today, you are in charge of one of baseball’s most talented organizations. The prospects lost represent players who were years away from reaching the major leagues. That is not to minimize the loss suffered today; rather, to emphasize the point that this organization is in good shape. We are close.

    Do not make an impromptu decision that jeopardizes that mission. The remainder of the rebuild, if done correctly, can and will raise this franchise and its fanbase to new heights. That path remains unchanged.

    Also, realize there are holes at the major-league level that need addressing. If there are moves to make that fill those holes, moves that make sense for the organization, I trust in your experience and guidance to make those moves at the appropriate time. Our goal is the same as yours: to see the Braves winning meaningful baseball games in October and November. Your fans have your backs. Let’s go to work.

    To Major League Baseball, you have succeeded in making the Braves an example for the other 29 teams, and for anybody who wishes to practice the type of behavior exhibited by our leaders. I cannot find fault with your investigation or the punishment, although I will say I believe it is extreme. There is no denying the actions of the baseball franchise were unacceptable.

    MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred

    MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred

    But I urge you to not stop here. Numerous published reports during the past several weeks indicate there are other teams exhibiting similar behavior. You have accomplished your goal of hammering the Braves with penalties the likes of which our sport has not seen. You owe the global baseball community your continued diligence, investigation and, if warranted, punishment of teams committing like violations.

    Believe me, all of baseball is watching. This should not be a chance for teams to recalibrate their business practices with no justice for prior transgressions.

    Finally, to Braves fans everywhere. Today has been awful, without a doubt. The penalties handed down to our team almost seem surreal. The past two months have stained our franchise, and we all feel the pain of something we love and cherish so dearly being ridiculed and scorned.

    We are angry, yes, and we have every right to be. But I am reminded in times like this of a particular line of thinking: Anger unchecked can divide the strongest of unions, but anger harnessed can unite and forge unshakable bonds.

    As the sun sets over SunTrust Park this evening, this organization remains immensely talented. There are vast waves of talent throughout the system, especially at Triple-A, Double-A and the two Single-A levels. While there will be some work required to refill the gaps now present as a result of today’s sanctions, the fact remains the Braves have one of baseball’s best and deepest minor-league systems, and a major-league roster with many young, impactful players.

    The future remains very bright. I know the news was jarring. I felt it, too. It is easy to dive into fits of rage or depths of despair, but at the end of this awful day, the Braves are in a good place. Perhaps, in a strange way, a better place today than they were two months ago.

    The Winter Meetings are next month. Pitchers and catchers report in February. The season starts March 29. The new season is coming, and soon. And I believe this with all my heart:

    We will be better. We will be relevant. We will compete. We will get there. And when we do, it’s going to be even sweeter when we think about all we’ve overcome.

    But only if we stick together, with our team and with each other. Tonight, I feel your pain. Hang in there.

    —30—

    Bud L. Ellis is a lifelong Braves fan who worked as a sports writer for daily newspapers throughout Georgia earlier in his writing career, with duties including covering the Atlanta Braves, the World Series and MLB’s All-Star Game. Ellis currently lives in the Atlanta suburbs and contributes his thoughts on Braves baseball and MLB for a variety of outlets. Reach him on Twitter at @bud006.