The Braves held a news conference Monday afternoon at SunTrust Park to introduce their new general manager, Alex Anthopoulos. But that was not the first order of business for a franchise rocked by a rule-breaking scandal.
“Before I introduce our new executive today, I’d like to take a moment to address our fans,” Braves Chairman and CEO Terry McGuirk said. “The past few months have been the toughest in the storied history of the Atlanta Braves franchise. Frankly, the Braves have not lived up to our standard that the fans expect of us and what we expect of ourselves.
“On behalf of the entire Braves family, I want to apologize to the fans and our partners. We have let you down, and we will work to regain your trust, which actually begins today with this announcement.”
Then McGuirk welcomed Anthopoulos, the former Toronto Blue Jays general manager, who agreed to a four-year contract to become the Braves’ GM and executive vice president.
McGuirk said Anthopoulos, 40, will have “full control of the baseball side of the operation” and report directly to McGuirk.
John Hart, who had been the Braves’ president of baseball operations, will relinquish that position and become a senior advisor, effective immediately, McGuirk said. Hart “will not be involved in the daily operations of the baseball side of the business,” McGuirk said.
The announcements – and apology – came exactly six weeks after former general manager John Coppolella resigned amid an MLB investigation of alleged violations by the Braves of player procurement rules.
MLB still hasn’t announced its findings and what penalties commissioner Rob Manfred will levy against the Braves.
“I talked to the commissioner (Monday) morning,” McGuirk said. “He told me that the investigation has been completed for some time and that he will be back to us advising us of what penalties will be accorded to us in the near future.”
Asked to define “near future,” McGuirk said: “I think we’re talking within two weeks.”
Anthopoulos becomes the Braves’ 12th general manager since the team moved to Atlanta in 1966 and their third since John Schuerholz stepped down from the position after the 2007 season.
At Monday’s news conference, Anthopoulos expressed much enthusiasm about his new job -- a welcomed contrast to the gloom that has hung over the franchise for more than a month.
“The opportunity here, the upside, is through the roof,” he said. “Seeing the ballpark as well, seeing the surrounding area, it’s incredibly exciting. And just (envisioning) what it’s going to be like when we’re back to winning day in and day out, getting the fans engaged and excited, I can’t be more thrilled.”
He called his new position “one of the premier jobs in all of sports.”
Anthopoulos, a native of Montreal, was the Blue Jays’ general manager for six years, a stint that culminated with an American League East title in 2015, when he was named MLB executive of the year by The Sporting News. But Anthopoulos left Toronto after that season as the Blue Jays brought in a new team president.
“It was a tough decision,” he said of leaving the Blue Jays. “… I just didn’t feel it was the right fit.”
He has worked in the Los Angeles Dodgers’ front office the past two seasons as vice president of baseball operations.
Anthopoulos said he was first contacted about the Braves job while the Dodgers were playing the Houston Astros in the World Series. From the start, he said, the open job was described to him as one that would report directly to McGuirk.
He met with McGuirk and other Braves officials over dinner at a SunTrust Park club on Oct. 30, the off day between Games 5 and 6 of the World Series.
After the dinner and a private meeting with McGuirk in his office, Anthopoulos was convinced he wanted the job.
“I told my wife, ‘This is as good a job as I’m ever going to be able to find. I’d love to get it,’” he said.
Then, during a two-week wait to be offered the position, “I was on pins and needles a little bit,” he said.
The MLB investigation and still-unknown sanctions didn’t dissuade him, Anthopoulos said, because “you just deal with those challenges, and we’ll get through them.”