Report that Hart knew nothing of Coppolella's actions? Pure bunk

February 16, 2017, Lake Buena Vista, FL: Braves GM John Coppolella (left) and President of Baseball Operations John Hart confer while watching team practice at Champion Stadium on Thursday Feb. 16, 2017, at the ESPN Wide World of Sports in Lake Buena Vista. Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com
February 16, 2017, Lake Buena Vista, FL: Braves GM John Coppolella (left) and President of Baseball Operations John Hart confer while watching team practice at Champion Stadium on Thursday Feb. 16, 2017, at the ESPN Wide World of Sports in Lake Buena Vista. Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com

Regardless of what you may think of former Braves general manager John Coppolella -- 1) He was a great young executive who rebuilt the minor league system in a short time; 2) He's a contemptible underhanded, cheatin' punk who deserved to lose his job; 3) Somewhere in between -- most can agree on one thing:

He did not go rogue. Because, duh.

But tell that to Major League Baseball officials, who may be on a mission to cleanse the image of the (still) Braves' president of baseball operations, John Hart. MLB would have you believe Coppolella acted alone, without the knowledge of any of his superiors, when the former GM broke international signing rules and possibly committed other infractions.

In a related story, Rick Pitino also knew nothing about those strippers and the $100,000 payment to a star recruit.

ESPN's Jerry Crasnick quoted an unnamed source Monday that Hart "did not play a role in numerous rules violations that forced two club officials to resign in early October." The report said MLB examined internal communications and determined Coppolella did whatever he did without the knowledge of/blessings from Hart or John Schuerholz, the team's vice chairman.

Not buying it.

Coppolella resigned under pressure Oct. 2 because of an investigation that is expected to be finalized and announced following the World Series. Forget whether or not you believe he was going to grow into the job.  As I wrote three weeks ago, the Braves need to clean house at the top , and that means Hart being gone.

There are only two possibilities: 1) Hart knew everything  or was vaguely aware of what Coppolella was doing; 2) Hart knew nothing. A case could be made the second option is worse because he was Coppolella's boss. He was ... president of baseball operations.

Far be it for me to point out that Hart is a long-time baseball executive, and he worked at the MLB Network, and he maintains strong ties with the league, and Schuerholz was just inducted into the Hall of Fame, so the last thing top officials want to do is get mud on the smocks of either individual.

Oh wait, I just pointed that out. My bad.

Did Coppolella and special assistant Gordon Blakely, who also was fired, go rogue with their actions? Of course not.

Is it possible Hart's management style was "disengaged," as the ESPN story suggests? Certainly. It's plausible conversations went something like this:

• Coppolella: "This is what I'm thinking of doing."

• Hart: "Whatever, I have a 9:12 a.m. tee time. Can we move this along?"

But to suggest Hart wasn't complicit in the rule-breaking is pure bunk. Under no circumstances should he be back. The Braves can't afford to have this drag on much longer. They need to start fresh and hire a new team president and general manager (ideally, Dayton Moore).

This shouldn't be about saving reputations. It should be about fixing a damaged organization.

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