The AJC’s Top 50: Nos. 11-15

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Nos. 11-15 15. Braves hit with substantial penalties 14. Hawks make over front office 13. Braves hire GM Alex Anthopoulos 12. Atlanta United make playoffs 11. Falcons win divisional playoff

The landscape of Atlanta sports changed in 2017.


Stadiums were raised, razed and renovated.

There were many more significant moments in sports involving the city, it’s teams and people connected to our region.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution compiled and ranked a list of the 50 biggest moments in Atlanta sports for the year. Over 10 days, we will reveal the list in ascending order, five at a time, until it culminates with the biggest and most defining moment on Dec. 26.

Today: 11-15.

15. Braves hit with substantial penalties

On Oct. 2, Major League Baseball and the Braves announced an investigation into the team’s handling of international free agents that led to the sudden resignation of general manager John Coppolella (more on that in a future installment). On Nov. 21, the bill came due. It included a number of penalties including the forfeiture of 13 signed prospects, including infielder Kevin Maitan. The Braves were also penalized in future signings of international prospects. The decision came after Alex Anthopoulos was hired to replace Coppolella. John Hart who had served as a front office advisor stepped down four days before the announcement.

14. Hawks make over front office

During the Hawks postseason run, despite a drop in production since a trip to the Eastern Conference finals, principal owner Tony Ressler expressed to the AJC his confidence in the front office structure. He said the relationship between president of basketball operations and head coach and general manager Wes Wilcox was a good ground. It was not. It had deteriorated to the point the Hawks announced a major restructure to the organization that returned Budenholzer to just head coach, made Wilcox a special advisor to ownership and opened a search for a general manager and head of basketball operations less than two weeks later on May 5. Travis Schlenk would later be hired to fill that role.

13. Braves hire GM Alex Anthopoulos

With the image and reputation of the Braves tarnished with an MLB investigation into their operations in the international free agent market, the Braves called on Alex Anthopoulos on Nov. 14. Anthopoulos was the general manager of the Blue Jays and built them into a division winner and then helped get the Dodgers to a seven-game World Series in his second season as vice president in baseball operations. The 40-year old was given the ultimate say in baseball operations.

12. Atlanta United make playoffs

Atlanta United’s introduction to the MLS playoffs was filled with shots clanging off posts, a controversial offsides call, tremendous saves and an attendance record. What it didn’t have was a goal or winning team after 120 minutes of soccer. The Atlanta United and Columbus Crew played to a 0-0 draw before the visitors would win a shootout 3-1 on Oct. 26. It was a sudden end to the inaugural season for Atlanta United, the first expansion team to make the playoffs since Seattle in 2009. The season ended with a 15-10-10 record. A fan base and team are already eager for a second season.

11. Falcons win divisional playoff

The Falcons’ high-powered offense rolled into the NFL postseason and then proceeded to blow by the Seahawks. The Falcons won the NFC divisional playoff game, 36-20, on Jan. 15. They put up 36 points against the league’s No. 3 scoring defense that average half that many opponent points. They could have added another touchdown after having a first-and-goal at the Seattle 2-yard line with two minutes left but saw no reason to pile on. The Falcons earned a berth in the NFC championship game – one win away from the organization’s second Super Bowl appearance. Matt Ryan threw for 338 yards and three touchdowns.

The list so far:

11. Falcons win divisional playoff

12. Atlanta United make playoffs

13. Braves hire GM Alex Anthopoulos

14. Hawks make over front office

15. Braves hit with substantial penalties

16. Hawks hire GM Travis Schlenk

17. Atlanta United sets MLS attendance record

18. Kyle Shanahan out/Steve Sarkisian in as Falcons OC

19. Philips Arena begins major renovation

20. Georgia Tech makes NIT final

21. Georgia reaches No. 1 in College Football Playoff rankings

22. Atlanta United gets first win

23. Mercedes-Benz Stadium roof problems

24. Hawks trade Dwight Howard

25. Atlanta United play first game

26. Braves finally find deal for new spring training home

27. Georgia Tech fails to make bowl game

28. Braves pick up 2018 option on Brian Snitker

29. Hawks blow up roster in youth movement

30. Freddie Freeman breaks wrist after MVP-caliber start

31. Hawks eliminated from playoffs by Wizards

32. Devonta Freeman signs big contract

33. Falcons’ PSL sales become issue

34. Brian McCann wins World Series with Astros

35. Falcons draft Takk McKinley

36. Hawks draft John Collins

37. Deshaun Watson leads Clemson to national championship

38. Tour Championship double winners

39. Sergio Garcia wins Masters

40. Brad Keselowski wins Atlanta NASCAR race

41. Hawks open practice facility

42. Ascension of Brave’ Ronald Acuna

43. Kennesaw football wins conference, goes to playoffs

44. Georgia State takes over Turner Field

45. John Isner wins fourth BB&T title

46. Georgia Swarm win National Lacrosse League title

47. Matt Stafford gets NFL-record contract

48. Braves release of Bartolo Colon

49. Rams hire Dunwoody’s Sean McVay

50. Warrick Dunn in Falcons Ring of Honor


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