I have no problem admitting it. At the beginning of September, I was 100 percent against bringing Brian Snitker back for 2017. This organization was heading in a new direction, and that meant they needed a fresh voice at the helms. It was time for the Atlanta Braves to do something they don’t normally do and step outside of the organizational box and bring in a young, fresh voice to lead these young, fresh prospects.
Now in October, I feel like the Braves would be foolish to do anything but hand Snitker the reigns for 2017 and this new era of baseball.
Where to start? How about the beginning of June? My biggest issue with retaining Snitker was that, much like Fredi Gonzalez, he was a “Braves guy”. I simply assumed he had too much of the old regime in him, and that would not translate well with the direction that John Hart and John Coppolella envision.
I was wrong. As it turns out, Fredi Gonzalez is simply not a very good manager. He doesn’t seem to be a good tactical manager, and in-game adjustments seemed like a chore. With many of the same pieces, Snitker got a team that Gonzalez had at 9-29 to finish the season as one of the most fun teams to watch in baseball.
Sure, he got Matt Kemp in the big trade. Yes, Ender Inciarte was injured much of the earlier part of the season and by September, he looked like a Gold Glove-winning All Star with the second most hits in the National League. And yes, the future captain (yea, I said it) Dansby Swanson made his big league debut, and proved everything the Braves knew he would be. It wasn’t numbers with Swanson — which were great, don’t get me wrong — it was the heart.
Snitker has been with the Braves since 1977. He was first a player, and than served as a skipper for several of their minor league affiliates, as well as a bullpen coach and third base coach for the big league club. He was instrumental in developing the youth of the Braves club that went on an incredible tear in the 1990s and early 2000s, and what we are seeing now that is that in his previous two seasons at Gwinnett, he may have been doing the same with these guys.
He gave this team one goal and that was not to lose 100 games. They didn’t, and they fell reasonably short of that mark considering how bad they were up until the All Star Break. And for the most part, this team is not sensational. He got them to play for him, for the pride of the final season of The Ted. This team was 37-35 in the second half of the season, including winning 20 of their last 30 games.
I know it seems like I’m bashing this current roster, but I’m not. I like what the Braves have been doing and after covering the Rome Braves and their minor league system this year — one that sent four affiliates to the minor league playoffs, including a Rome championship — I know first hand they are doing things right. I watched them live and up close and these kids can flat out play. The big league roster, however, has a lot of place holders, crafty vets or career minor leaguers, simply holding it down until the youth is ready. They had no business being as good as they were in the second half. You have to chalk a lot of that up to tutelage, and that means Snitker did one hell of a job.
The reports are that the Braves are interviewing Ron Washington and Bud Black. Those two candidates aren’t what I envisioned back in early September when I felt the Braves needed a new look at skipper. When I said new, I meant new to the ranks, take a chance on a guy with Baseball IQ that could go through the trials and tribulations with this young Braves team. A few of the names that The Thread and I threw around in casual conversation were Mark DeRosa and David Ross.
I don’t see what Black and Washington would bring to this team. They were great managers. Black got the most out of a Padres roster filled with garbage over the years, but that wasn’t enough. Washington has had his fair share of off the field issues as well as on the field issues that he may not be the perfect fit for a youth rebellion.
I also think that maybe it’s time to not only hand Snitker the reigns, but allow him to make some choices. I have always wondered why Terry Pendleton always gets interviewed for the managerial openings on the Braves, but is seemingly never truly considered. Why did the Braves go to Gwinnett and call up Snitker instead of handing it over to TP? He has seen it all as a player and coach for the Braves. Hart and Coppolella made it PERFECTLY clear from day one that Snitker was the interim manager, why not finally give TP his chance if it was seemingly a lame duck role?
In all of his years as a Braves coach — he’s taken on several different coaching roles — how come no one has ever really made a big push to steal him away from the Braves? Look at guys like Joe Girardi and Don Mattingly, heck, even Fredi. These were all bench coaches in one way or the other and there are plenty of teams going after them, seemingly annually. How long was Mattingly on the market? Ten minutes? I love the guy, but he hasn’t done much yet to prove he is a competent big league manager.
Same with Eddie Perez. Great guy. Fan favorite. The ladies love him. But how the heck has this team not been able to develop a catching prospect with him on board? I understand he is the first base coach, I understand that the players love him, but maybe it’s the pieces from the old regime left behind that need to shift, and not so much Snitker.
Think about this. Next season, if the front office stands pat on their big pieces, the top of the batting order is going to be Inciarte, Swanson, 2016 MVP candidate Freddie Freeman (yea, I said that, too!) and Kemp. It is going to be very hard to find a top four that is that exciting in all of baseball. The rest of the 21 players on the roster are going to be many faces that Snitker is familiar with from his past two seasons in Gwinnett. It seems almost advantageous for the Braves to stick with this guy, doesn’t it?
Don’t sign him to a big deal. As exciting as the end of this season has been, no one expects the 2017 Braves to contend for the World Series. Not in the NL East that has the Mets, Nationals, and a Phillies team stacked with equally exciting youth. If Snitker flops next season, then cut him lose. I bet you DeRosa and Ross will still be on the market.
But I got news for you, folks. They won’t fail. Because Snitker has seemingly been quietly waiting for this moment all of his life. He turned the Braves second half of the season into the Cleveland Indians from Major League. I couldn’t sit and watch a Braves game until July, and by September, I didn’t want to turn them off.
Not only should he get the job. He should be NL Manager of the Year.