Braves’ Snitker an unusual choice but not necessarily wrong choice

Updated: 9:10 a.m.

Brian Snitker has been named the Braves’ new manager, and my first thought isn’t, “Genius!” or “Morons!” Because, really, nobody ever knows how a new coach/manager is going to turn out in sports, and what may seem like an inspired decision today may cause many folks several months from now to think, “What were we thinking?”

That said, I can’t recall another hiring in sports that should resonate with so many people on a personal level.

This goes way beyond the fact Snitker pulled together a horrible team in a horrible situation, primarily created by the Braves’ front office, and went 59-65 the rest of the season, including 20-10 in the last six weeks. The reason this story has such a level of “cool” is it’s about the guy who works on the factory floor for 40 years and one day is told he’s being given an upstairs office with a view and a comfy chair.

Snitker is the ultimate pro sports rarity: He has played, coached, managed, instructed and probably laundered and cooked  for one organization since 1977. He signed with the Braves as an undrafted minor-league catcher two years before general manager John Coppolella was born.

He is one week short of his 61st birthday — an age when most people are counting the days to retirement, now achieving a career dream and being knighted as manager as the new boss.

Atlanta Braves interim manager Brian Snitker looks over the empty clubhouse one day after the Braves finished the 2016 season, Monday, Oct. 3, 2016, in Atlanta. (Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)

Brian Snitker, who became the Braves’ interim manager this season after taking over for Fredi Gonzalez, looks over the empty clubhouse the day after the regular season. (Curtis Compton / ccompton@ajc.com)

Snitker is not a fresh face. His management style is not a departure from the norm. He’s not the guy who anybody would’ve anticipated the Braves would want to slap on ticket brochures or make the centerpiece of a marketing campaign as it strives to attract millennials to their remade team in their new stadium.

There’s really nothing about Snitker that says: outside the box. He’s more like the old box that has been sitting in the corner for 40 years.

So he’s an unusual choice. But that doesn’t make him the wrong choice.

He is loved and admired by players and seemingly was the choice of most fans. I posted a blog with a reader poll last week and after 3,000 votes, Snitker was the runaway choice with 71.4 percent of the vote. The next closest were Bud Black (thought to be the favorite) at 10.4 percent and Terry Pendleton (my first choice) at 8.3.

I’ll have more on Snitker’s imminent hiring later today. Until then, here are a few more thoughts.

» Why he could be the right choice: He settled an unsettled clubhouse, so there shouldn’t be any kind of feeling out process when the team reports to spring training. Players know what to expect from Snitker and they must like when the see because they played hard for him.

» Why this could be a risk: Not to diminish what the Braves accomplished down the stretch but they won meaningless games. There’s an entirely different level of pressure and expectation when a team can play with that, “Nobody cares, nobody’s watching, let’s have fun,” kind of attitude. The level of scrutiny will be higher next season and the uncertainty is how all parties respond.

» Staffing will be interesting: The bizarre decision by the front office to fire pitching coach Roger McDowell increases Snitker’s level of oversight in that area. In addition to a new pitching coach, the Braves and Snitker need to round out his staff. The question is whether he retains Pendleton and/or Eddie Perez, both of whom were candidates for the same job.

  UPDATED: The Braves have retained Pendleton, Perez, hitting coach Kevin Seitzer, assistant hitting coach Jose Castro and bullpen coach Marty Reed. Chuck Hernandez will be the new pitching coach and Ron Washington has been named the third base coach.  Former third base coach Bo Porter will become a special assistant to the general manager. Hernandez was a former major league pitching coach (California, Tampa Bay, Detroit, Miami) who was hired by the Braves’ last winter as minor-league pitching coordinator. Washington was a candidate for the Braves’ managerial job who comes with some personal baggage but managed the Texas Rangers to two World Series appearances.

» This was one of the strangest firing/hiring evolutions I’ve ever witnessed. Management handed manager Fredi Gonzalez a losing hand, made worse by Freddie Freeman’s early season struggles, Ender Inciarte’s injury, Hector Olivera’s arrest (and distraction) and bombastic play by the likes of Erick Aybar and others. (Remember, Gonzalez also didn’t have the benefit of a lineup with Matt Kemp and Dansby Swanson). So they promoted Snitker, who only two years ago was demoted from third base coach with the Braves to Triple A manager at Gwinnett. Snitker was expected to be only a temp until the front office hired a permanent replacement.

As it turned out, there weren’t a ton of candidates and Snitker did better than anybody expected. It’s a strange story with a cool ending.

FOR THE UPDATED COLUMN ON MyAJC.com, CLICK HERE.

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Reader Comments 0

18 comments
chasfking
chasfking

Brian Snitker will take this team to the next level.  Watch and learn.  The players would walk on broken glass for this man.  I can't wait for next season.  Way to go Mr. Snitker!

Laxstar
Laxstar

Ron Washington is great hire. He was only with the A' for 1 season, and the fans on SB Nation are very bummed he is leaving. They feel he he was excellent at working with the young infielders to improve their defense. 


This is about Ron Washington's desire to move into very comfortable situation, doing what he was splendid at for the A's. He is now in New Orleans east, with an up and coming young team. Probably for more money, where all the coaches and players roles are clearly defined for 2017. Snitker isn't going to be looking over his shoulder...he doesn't really care, as he knows he has a job with the braves regardless. 


Essentially, the Braves have a 60-something experienced coaching staff and brain trust (Bo Porter to GM office), who are all player-oriented, and that like each other. No more me 1st attitudes. This atmosphere is what the players were craving for all along.


This is not about a Snitker fail, this is about hoguew far can we move and shape the young ones. Coppy has assembled a mix of major and minor league coaches that know all the new players and the returning ones.


This is a brilliant staff for 2017 no matter the record--which could be significant if the starting pitching can be solidified, and the position players keep feeling like the game is fun to play.




StoCool
StoCool

With this big hire the braves should be back at the top, very soon! They are going big time for their move to that new stadium in marietta!!!

khd713
khd713

One-year contract with Ron Washington looking over his shoulder – not an ideal environment for a manager. But he is a high-risk hire, so you can't blame the Braves for trying to minimize the risk as much as possible. I've seen too many interim hires do well in the interim, get the full-time job and then fall flat on their face. But I like Snitker a lot – and obviously the players do, too – and I hope he does well. This is a critical hire at this point for the organization, and if he doesn't work out it looks like the Braves at least have a backup plan. Hopefully, they won't need it.

TideDawg
TideDawg

The Washington hire is not a good deal. How can Snitker manage when he has the next hire looking over his shoulder and reporting to Hart every perceived mistake. I think I would have told them "No thanks" I'll check around and see if somebody else may want me to manage their kids.

Dsyelxia
Dsyelxia

So basically next season is all about "Hey, come see our cool new stadium! What's the score you ask? Oh, don't worry about that. Have another $8 beer!"

DaltonbywayofBickley
DaltonbywayofBickley

Yet, they hired his pitching coach for him, and then hired a runner up as third base coach. Seems like maybe they don't have that much confidence in him.

Big Wally
Big Wally

seems to work well with younger players, so good fit for Braves. 

dawgfacedboy
dawgfacedboy

Not sure how this is unusual. Dude has been in this organization for how long???? Came in and did a great job as the interim. Players love playing for him. How exactly were they going to hire a sub .500 manager in Bud Black instead of him?


There should also be no real expectations for this team next year. Improvement is important but they are not ready to be a playoff team by next year. 

GaLatino
GaLatino

Typical Schultz. Plenty of questions and few answers.  You ignore the fact that what makes guys like Dusty Baker and Joe Maddon great managers is that they somehow manage to foster a  “Nobody cares, nobody’s watching, let’s have fun,” kind of attitude even when expectations are high.


Snitker has, at minimum, earned the right to guide this team for a 3 year period as they grow into a contender.  Don't also minimize the impact of a proven major league manager on staff with playoff experience as a right hand man in Ron Washington.

Archangel
Archangel

Jeff,


So when he's let go after next year you'll say he's being scapegoated right?

TideDawg
TideDawg

I'm not changing my opinion on Snitker as manager of the Braves. I think he deserves it based on how he managed the Braves as interim mgr. He was the perfect choice at that time. As interim mgr. there is no pressure because no one expects much from you. If he is the new manager the pressure will start in the spring when expectations of every team are high. If he goes into spring training trying to prove something, he will fail. If he goes to spring training and takes on the job the way he handled the job as interim, he will succeed. That's a tough call for anyone taking on a job as manager in sports or business. There will be new faces and new personalities in the spring. It will be up to Freeman and Kemp to see to it that any new faces have the proper attitude and not allow prima donnas to spoil a happy clubhouse. I personally think Snitker can be a very successful manager.....as long as he doesn't develop the Bobby Cox ego and believe he is a managerial god. I like Snitker. I would play for him and give him everything I've got every time he called on me. The teams Cox managed didn't need a manager. There's probably 12 guys on the blogs that could have won 14 division titles with those teams.The Braves would get to the playoffs and Cox would manage them right out of the playoffs. Personally, I would trade 10 of those 14 division titles for 3 more World Series titles.

Archangel
Archangel

@TideDawg Sounds like it's a one year deal which would mean he may not be there after 2017.

brushback69
brushback69

sometimes you find a diamond in the rough and its the right choice for right now...

RoyalDawg
RoyalDawg

Definitely the right choice.


However, every manager and coach is hired to eventually be fired (sort of like a Baptist pastor). Keep TP on the staff and he can go next.

Archangel
Archangel

@RoyalDawg Actually it's like every job in America with the exception of Supreme Court Justices.