Braves likely to bring back Snitker; Freeman praises him to front office

Braves manager Brian Snitker, who was an interim replacement for the fired Fredi Gonzalez in 2016 and then kept for this season, has been told nothing about his status for 2018. (Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com)

With the Braves looking to the future and Freddie Freeman feeling the need to do the same, the team’s best player and longest tenured veteran did something unusual recently. He left the confines of the clubhouse, walked to the executive office and, unsolicited, gave a stirring endorsement of manager Brian Snitker.

“I went to them a couple of weeks ago and expressed to them that we love Brian in here,” Freeman said Friday night. “That’s all I can do is tell them how I feel about a guy who’s put in all the time and done everything possible to help us win. He deserved the managerial job when he got, and we all hope that he’s back.”

Freeman is signed through the 2021 season. Snitker is guaranteed an income for only two more months. But that likely will change soon.

The Braves’ manager, who replaced Fredi Gonzalez in 2016 on an interim basis and was retained this season, but with only a lukewarm endorsement of a one-year contract (plus a club option), is almost certain to return next season.

The way Snitker has gone about his job has made an impression on not only Freeman and teammates but president of baseball operation John Hart, whose comments strongly suggest the decision has all but been made.

“Yes, we have an option on Brian’s contract and we’ll be making that decision at the end of the year,” Hart said. “But let’s just say that Brian hasn’t done anything to make us look around for candidates like we were doing at this time last year, when we were compiling names. If you broke into my office in the dead of night, you would find no slips of paper in my desk. We have no lists for managers. I think Brian has done a really good job.”

If that between-the-lines commentary didn’t convince you, maybe this will:

“I’m not going to say anything (definitive) now,” Hart continued. “But I think you hear me loud and clear. I’m very happy with the job he’s done and who he is. He’s authentic. He likes players and players respond to him. He has a manager-player relationship, but players also trust and respect him. There are times we go out there and the other team has greater talent. But from an X’s and O’s perspective, Brian doesn’t get caught. He really checks all the boxes for me.”

Barring unforeseen circumstances, it’s done. Snitker’s back. He deserves to be.

This isn’t to suggest the man should be in line for manager of the year. But this situation is similar to so many others in sports when there’s a movement to dump a manager or coach. Too many ignore the hand that’s been dealt. Too many dumped on Gonzalez last year when he was in an unwinnable situation, and that’s not to suggest he should be confused with Joe McCarthy, either (the McCarthy who won seven World Series, not the psycho senator).

Snitker was handed an absurd excuse for a starting rotation this season. There have been injuries to Freeman and Matt Kemp, the struggles of an unfortunately over-marketed Dansby Swanson, the decline of Julio Teheran and a truly awful bullpen, punctuated by a used-up closer (Jim Johnson).

Blame the personnel decisions. Blame marketing. Blame luck. Don’t blame the manager.

“I don’t think anybody can account for me getting hurt, Matt going on the DL twice, Bartolo (Colon) not pitching the way we thought he was going to,” Freeman said. “For us to be where we are in August, Brian has done an amazing job. It’s not like anybody expected us to be a World Series team.”

Are there arguments for making a change? Sure. For as strong of a perception that the Braves are better this season, Snitker’s winning percentage entering the weekend (49-58, .458) is lower than it was last season (59-65, .476). Freeman’s comments notwithstanding, the good and bad of a season tend to balance out every year.

Some believe the Braves have overachieved this season. But going into the Miami series they were on a pace to finish 74-88, which is on target for their projected win total in Las Vegas (the over/under ranged between 71½ to 75½ wins).

Another manager wasn’t going to make the Braves significantly better this season. Another starting pitcher (or two) would have.

Snitker wasn’t aware of Freeman’s endorsement until I told him.

“That makes you feel good,” he said. “That kind of validates what you’re trying to do. The workplace I’m trying to create, the culture. It starts with the players. I appreciate that.”

He confirmed that he hasn’t heard a word about his future from management. But he said he’s OK with that.

“I knew last year would play out, and they had to do their due diligence,” he said. “Now I’m going through this part of it for the first time. So I’m learning.”

Does being left hanging bother him?

“I’ve never experienced this, so I would have to say no. I’m just doing everything I can this year to make it the best situation and win as many games as I can.”

He’s in the gold-watch club. He has been in the Braves’ organization for 41 years, dating to when he signed as an undrafted player in 1977. The Braves should have given him a two-year guaranteed contract from the outset because even in the worst-case scenario of Snitker getting fired, he deserves the second year of income as severance.

There isn’t a job he hasn’t done, a bus he hasn’t ridden or a minor-league hotel he hasn’t slept it. The man was hired by Hank Aaron.

He proved to be a smart replacement for Gonzalez. His calm demeanor and positive outlook soothed a frazzled clubhouse. The team went on an unexpected 20-10 run to finish the season – a run that logically was an aberration, but that didn’t stop the front office from using it to form their offseason talking points and pump up the 2017 team.

Reality returned this season. The Braves never were really in the playoff hunt. They released Colon, sold pitcher Jaime Garcia for nickels at the trade deadline, demoted Swanson. But Snitker has handled it all well.

He called this season “a learning experience.”

There are times when he second-guesses himself on decisions: “I’ll be standing in the shower and it’s like, ‘You dumbass, why’d you do that?’ But I guess we all do that.

“I’ll pick something up and write it down. I feel like I’m learning the routine better. It’s not so overwhelming every day now when there’s a thousand things going on. A number of managers have told me the more you do it, it gets better. It’s like my new normal.”

When people ask him if this has been fun, he has to think about it.

“I don’t know if fun’s the right word,” he said. “There’s a lot of gratifying times. Let’s hope I continue to do it because I’d like to get to the point where it feels real comfortable and stuff is just happening.”

It appears he’ll have that opportunity next season.

Subscribe to the,We Never Played The Game” podcast with the AJC’s Jeff Schultz and WSB’s Zach Klein on iTunes. Episodes also can be downloaded from on-demand link on WSBRadio.com.

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38 comments
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BaseballBuff
BaseballBuff

Snitker is level-headed, knowledgeable, and fair with his players. He also expects them to perform if they want to get and keep playing time. He more than deserves another year. It would be interesting to see what he could do with a roster full of MLB players.

OldEngineer
OldEngineer

The scamming computer virus spreading scum is out early today......don't fall for these! 

Kimberly J. Ricardo
Kimberly J. Ricardo

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.Macey
.Macey

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slydawg
slydawg

Every player is going to sing the praises of any coach or manager who is easy going. That means absolutely nothing.

Furthermore, since their not attempting to win anything for the next two seasons, may as well bring the "teacher" back, because they don't require an actual leader of men just yet....

butchcat
butchcat

Had to read mlb.com to learn how incredible Simmons has become in LA...... A Dark Horse MVP.  Suggest that Braves 'fans check out the story.   Unless Newcomb morphs into a #1 or 2 starter the Angels' trade will be a bust.  Interesting that I haven't seen anything about Simmons in the AJC. 

Berserker
Berserker

Maybe, it's always the players' fault. If that's the case why do you need a manager at all? I could be wrong, but I don't believe any manager in MLB would have started BJ Upton in CF batting leadoff for a 2 years. Or 4 years of Dan Uggla EVERY DAY! I know Bobby Cox would not have batted a rookie 8th every day, which seems be the rule with Fredi Gonzalez and Snitker. All rookies must bat 8th. Bobby Cox never did that. So, you can say Swanson was over marketed, or you could say it's really hard to hit in front of the pitcher. How about using Jim Johnson as a closer? Whose idea was that? Why did it take so long to realize it was a disaster? How about moving Freeman to 3b for 2 starts, then switching him back and forth between 1st and 3rd every day, sometimes in the same game? Why is Rodriguez on the team? How many utility players do you need? Why does he feel the need to play Rodriguez every game? He's a lifetime .230 hitter! Snitker was a good AAA manager. Send him back to Gwinnett and hire a real major league manager, if you want to win.

Buschleaguer
Buschleaguer

@Berserker Snitker played Rodriguez every day because he was making $5.5 million this year, the Front office (hart and coppy) have the final say on who is in the lineup.Thank the Pirates for taking Sean ,they can find a spot for him on their lineup.

58Supersports
58Supersports

@Berserker You have some good points and bad ones. Anyone was better than FG...I lost a lot of respect for "Snit" playing Swanson, Johnson and leaving pitchers in till they give up 5 - 6 are more runs. 

He said Adams would play and FF 3rd till trade dead line and then as soon after deadline it was over, period, clean house etc... that should have been done before. 

I like Snit and believe he will be back but believe he is to soft on them. However I darn don't want Washington as Manager. If they don't expect to win next year then keep Snit.

EddieHall
EddieHall

He seems like a good guy, but TERRIBLE game manager. I am sure he is popular in the clubhouse, that does not win games. He needs a pitching coach. He needs to take charge. Do you think Cox would have ever sat Phillips for an injury prone rookie? Even Chipper said the kid is not ready. We need someone cut out of the cloth of Cox, LaRussa, Leland, Baker, and others who KNOW how to win with what you have. This team is a catcher, closer and two starters away from contention. Washington could do it, but my money would be on TP if they are not going to get a big time winner. Bring back Yost or entice Chipper. Just don't give him another year.


Buschleaguer
Buschleaguer

@EddieHall Injury prone rookie, you mean Albies? he has not missed a game this season. Phillips has done a fine job, but have you seen Brandon try to run lately. His 35 year old legs have given out on him. Glad they moved Phillips to 3B , may be easier on his legs . Need to keep his bat in the Braves lineup.

TomGaff
TomGaff

@EddieHall CATCHER ? Are you out of your mind, the two we have are probably the best set in MLB. Look at their stats combined 21HRS, 70RBI's, .303 & .261 BA's! Both are way under-paid at MLB standards. Better hope we can keep both? 

TomGaff
TomGaff

@Buschleaguer @EddieHall I would give Brandon Phillips his 10M for next year, his bat is sorely needed. Matt Adams has slowed down, probably because he does NOT play every day any more. If you play him in LF, hope he does not kill our CF star in a collision!

EddieHall
EddieHall

@Buschleaguer @EddieHall He has missed games, this year and last. Look at his size? He is nothing special. Good maybe, 2B like Phipps are hard to find, and yes, probably only 2 or 3 years left. Still better than an unproven rookie.Can you say Swanson?


EddieHall
EddieHall

@TomGaff @EddieHall Oh they can hit, no argument.They can't catch. Look at THOSE stats. How many tags has Flowers missed at the plate. Do they EVER throw out a runner? Catching on one knee? Send over to DJ for some lessons at ECB and maybe keep them around.

AlpharettaMan
AlpharettaMan

No comments about his game management skills? He's learning but it seems like he's out managed more than it should happen. He's a nice guy and makes good decisions about roster, but in game decisions could be better.

Buschleaguer
Buschleaguer

@AlpharettaMan Jim Johnson being your teams closer would make any manager look bad in game decisions. Joe Torre was fired 3 times as a manager until he landed with the Yankees, talented rosters always make for great game decisions from managers.

sea8491
sea8491

When can the Braves change Owners?  Any Atlanta Sports writers know when Liberty media will Sell the Braves?  Where is Mark Cuban when we need him?  How about the Dell Guy?  Can Jeter buy us, please?  Can Michael Jordan buy us?

TideDawg
TideDawg

@sea8491  When the price is right Liberty will sell the Braves. That should be when the Braves become a contender. The longer they wait, the bigger the payoff. They're not interested in whether the Braves are a World Series type team......they're interested in return on investment. It'll happen.....not soon! They view the Braves like we might view a CD......waiting for the maturity date to cash it in.

Bob_the_Blogger
Bob_the_Blogger

Yogi Berra was asked what made a good manager and he replied "good players". Let's wait for Snitker to have roster of good players, and see how he does.

TideDawg
TideDawg

If the Braves don't bring back Snitker it will be the most disgraceful thing they've done since they embarrassed him by giving him an unheard of contract for one year. A one year contract for a man that has given 40 years of his life to the organization? That's disgraceful.

MichaelDavis1951
MichaelDavis1951

@TideDawg I think Bobby Cox had a one year contract every year.  As long as they stay within the  organization that will be the case.  I would think a multi-year deal will only occur if they hire some big name manager from outside the franchise.  

TideDawg
TideDawg

@MichaelDavis1951 @TideDawg  They already have a big name manager coaching 3rd base. It would be interesting to know what term contract Washington signed. Washington can manage any team anywhere.....except the Braves. Snitker is better suited to manage the Braves because he knows these kids from the ground up. All he had ever managed(other than base coach for the Braves) are kids like the ones coming up from the minors. Let him manage the team and give him a few seasoned veterans.......Atlanta will never regret it.

58Supersports
58Supersports

@MichaelDavis1951 @TideDawg not true BC had some 3 year deals only when he got older in last few years was he on 1 year.plus automatic front office for life. Good ole boy deals.

ATLJOE
ATLJOE

In other news, Braves strike a deal with Cherokee County to build a new stadium.  

Archangel
Archangel

@ATLJOE Wow, you seem really butt-hurt over the Braves move to Cobb. The move has been a tremendous success, the team sucks though.

58Supersports
58Supersports

@ATLJOE AAA Gwinnett attendance is bad, I was there Tuesday and Wednesday and holy cow  the fans what fans. No one was there.

I was in Rome Saturday to watch Rome Braves and fans loved the team, Packed house. I really fell in love with the fans and that team. They bust @@ every play. and fans go crazy. If I could I would drive back and to from Smyrna, I'd watch every   . If you get a chance go see them, go!

DawgNole
DawgNole

Not Snitker's fault the Braves are once again an also-ran. The execs have failed yet again to provide him any significant ammo. But where does it all end? The team continues to go nowhere and doesn't appear destined for championships in the foreseeable future.

Losersville lives--on and on and on and on and on and . . . .