Month after Hart’s praise, Brian Snitker’s future with Braves may not be secure after all

Braves manager Brian Snitker’s future remains uncertain as the team finishes the final month of the season. (Curtiis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com)

Nearly six weeks ago, as the rebuilding Braves were in the midst of their slow, late-summer march to the end of another playoff-less season, it appeared the organization was strongly leaning toward bringing back quasi-interim manager Brian Snitker for another year. (I write “quasi-interim” because while the organization removed the interim tag after the 2016 season, they gave him a relative limp handshake of a contract: one guaranteed season plus an option.)

But here we are less than three weeks from the end of the season, and Snitker’s future suddenly seems shaky again.

Never mind that first baseman Freddie Freeman told me Aug. 4 that he went to management two weeks earlier and “expressed to them that we love Brian in here. (He has) put in all the time and done everything possible to help us win.” (It’s believed other players also have spoken on Snitker’s behalf.)

Never mind that president of baseball operations John Hart, who essentially is general manager John Coppolella’s superior, said on that same night that while a decision won’t be announced until after the season, “… 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. … I’m not going to say anything (definitive) now. But I think you hear me loud and clear. I’m very happy with the job he’s done and who he is. … 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.”

Powerful words. I honestly believed at that point that Snitker’s future was secure. Now, I’m not so sure. A few reasons why:

• While the Braves were only 50-58 after a win that night over Miami, they went into Wednesday’s game against Washington with a mark of 65-78. So since a high-water mark of 45-45 (.500), an unlikely pace given the team’s pitching problems and run differential, the Braves went 20-33 (.377).

• If the front office has changed directions on Snitker, the impetus for that might have occurred during a game against Seattle on Aug. 23. The Braves led 5-4 entering the eighth when Snitker put reliever Jim Johnson into the game. Johnson already had lost his closer’s job and been torched in several recent outings, but Snitker was concerned about using other likely candidates in an overtaxed bullpen (Arodys Vizcaino, Jose Ramirez, Sam Freeman). The decision blew up in Snitker’s face as Johnson faced four batters, but never recorded an out and was slapped for four runs, three hits, a walk and a wild pitch.

• Long-time baseball writer Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports reported the Braves are “assessing their managerial situation, and there remains a possibility they could make a change.” This seems like a strange thing that would leak out if Snitker’s future was solid.

• Perception and marketing often comes into this. While Hart and Coppolella might still fully believe in their rebuild, their winter plans and the potential of next year’s team, there’s a significant question of whether they can sell another year of Snitker to the ticket-buying public.

My thoughts on Snitker have never really changed. It was a cool story that a Braves’ lifer was given his dream job after Fredi Gonzalez’s exit last season. But he has never been the best manager nor the worst (the Johnson decision notwithstanding).

The Braves are where they are because they have one of the worst pitching staffs in the major leagues: 25th in total ERA (4.81), 23rd in starter’s ERA (4.89) and 27th in bullpen ERA (4.68). You’re welcome to use any metric you like to measure pitching effectiveness. I just thought ERA was the easiest way to illustrate the situation.

The point is that Snitker shouldn’t be held responsible for not winning with a roster of limited capability. But isn’t that the way it often works? (Worth repeating: The Braves’ over/under win projection ranged from 71.5 to 75.5 before the season. Their current win pace factors out to 73.6.)

If the Braves believe moving on from Snitker would give them a better chance to win, fine.

If they believe they need to make a change for the sake of appearances going into a new season, that also wouldn’t be unusual.

What remains as uncertain as the Snitker decision itself is who they would replace him with. There has long been speculation the job would go to coach Ron Washington (a candidate before this season) or Bo Porter (a long shot that I don’t believe). My personal view: Promoting either Washington or Porter to the managerial job would be an insult to coach Terry Pendleton, who deserves an opportunity, or even Eddie Perez.

Hart said last month a decision won’t be made/announced until after the season. But I don’t know what the final few weeks of the season are going to tell Hart and Coppolella that they don’t already know.

Hart’s comments in August were so strongly in favor of Snitker that part of me doubts he has made a complete 180. But I’m not nearly as confident now as I was then, and like a quart of milk in the refrigerator, Hart’s words may have had an expiration date.

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Reader Comments 0

35 comments
LEWWHEEL
LEWWHEEL

When has a game been critical this year?

The Braves dugout has been busier than a Greyhound bus station. I can't blame Snit for this bunch of misfits.

But we do know that Hart and Coppy love Snit, they love every body, especially right before they trade or fire  someone.

#41
#41

I like Snitker.....but the front office folks won't take the blame for this disaster, so they'll pin it on Snitker.

Not fair.

blevins1491
blevins1491

I don't think we can blame Snit for a pitching staff that included O'Flaherty, Bartolo, Jim Johnson, Ian Krol, and Matt Wisler.  That quintet alone accounts for about 20 Braves losses.  


Still, I'd like to see new blood in the manager's office.  "The Braves Way" hasn't worked out too well.  Bring someone in from outside who can make Matt Kemp get in shape (and stay in shape).  Someone who won't let Freddie Freeman fill out the lineup card.  Someone who will let the young guys play.  The Braves have a half-dozen athletic, fast, powerful guys who need to be playing every day.  


Enough with the slow-footed, fly-ball challenged, double play artists who can only advance one base at a time, and their warning track power.  Let the kids play!

BTC
BTC

I hear Bobby Cox is available

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Pounceman
Pounceman

Remember how many MGRs the Braves went through before 1991? We were the BEST farm system for the rest of MLB

UnbiasedObserver
UnbiasedObserver

Here is who needs to be fired, let go, terminated, sent down the road, axed:


1. Chairman

2. President

3. General Manager

4. Scouting Director

alittlecurious
alittlecurious

@UnbiasedObserver  How does Copolella never get any blame for the sad state that our Braves are in now?  Wren depleted our minor league system and now Hart and Coppy are finishing off our major league team.  I will not watch them again until some changes (i.e. Hart and Coppy) are gone.

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tipstotips
tipstotips

If he goes, he can thank Jim Johnson for sure and not just the Seattle game. He also left him in to lose the critical game with the Nats right before the All Star break. The Braves could have closed to 4.5 back and put pressure on the Nats.

Buschleaguer
Buschleaguer

@tipstotips If Snitker loses his job for using Jim Johnson in save situations ,why shouldn't Coppy get fired for signing this Gas Can (Johnson) to a two year $10 million contract to be the Braves closer?

STHornet1990
STHornet1990

@tipstotips "pressure on the Nats" You are kidding right? With this team?..... Maybe beating a sorry team like Philly more often would have been a more reasonable possibility.

brushback69
brushback69

@Buschleaguer @tipstotips

That doesn't excuse the manger for continually throwing him out there when he's stinking up the joint with every appearance.  

Snitker loves to favor the pitcher who needs work to " get himself right."

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patriotdog
patriotdog

So this is a hunch based on..nothing, so it sounds. I doubt seriously if LaRussa, Torre or Lasorda could win more than 75 or so with the pitching that he has. No one foresaw Bartolo forgetting how to pitch for half a season. Blair and Wisler have shown that the hype was misplaced and Folty is, for now, a head case.

Snit didn't sign those guys, but he has to bear the blame?

I don't buy it.

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Biff_Pocoroba
Biff_Pocoroba

You're only as good as the talent with which you have to work. 

Bob_the_Blogger
Bob_the_Blogger

Bad pitching is the reason the Braves aren't winning, not Snitker. There are a lot of talented pitchers on the way (plus Acuna). At least give Snitker a chance to win with good players.

STHornet1990
STHornet1990

@Bob_the_Blogger But he doesn't get to hire and fire. It's the sorry "brain (dead) trust" in the front office that owns this but rarely gets whats coming to them.

GoBraves5
GoBraves5

Snit has done a great job with this team. Hard to win with bartalo colon pitching, Emilio bonifacio as number one bench option early in season. Matt kemp unhealthy, and terrible bullpen

Jim Johnson is on the team and has to pitch. Not snits fault the braves resigned him at end of season knowing roger McDowell was not returning.

I could go on about all the holes the team has but they are improving. They are still a couple years away from being really good again. Everyone should understand a complete rebuild will take atleast 5 years,look at the cubs and astros as examples.

I expect them to finish strong as the line up is set and the young pitchers get better each start.

Atlanta Doc
Atlanta Doc

Joy Heyman, aka Scott Boras.com. Look for the Boras client on the Braves roster. Go to that player and ask  "Are you unhappy with Snitker?" Does Boras have a managerial candidate who wants to move to Atl?


mgunter
mgunter

Snit probably needs to go along with Hart, Scherholtz and Cox. Coppy needs his own man in place!

Dam Yankee
Dam Yankee

Nothing has changed - as usual the 2 Johns & a Coppy would lie when the truth would help, and I'll bet Snitker isn't surprised, the Braves already reneged on promises when they gave Fredi the job.

DawgDadII
DawgDadII

If the GM wastes 5 minutes this off-season on a change of managers he should be fired. The Manager's job this year and next is play the kids that need to play and try to keep the vets happy in the process. He's done that well enough. Wait until the games matter (2020?) then reevaluate.

DawgNole
DawgNole

Snitker's hardly to blame for the crap-quality talent provided him by ATL's disastrous ownership/front office combo. But he's certainly produced his share of questionable field decisions over the past year.

The team really needs to divorce itself from the long-since worn-out "Braves Way"--and go outside the mediocre organization for fresh new leadership. 1995 is a looooooooong time ago!

Chilidawg
Chilidawg

The Braves record is the result of the team's talent level and not Snitker's  performance. 

BANSHEE296402
BANSHEE296402

He needs to go... another coach Richt on our hands.

eagleman1990
eagleman1990

Ridiculous to compare the two. UGA always has top talent, not so with the Braves pitching staff. Snitker has done well with cards dealt him