Why Brian Snitker isn’t the right manager for the Braves’ future

Brian Snitker at work. (Curtis Compton/AJC photo)

Last fall’s decision to remove the “interim” part of Brian Snitker’s title wasn’t easy. The Braves came close to hiring Bud Black, who will receive a lot of manager-of-the-year votes for his work with Colorado. In the cold light of hindsight, they would have done better with Black.

The Braves made two mistakes in October: They allowed sentiment – upper management felt indebted to Snitker for putting a smiley face on a season that was headed toward 110 losses – to override down-the-road planning, and then they hedged that bet. They gave Snitker a one-year contract, which was the equivalent of again rendering him an interim manager.

The reason the Braves need to move on from Snitker isn’t that he hasn’t won enough games, though we can never fully discount W’s and L’s. (If these Braves were 82-67 and not 67-82, he’d be getting another one-year extension.) The issue is that he has too often managed like an interim manager, which isn’t what a rebuilding team needs.

We concede that this has been an odd rebuild: To placate the audience in their new Cobb County home, the Braves trotted out a remarkably old team. In some cases it worked: Matt Kemp caught a hot start; Tyler Flowers was again excellent. It didn’t in others: Bartolo Colon was terrible, Jim Johnson almost as bad. The Braves were 45-45 on the morning of July 17, which was nice. That also was the day when Snitker made the sort of short-sighted move a manager of a rebuilding team can’t make.

Injured in a January car crash, Sean Rodriguez was believed out for the season. By midsummer he was playing rehab games, where he hit .077 in 39 at-bats. The Braves activated him July 17 and thrust him into the lineup at third base against the Cubs and Jon Lester. To make room for Rodriguez, Snitker shifted Johan Camargo, who’d been tearing it up, to shortstop. Dansby Swanson was benched, and in his pregame remarks Snitker all but suggested the Braves’ No. 1 prospect entering 2017 was bound for demotion.

That the manager of a .500 team about to face the reigning World Series champs in mid-July at home would try to win games is understandable. Just how a guy who hadn’t played in the majors in nine months would assist in that effort was less clear. Rodriguez clearly wasn’t ready: In 47 at-bats with the Braves, he hit .162. Then he was sent to Pittsburgh in a waiver trade. Sure enough, Swanson was then in Triple-A.

Camargo had outperformed Swanson: That’s not in dispute. Less clear was why Rodriguez, signed as a utility player, needed to start at third base – thereby displacing both Camargo and Swanson – that very minute. It seemed the knee-jerk response: When in doubt, pick the veteran. The downside was that Swanson, already in the throes of a difficult season, was embarrassed. We say again: The Braves must do everything in their power to help Swanson succeed. They need him for much more than a July series against the Cubs.

Something similar happened in June. Adonis Garcia was activated after the first of his DL stints. The rookie Rio Ruiz had been playing third base, admittedly not to great effect. There seemed a chance for a platoon. Snitker nixed it. Garcia was the starter, he announced, the same Garcia who’s 32 and who has a career WAR value of 0.6. Ruiz was benched and inevitably demoted. The worst thing you can do with a young player is have him sit. Snitker sat both Ruiz and Swanson.

We can’t say that Snitker has opted for experience in every case: He did give Camargo a shot. But it’s instructive that, after Camargo tripped over the foul line, he has returned mostly as a third baseman. Swanson’s at short, Ozzie Albies at second. That, finally, is as it should be.

Therein lies my disappointment with Snitker: For a guy who has spent most of his career dealing with young players, he hasn’t been gentle with the ones he’s managing in the majors. To wit: Sean Newcomb was allowed to throw 106 pitches in his second big-league, the final inning of which stumped the band.

This was how the sixth unfolded on June 16: single, single, walk, DP, walk, wild pitch, walk. A 24-year-old yielded more base runners over six batters than in his first five innings, the walks and the wild pitch being proof that he was running on fumes. Snitker waited until midway through the inning to have a reliever start to warm and left Newcomb – with the Braves trailing 3-0 – to face a batter with the bases loaded. He somehow induced a ground out.

Snitker said afterward he was trying to let Newcomb fight through it. Me, I thought it was terrible managing,  both short- and long-term. (Yes, even though it worked out that night. Bad decisions can have good results.) I also thought it was a tiny example that told a bigger truth: Snitker often seems a move or two behind.

With nearly half his roster comprised of pitchers, a manager cannot be slow to use them. Granted, these relievers aren’t a gaggle of lockdown artists, but still. They’re there, and it does no good to deploy them a batter too late. There have been times when Skipper Bradley would have been striding to the mound to change pitchers, whereupon Scribe Bradley looks to yonder bullpen and sees nobody up and thinks, “Are you kidding?”

That the one-year deal did Snitker no favor is no reason to compound an error. Next year’s Braves will be much different from that of opening day in 2017: Albies and Camargo will be starting infielders; Ronald Acuna figures to be ensconced in right field. There’ll be no Garcia, no Brandon Phillips, probably no Nick Markakis, maybe no Kemp. Year 2 in SunTrust Park will feature the full-blown fruits of this massive rebuild. The Braves will need a manager to match. As it happens, there’s one on staff.

With Texas, Ron Washington steered a youngish team – much of that youth coming from the Braves in the 2007 trade for Mark Teixeira – from sub-.500 to the 2010 and 2011 World Series. Remember that bit about hedging bets? The Braves did this part rather deftly, interviewing Washington for their managerial job and hiring him as a coach but essentially as manager-in-waiting. He shouldn’t have to wait much longer.

Reader Comments 0

85 comments
mc1362002
mc1362002

Mark, I just found this article from a couple of weeks ago.  As you know, according to the reports, Snitker is going to/has been retained.  I personally think this is the wrong move.      The Braves need to go young, and have a manager to handle that.  To go from 500 in July to 90 losses, is terrible.     This team should have finished no worse than a few games under 500.  Snitker should have been fired.         Only one in a handful of very bad Braves moves.   2018 is a major question mark.

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battlingbelvedere
battlingbelvedere

If I had one dollar for everyone who thinks they know more than the manager I'd buy the Braves and Manage them myself.

John Ferrell
John Ferrell

I've been watching the Braves since the 60s. I believe Brian Snitker should return as the Bravea manager. You can't make him the scapegoat for all their troubles. I think next year will be significantly better and the right step to get them back to winning ways.

BoyHowdy
BoyHowdy

Who cares if you've been watching the Braves since the '60's.  Doesn't mean that you know anything about what they should decide for next season.

Been there
Been there

Are you serious Mark? Hindsight is 20-20 isn't it? Dude, your job sure is easy. Listen to Freeman. Snit IS the right guy. He plays the percentages during games and practices tough love consistently which is what rookies and veterans appreciate. Dansby could not stop the bleeding on his own and could have damaged himself mentally by continuing to hit below 200 and striking out every other at bat. Everything Bobby Cox tried in a game didn't work out either but you failed to point out in your examples that Snit's decisions were all made back when the Braves were still strong contenders for a playoff birth THIS YEAR. He adjusted (rightfully so) once the Braves became sellers and started bringing up the kids. Snit IS the right guy for both the veterans and the kids. He's a great baseball man AND he's a lifetime Brave. Are you kidding me?

#41
#41

Come on Mark! : This is a cheap shot. Leave Snit alone. He has been dealt a horrible hand. The blame lies with Hart/Coppy and bad scouting. The players really like his leadership and the most important player, Freddie Freeman, has asked that he stay on as manager. 


Let's see what he can do with he has real MLB quality pitchers.

  Geezz..........



khd713
khd713

This is a really bad column. There may be reasons to fire Snitker, but Bradley doesn't give us any. You know it's bad when the example he gives of the manager leaving a rookie pitcher in too long completely backfires. That move did exactly what it was intended to do, end of story. 

rgpat
rgpat

The best manager in baseball couldn't have won with the Braves starting pitching this season. Look at their records. 

Dennis Woods
Dennis Woods

Thank God we don't hire and fire managers like we elect presidents.  The good baseball organizations are close to true meritocracies and the Braves are considered a good organization that is getting better.  Meritocracies may acknowledge the rantings of pundits like you but they certainly don't take them seriously when the preponderance of evidence is to the contrary.  Regarding Rodriguez:  he stunk but he still deserved the chance to reestablish himself after a serious injury.  He was also under contract for $11.5M through next year, a signing you, Bradley, lauded.  It was time to find out whether he was a better option as a utility player than Camargo and Peterson.  The fact the Braves were able to trade him for full salary relief after his performance was a miracle.  Regarding Swanson's demotion.  It was entirely justified and did him a world of good to have his mind freed up from the pressures of MLB, if only for a few weeks.  I offer as evidence his performance upon returning which has been quite good.  Somehow you misconstrue the above moves to suggest Rodriquez played only as a desperate move to improve the record and thus Snitker's job prospects?  Adonis Garcia also returned from injury, was given a chance, stunk and has hardly been seen since, his future likely now decided.  I watched the Newcombe game you referenced and 100% agreed with Snitker's handling.  Newcombe, for his part, adknowledged how rewarding it was to fight his way out of the jam.  I could go on but space does not permit.  Fired managers, like Fredi Gonzalez, are replaced for cause and I have yet to see or read of a valid reason to fire Snitker from a single knowledgeable source.  This includes you, Bradley

tipstotips
tipstotips

Heck, I am just glad it almost over.

Coach Howard
Coach Howard

Ok, I have seen every game this year.  The field managing part of the game, X's and O's, I can give you a season full of seeing examples of great managing, runners moving at the right times, etc. And how about declining a catcher's interference call leading  to a win, don't know how many experienced baseball people had seen that before.  Critical of pitching, look at the pitcher performance, Snit not throwing the pitches, last night it was the right pitchers who imploded.  Part of managing is getting though a long season with a good clubhouse, especially when team has big holes to fix, i.e. bullpen & starting pitching, key to a good team.  Check that box.  Black, remember his record did not exceed that of Fredi and Black had really good teams that missed playoffs.  Baseball is great in that everyone has played the game or something close making it easy to second guess a manager's decisions.  

AtlantaFan123
AtlantaFan123

Great post and I'd like to reiterate that Snitker isn't just a baseball lifer, he's a Braves lifer. He's been with us since 1977. Give the man a chance with a real roster.

ErnestB
ErnestB

Is it possible Rodriguez was activated and played so that he could be showcased for a trade?  That is the only thing I can think of and this actually happened.  Camargo was a pleasant surprised and this provided an opportunity to get rid of a high dollar contract.

Berserker
Berserker

Snitker manages like a minor league manager. He also does things that don't make sense at any level. Why does he bat Swanson (and if it's not Swanson, it's some other rookie) 8th in the order every day? You don't bat a rookie in front of the pitcher every day! Bobby Cox would move a slumping player, especially a rookie, to the top of the order to get him hitting.

Why would you play Camargo anywhere but SS, EVER? He is clearly the best SS on the team. Therefore, HE PLAYS SS EVERYDAY!!! Let Swanson move to some other position. SS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT POSITION ON THE FIELD!!! Play the best SS at SS, everyday!!!

Snitker has no idea what he's doing with the pitching staff. That is just obvious. I won't even go into that.

Fire Snitker. Give him a minor league job. He is a minor league manager.

garls2662
garls2662

The problem is the "Bobby Cox" mentality of management.  Yes he guided the Braves to 14 division titles but with all those titles and talent 1, World Series Championship!!!!  The upper management will continue with these types of guys running the team as long as they put statues of BC at the park.  Why not TP or Eddie Perez?  They would immediately command the players' respect but if not go OUTSIDE the organization!!

UWreckMeBaby
UWreckMeBaby

@garls2662

Snitker and Fredi are very very different from Cox, to their detriment. TP and Eddie P are not proven/experienced. Ron Washington has some credentials. I have to agree with Mark B on this subject.

Bobby Cox mentality? Cox was not perfect, of course. But nevertheless is in the Hall of Fame for a reason!! Foolish are those that malign him. There have been a few managers with multiple WS titles. There is ONLY ONE with 14 straight division titles. There are a zillion with ZERO titles of any kind.

garls2662
garls2662

@UWreckMeBaby @garls2662 You make a good point but with the talent he had all those years, along with playing in multiple WS to only come away with 1 title.  All BC and the Braves organization talked about was the 14 straight division titles.  They had the Yankees on the ropes only to blow it and lose the series.

UWreckMeBaby
UWreckMeBaby

@garls2662 @UWreckMeBaby i'll never forget that WS, it still hurts...(and '91 and '92) but I don't think it was any one person's fault that the Braves lost the next four games. Cox bears some responsibility, he was the skipper. But it didn't tarnish his other accomplishments. He still did enough to make HOF. Still the best manager that Atlanta has ever seen. Joe Torre 2nd.

BoyHowdy
BoyHowdy

Bobby Cox is in the Hall of Fame because he had Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, John Smoltz, Chipper Jones and other top-notch players on his teams for most of his years managing the Braves.  Same goes for Joe Torre and Tony LaRussa.  They're all HOF managers because they had great rosters.  Managers are way overrated when teams do well, and receive too much blame when teams don't do well.  Same goes for Joe Maddon.  He's revered as a manager now, but let's see how he'd do with this Braves team.

AtlantaFan123
AtlantaFan123

I wouldn't argue vehemently that Snitker should be the long-term answer, but how can you knock the guy for trying to get every win he can when he's on a one-year contract?  I also have my doubts that a guy in that situation has absolute roster control and isn't getting somewhat specific instruction on the direction to take the roster.  We were told for years 2018 was gonna be the year we'd see at least a playoff contender on the field.   "Yeah they traded all your favorite players but don't worry!  They've gotten all these sweet prospects and soon we'll be the old Braves again with the pitching and SunTrust is gonna be great and boy oh boy."  You can't sell the fans that dream so hard for 3ish years and then trot out another bottom 3 team.  People are already losing interest in the Braves and baseball in general.  I'm rambling now but my point is the GMs moves this past offseason told us they wanted a competitive team.  Snitker has to walk a fine line between rebuilding and showing the fans the past three years of crappiness hasn't been for nothing, and I think he's done a satisfactory job. Dansby's come back from the minors playing much better, so how can you knock that? Rio Ruiz is nothing special, I don't care about displacing Rio dad-gum Ruiz. He's a platoon player at best. I'm still not convinced Dansby's anything special, but it seems like he's developed this year so mission accomplished.  Really Snitker has been given a pretty weird, thrown-together lineup of mostly bad players and I just don't see how you can expect him to coach much differently than he has.  I won't cry if they look for someone else, but I would be happy if they kept him around.  He's been with the Braves for freaking forever, he seems like a nice guy, he's done everything he's been asked.  He's done his job.


Bradley, I know you know how much influence you have and I think it's crap to call for his head right as we are all on the cusp of seeing the fruits of our rebuilding and tanking.  I think you just want a shakeup cause he's sort of boring and you'd rather have a coach who has a big name or a big personality.  


P.S.  I do think he should've pulled Newcomb earlier too.  Love your writing you da man.

Archangel
Archangel

You're making excuses for Snit. Bradley wouldn't be calling for anyone's head if their wasn't already on a platter.

redweather
redweather

It wasn't so long ago that Bobby Cox was routinely criticized for not doing enough managing. Snitker doesn't seem to do any managing. 

NorwegianB
NorwegianB

@redweather If Snitker can not manage on the level that Cox didn't manage, then we'd be in pretty good shape.

redweather
redweather

@NorwegianB @redweather Your syntax is confusing. But it's worth noting that Cox kept the Braves at the top of the heap for a long time.

And as Mark points out, Snitker's strength is supposed to be in the way he handles young players. Epic fail so far.

UWreckMeBaby
UWreckMeBaby

@redweather @NorwegianB To be fair, Ted Turner's money helped keep the Braves at the top. But you can look at the Mets and sometimes the Yankees to see that expensive players still need a competent manager to win consistently. Davey Johnson, LaRussa, Cox, Torre and a handful of others have led different teams to titles over a number of years. They had the stuff. Snit ain't got it.

Buckhead Vol
Buckhead Vol

Not Washington.  But, I don't have managerial answers.  I focus more on the over hyped lineup:  Tonight Lt. Dan went 1 for 3.  Now, most of the way through the season, the much bally-hooed prosepct is hitting about .234.  Made another error.  He has 18 errors.  His poor play extends beyond the batter's box.  2nd most errors of any NL SS.  The leader has 1 more error and has played in 13 more games.  I don't see it with Lt. Dan and I am tired of the hype and AJC fuss and buss over him.  Same with some of the pitchers.


Andrelton Simmons.  Best SS to come through Atlanta - probably ever.  Look at his stats this season.  

Dawg69
Dawg69

@Buckhead Vol Agree, agree, agree. I've been saying the same thing. The Braves have lauded prospects, prospects, prospects. So where are they? Other than Inciarte, where are they?  Swanson has been a bust both in the field and in the batters box.  I said at the beginning of the year this team won't win 81 games. I'm saying now they won't win 81 games next year or in 2019. Coppy is the one who has to go. And Snitker too. 

Been there
Been there

@Dawg69 @Buckhead Vol  Dawg69: Prospects are exactly where they should be, scattered throughout the best minor league system in all of baseball (sorry White sox). Do some research dude instead of just flapping your gums. Swanson is not a bust. He will be a very good MLB player. MLB is not as easy as it looks on TV to you and Mark Bradley. Smoltz, Glavine and Maddux all sucked for a few years until they figured it all out. I'd be more concerned if I were you about your underachieving DAWGS than the Braves. WHERE ARE ALL THEIR PROSPECTS FROM THEIR RECRUITING CLASSES????

mgunter
mgunter

Bradley ..... I disagree with you about Washington. I know you and Schultz are geniuses but you are both wrong more often than you are right. We need a young manager that has no ties to Cox , Shurholtz, or Hart.

Larry2704
Larry2704

Agree with you that Snitker should go.  But, the number one reason he'll get replaced is for sending the Golden Boy down to Gwinnett.  In other words, the Marketing Department will be the ones to get him fired.  With all the stats available today, wonder how many rookies had a bobble head promotion, and got sent down in the same year.    

Archangel
Archangel

Sending Swanson down actually ended up working, so that can't be the reason.

lowlow
lowlow

I like Pendelton but they should probably hire a young pitching oriented manager.   The pitching needs help and let's hope those sensational young arms in the minors actually exist but we haven't seen them yet.  Pendelton is too old.

9 to 5
9 to 5

I nominate Mark Bradley for manager, he has the answers?!?!  


That being said, I do agree its time to move on.  Snit manages like a minor league manager, which he was.

DawgNole
DawgNole

"The Braves were 45-45 on the morning of July 17, which was nice."

____________

And that right there says it all about ATL as a sports city.

When you've declined to the point of declaring .500 baseball "nice"--after ZERO championships the past 22 seasons, and only ONE the past half-century-plus--you are, without question, firmly in the death grip of the dreaded "culture of losing."