The Atlanta Braves have bigger issues than who manages the team. That would have sounded silly this time a week ago, but the Braves’ world has changed. They’re seeking a new general manager, who might well wind up being their new president of baseball operations. More important – and there’s not much that could be more important than a baseball team’s GM/president – they’re being investigated by MLB, apparently on more than one front.
I’m on the record as believing Brian Snitker isn’t the best manager for the Braves going forward. That view hasn’t changed. Circumstances have. The Braves need to devote themselves to steadying their front office before they worry about the on-field stuff.
They need to get this GM/president thing right. John Hart, incumbent prez, is believed to be staying through next season, but that’s not yet a certainty. If Dayton Moore, say, would agree to come here but only as president – that bit of title escalation is the trend in baseball circles; Theo Epstein isn’t technically the Cubs’ GM, nor is Andrew Friedman the Dodgers’ – would Hart say, “Dayton, you’re hired, I’m leaving, best of luck”?
Probably not, but these are uncharted waters. The Braves’ rebuild is without its rebuilder. The contract of one of their brightest prospects could be voided. MLB sanctions are almost sure to come, and they don’t figure to be love taps. This is a fractious time for an organization that – John Schuerholz word here – likes to think of itself as seamless.
One seam that doesn’t need to be showing is an even more protracted debate over the manager. The Braves were torn on Snitker even up to the final day of the regular season, which happened to be the day GM John Coppolella offered his resignation. Had Coppolella remained in place, there’s a good chance Snitker would have been out by now.
This isn’t to suggest that the matter of Snitker-as-skipper has been resolved. The guess here is that it has only been tabled. Assuming Ron Washington returns as third-base coach, that replacement option will remain open as next season begins, which probably isn’t fair to Snitker, but there you are.
Some of my difficulty with Snitker has to do with him managing a rebuilding team as if every win means something, but that’s inevitable when you’ve essentially spent 1 4/5 seasons as an interim manager. He was hired to sweep up after Fredi Gonzalez and rewarded with but a one-year contract, which wasn’t much of a reward.
I can’t imagine the Braves, having struggled with the decision of keep/don’t-keep, would do more that exercise their option for one more year. That was another reason I’d have made the change – because one more year wouldn’t have removed the expiration date so much as reset it.
But that was then. In the jarring here and now, hanging on to Snitker seems a reasonable Step 1 in crisis management. The important matters await.