For the Atlanta Braves, 2016 has been a tumultuous season filled with change, especially with regards to personnel. The front office has been hard at work restructuring the roster from top-to-bottom, assembling one of baseball’s best farm systems but crippling the major league team in the process.
The Braves currently own the league’s worst record, thanks much in part to a disastrous first half that resulted in the firing of manager Fredi Gonzalez. The shortcomings the Braves experienced with Gonzalez at the helm have been covered at length, so I won’t rehash those issues. Instead let’s look at the Braves’ current manager, Brian Snitker, and what he’s done since assuming the managerial role in Atlanta.
When Snitker took over, the team seemed to have reached a low point, already possessing the league’s worst record and showing no signs of life. Since that time the Braves own a 35-44 record, which given the current makeup of the roster is quite a feat. With the major-league team’s significantly improved play under Snitker the time to look toward the future is fast approaching, which begs the question: Will Snitker’s initial success make him a viable option beyond this season?
At the time of his promotion from Triple-A, it seemed that Snitker would merely serve as manager on an interim basis, but the Braves’ success since the All-Star break has led many players to speak out in support of their manager. The praise directed toward Snitker has not only referenced the team’s improved play during his tenure, but also the strong bonds the rookie manager has formed in his short time with the big club.
Much of Snitker’s rapport with his players stems from his extensive history as a coach within the Braves organization, where he built lasting relationships with many of the Braves’ current major leaguers. Such familiarity along with an innate managerial ability have aided Snitker in seamlessly transitioning from the minor league ranks to the ever-changing landscape that is the 2016 Atlanta Braves.
To find the source of Snitker’s abilities as manager you need only look at his incredibly long list of coaching positions during his time within the Braves organization, which he joined as a player in 1977. After his playing career ended in 1980, Snitker began his ascension through the coaching ranks, eventually landing with the major-league club in 2006 as third base coach. He would serve in this capacity until 2014, when he was asked to manage the Triple-A affiliate Gwinnett Braves, a position he was certainly prepared for, having previously managed Braves affiliates in Durham, Myrtle Beach, Macon, Sumter, Greenville, Mississippi, and Richmond. With such an extensive managerial background, it is easy to see why Snitker was chosen to replace Gonzalez and why the job has not seemed to overwhelm the Illinois native during his short tenure.
Maybe the most glowing evidence of support for Snitker comes from one of his former players in the Braves system, Blaine Boyer, who recently spoke about his former manager: “Finally, Snit’s getting a shot. Snit is the man. The thing that Snit does that people don’t realize is, he brings people together. People love playing for him,” said Boyer. “He’s an unbelievable individual, loves baseball, knows the game. The players love to play for him. That’s the guy that I would want at the head of my team.”
Snitker’s ability to manage young players may be his best quality as it pertains to securing a place in Atlanta beyond 2016. With his extensive experience in developing young players, Snitker’s steady hand at the wheel could go a long way toward not only making the Braves competitive next season, but also while ushering in the next wave of young talent that is set to join the major-league club over the next few seasons.
Snitker’s ability to manage personalities combined with his familiarity with the organization makes me wonder if he is not better suited than some of the other candidates that have been discussed in the aftermath of Fredi Gonzalez’ firing. The coming years will be pivotal for the long-term success of the Braves organization, and if Snitker can aid in the transitions made by young players coming to the major leagues, then his candidacy should be greatly improved.
By now Braves fans may have begun to see parallels between Snitker and another legendary Braves manager: Bobby Cox. Let me be clear, I am in no way saying that Snitker will lead the Braves to 14 straight division titles or have the sort of impact that Cox did during his time in Atlanta, but I am saying the two have a lot in common with regards to their managerial strengths and their abilities to connect with players. Cox was long revered for the chemistry that he created as manager of the Atlanta Braves, which was built upon not only winning, but gaining the trust and respect of his players. Snitker, at least in the infancy of his tenure in Atlanta, has created a similar clubhouse culture and helped to make an otherwise middling team at least somewhat competitive. If given a competitive roster, flush with a mixture of veterans and young players, I would have a great deal of confidence in Snitker’s ability to lead the Braves back to prominence, just as Bobby Cox did in the early 1990’s.
For the first time in nearly two years, the Atlanta Braves have shown signs of ascending toward contention. The turnover with regards to the roster has greatly complicated the entire season, but the young players whom the Braves have promoted this year have given reason to believe that the future is bright. The Braves need to find a manager capable of leading the next wave of talent into contention and hopefully to a world championship, and I believe they already have that man in tow. After spending nearly 40 years in the Braves organization, Snitker is finally getting his shot and I want to see it continue as the team moves into SunTrust Park. Brian Snitker has earned the opportunity to continue managing beyond this season and I think it’s time the Braves remove his interim tag, committing to him for the long-term.
Do the right thing, Atlanta, commit to Snit.