Baseball managers are usually judged by a team’s record. His chances of keeping his job are obviously much better if his team is doing well in the standings.
The Braves have a manager who is not guaranteed to have his job next year, and whenever that happens there will be speculation. Brian Snitker’s team was eight games under .500 entering Saturday’s game against Miami, so people will talk.
There are other things to consider in judging a manager, however, particularly one with a rebuilding team. And yes, let’s repeat once again, the Braves are rebuilding, although they are desperately trying to win to get people to come to their new stadium. They are rebuilding.
We all know his players love Snitker. Their recommendation was a big reason he got the full-time chance this season after taking over last May for Fredi Gonzalez. Snitker has even had new veterans, specifically R.A. Dickey, publicly commend him for his handling of the clubhouse.
Something happened Friday night, however, to really show Snitker’s value to this club, particularly now. He tested a young pitcher, one making his second major league start, when others might have quickly taken him out instead.
Sean Newcomb was dealing against the Marlins. He had given up two runs against the Marlins through five innings. Newcomb entered the sixth inning with 71 pitches under his belt.
Newcomb gave up back-to-back singles to start the sixth, followed by a walk to load the bases with no one out. Let’s face it — many managers would have pulled Newcomb right then. But Snitker left him in to see how he’d do with the bases loaded and no one out.
J.T. Realmuto promptly bounced into a double play, which scored a run. That gave the Marlins their third run and left a runner on third base. Then Newcomb walked the next two batters to load the bases again, this time with two out. Again, that would have been a time when a lot of managers, especially with Newcomb approaching 100 pitches, would have taken him out.
Instead, Snitker let Newcomb face his second bases-loaded situation in the inning. Newcomb then got J.T. Riddle to ground out to Dansby Swanson to end the inning without further damage.
Newcomb finished with 106 pitches, 35 in that final inning. And he undoubtedly came away with more confidence that his manager would trust him in that situation, instead of pulling him out for a veteran.
“I thought he did a really good job,” Snitker said. “The one inning he got in trouble were a couple of mishit balls to load the bases. I really liked how he went after Realmuto in that situation and got the double play. I thought he did really good.”
Snitker was asked if he was concerned about the situation for Newcomb, since he was just making his second big league start.
“Not so much, really,” he admitted. “The pitch count wasn’t bad. He was still good. He’s a big strong kid. I was telling (pitching coach) Chuck (Hernandez) in the dugout that I really like how he went after it. I liked what I saw there. He competed very well.
“I wanted to see him pitch through all of that. I wanted to see what he would do and how he responded, and I liked what I saw. He’s been very composed. He doesn’t look awestruck by any stretch.”
How can you not love what Snitker did with Newcomb? The previous manager would have never done that. But Snitker knows the situation of this team. The Braves need to know what Newcomb can do. They need to closely evaluate him for the rest of this season to see if Newcomb is one who will stick.
Perhaps if the Marlins had hit a grand slam with the bases loaded, the storyline might have been different. Snitker would have been criticized for leaving a kid in the game. But Snitker did what was needed, especially with this team rebuilding. They needed Newcomb to be tested.
Atlanta’s record might not be what was expected this season, but there are other ways to judge this team’s progress and this team’s manager. The confidence Snitker gave his young pitcher was fun to watch Friday night and should be something just as important for Snitker’s resume for next year.
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