Bill Shanks

Snitker’s references make Atlanta’s decision easy

Atlanta Braves interim manager Brian Snitker is interviewed by the media before the Braves' final baseball game at Turner Field before playing the Detroit Tigers on Sunday.
Atlanta Braves interim manager Brian Snitker is interviewed by the media before the Braves' final baseball game at Turner Field before playing the Detroit Tigers on Sunday. AP

The Atlanta Braves have a decision to make. Do they continue the positive momentum and keep Brian Snitker as manager? Or do they start over with someone else?

The records are part of the story. The Braves were on pace for 120 losses when Snitker took over May 17. They had gone 9-28 (.243) in the first 37 games of the season under Fredi Gonzalez.

Snitker led the Braves to a 59-65 (.476) record the rest of the way. They finished with a better record (68-93) than in 2015 (67-95), which seemed impossible early in the season.

The surge happened late in the season. The Braves were 20-10 in their final 30 games and 12-2 in the final 14 games. After a poor first part of the season (31-58), the Braves remarkably finished with a winning record after the All-Star Break (37-35).

Yes, the Atlanta Braves had a winning record after the All-Star Break.

But forget about the numbers. Forget about the 40 years Snitker has spent in the Atlanta Braves organization.

Here is the best part of Snitker’s resume. His references.

First, on Sunday two of his star players offered their opinion on Snitker.

FREDDIE FREEMAN

“There are not a lot of words that can be put into place what he meant to us in this organization. You know, I came up in 2010 and he was our third base coach. I had him for four seasons there. He means the world to me. I’ve become pretty close to him, and for him to come in and step into a tough situation and he handled it with pure class. Ultimately, we played pretty good for him. So I hopefully we’ll be seeing him around a lot more.

“Brian’s been unbelievable since mid-May. It’s been pretty spectacular. Whatever happens happens, but, you know, I really do hope Snit comes back.”

MATT KEMP

“He’s done an excellent job. The time I’ve been here, I’ve got nothing but positive things to say about him. He’s done a great job.”

Here are some additional quotes accumulated form the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s David O’Brien during the past few weeks:

ENDER INCIARTE

“I’ve never been so comfortable playing for anybody in my career, and I’m really pushing for him to stay here; everybody here in the clubhouse really likes him. We all respect him, so you really want a guy like that on your team. You really want to play for him. I think everybody here has been doing that.

“I didn’t play for Bobby, but a lot of people say Snit is very similar to Bobby Cox. I mean, me personally, I really respect him and I really want to play hard for him and win games for him. Only to give back what he’s been giving me the whole year, which is that confidence from day one.

“When he got here, I was hitting .215 or .220, and he just talked to me and said, I know where you’re going to be at the end of the year, just keep playing. So to me he’s been great. You can see the results with the rest of the team, too, the way we’ve been playing lately. So if you ask me, I really hope he can stick here for a long time.

“Having the confidence and the opportunity that Snitker has given me the whole year has been huge for me, and I cannot say anything but good stuff about him.”

NICK MARKAKIS

“I think he’s done a great job. (Snitker) was put in a position early in the year that he’s never been in. It’s a learning process for him.

“He came up here knowing guys, but not knowing his team from the playing aspect, and he had to learn it. He had to learn lineup, bullpen, starting pitching. There was a lot to learn. Over time it’s shown what a great job he’s been doing with managing his players, his bullpen, getting guys in. Most of all, just being positive and strong. He’s come a long ways.

“If everybody knows what their role is, we’re all going to be good. I feel like everybody here knows what their role is, and Snitker has been great at communicating with us. So we know when we’re not playing a day or two days ahead. He’s been great since he’s been here about doing that.

“If you’re a manager and you don’t have the respect from your players, it’s going to be hard for that manager. I think we have an understanding here and that he respects us and we respect him, and he communicates with us. The lineup’s always up early, he lets guys know when they’re playing, when they’re off – he does everything to help his players any way he can.

“A manager can only do so much, and for him to make it easy for us to go out there and do our job, it’s appreciated and I know guys like it.”

JACE PETERSON

“The second half has been fun, it’s gone quick. We’re playing good baseball and I think the best is yet to come, and I think that just from what we have here now and keeping him around and keep the camaraderie, that next year should be bright.”

The “him” he referred to was Snitker.

“Gotta have him. I don’t see how… you hear they’re going to look at other people, but in my opinion it’s got to be his job. Everybody loves him, everybody plays for him, he manages the right way, he treats players the right way. He’s a guy I want to play for and he’s one of my favorites. I’d be disappointed if he wasn’t here.”

JIM JOHNSON

“Working with (pitching coach) Roger (McDowell) the last couple of years has been beneficial to me. Obviously the respect that Snit (interim manager Brian Snitker) gets from the guys, how he’s done a great job this year. I have no say in that (upcoming managerial hiring), but I think you know where I lean to.”

▪ ▪ ▪ 

There is no doubt who should be the manager of the Braves moving forward. The Braves have talked about getting back to “The Braves Way.” Well, Brian Snitker is “The Braves Way.” He has lived it for 40 years. He has learned from Bobby Cox, Paul Snyder, Jim Beachamp and Bobby Dews — legends in Braves history.

It’s natural to wonder if going outside the Braves’ family, and more specifically outside the Bobby Cox managerial tree would be beneficial. But Snitker proved his style of leadership is exactly what this team needs. He knows how to help young players get better, and the Braves still have a few years of seeing young players become integral parts of this team.

The Braves should take “interim” off Snitker’s title. He earned the audition in May, and he passed with flying colors. Why disrupt the continuity in the progress that has been made? How can the organization go against the players, knowing how much they respect him and how well they did with Snitker as the manager?

It would be one thing if the Braves’ struggles continued under Snitker. This team flourished and got back on track. And while he’s definitely not the only person who deserves credit for the turnaround, there’s no denying how much better the team played with Snitker as the manager.

This should not be a complicated decision. It’s simple, really. Brian Snitker is the only one who should be announced as the manager of the Braves as they move into SunTrust Park for 2017.

Listen to “The Bill Shanks Show” from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on “Middle Georgia’s ESPN” – 93.1 FM in Macon and 99.5 FM in Warner Robins. Follow Bill at twitter.com/BillShanks and email him at thebillshanksshow@yahoo.com.

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