Bill Shanks

Atlanta Braves need to make a managerial change

AP

No one likely believed the Atlanta Braves were going to be very good this season. It wasn’t out of the question to believe they could be better than last season’s 67-win team, but so far, even that looks impossible.

The first three weeks have been a nightmare. No one could have predicted this. They are not good, but who really expected this team to be this bad, this horrible?

It is right to believe Connie Mack couldn’t make this team any better. But this is not just about this season. Fredi Gonzalez has had his chance as the manager. Now it’s time to give someone else a turn.

Gonzalez is horrible at managing the bullpen. In fact, you could say he mismanages the bullpen and has for years. He is not in a good situation this year, but he has done nothing to help himself with too many questionable decisions to count.

The Braves need to make a change. They have a young team with more young talent on the way. Gonzalez does not need to be in charge of these young pitchers, and the sour environment (normal for a losing team) needs to be refreshed with a new voice, a new philosophy.

There are internal candidates who could take over now, including Bo Porter, Terry Pendleton and Eddie Perez. But the best person in the organization to take over on an interim basis is Gwinnett manager Brian Snitker.

Snitker has been with the Braves for 40 years — either as a minor league player (four seasons), minor league manager (20 seasons), minor league coach (five years) and as a major league coach (11 years). Unlike the others, Snitker would not outwardly lobby for the full-time gig. He would do what’s best for the Braves and the future, not what’s best for himself.

Snitker is respected by the players and coaches. If the Braves decided to go in another direction at the end of the season, Snitker likely would be fine staying on as the bench coach or doing whatever he can to help the organization.

But he deserves a chance. Snitker is a good communicator and always has gotten high marks for handling pitching staffs. He might not come in, snap his fingers and fix this mess, but Snitker definitely could stop the bleeding.

If Snitker did well in his audition, then great; he could maybe get the full-time job. But there is another name to keep in mind that might be the perfect fit.

Bud Black was a pitcher in the big leagues from 1981 through 1995. He played for the Kansas City Royals when John Schuerholz was the general manager there. Then Black played for Cleveland, when John Hart was the general manager there.

Schuerholz and Hart now run the Braves, along with general manager John Coppolella. Those three have made pitching the priority in this rebuild, and who better to oversee the process than a former pitcher who has experience as a major league manager?

Black managed the San Diego Padres from 2007 through the middle of last season. Before that, he was a pitching coach for Mike Scoiscia, one of the best managers in baseball. Black developed a reputation as a great handler of pitchers, which is not a surprise considering he was once a successful starting pitcher.

The Washington Nationals almost hired Black last winter, only to have the negotiations break down. Black went back to the Angels to join the front office, but it’s only a matter of time before he’s back in the dugout managing a team.

With his ties to Schuerholz and Hart, and his reputation with pitchers, Black is a great candidate. The Braves would receive high marks for bringing in a respected and experienced manager.

Either Snitker or Black would be great, but a change must be made. With the Braves’ tough schedule the next few weeks, this might get worse before it gets better. And a new manager is needed to keep this from getting out of hand more than it has already.

Listen to “The Bill Shanks Show” from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WPLA Fox Sports 1670 AM in Macon and online at www.foxsports1670.com. Follow Bill at twitter.com/BillShanks and email him at thebillshanksshow@yahoo.com.

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