Right now, Brian Snitker is the interim manager of the Atlanta Braves. If they were to print business cards for baseball managers, the word ‘interim’ would be included. That’s what he is, at least for now.
But don’t count out the possibility that word could be taken out of Snitker’s title. Maybe he could stick around as Atlanta’s manager a while longer.
In fact, why not? Why not Snitker?
Snitker was asked to come in and stop the bleeding. The Braves were on pace for a record-setting losing season, between 40-45 wins. So the job for Snitker seems easy — make sure the Braves are not embarrassingly bad. Make sure they’re not mentioned in the same breath as the 1962 expansion New York Mets, a team that won only 40 games.
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That’s how bad the Braves were. They are, however, already showing signs of avoiding that terrible label.
Snitker has breathed life into a team that looked dead a week ago. He’s positive and encourages players, which must be respected in the clubhouse. He’s tinkering a bit with the lineup, to see what may work and may not. That’s OK; that’s what a new manager of a bad team should do upon taking over.
His roster is still pretty mediocre (okay, it’s bad), and with trades this summer it might get even worse. But that doesn’t mean the team can’t play hard. It doesn’t mean the Braves can’t be competitive. It doesn’t mean at the end of the year, despite the record, there can’t be more good feelings about the direction of this club than bad.
It’s ironic the Braves had decided to fire Fredi Gonzalez before what turned out to be perhaps the worst showing of the season last Monday. The Braves looked lethargic. There were several plays where you could actually question whether veteran players were really giving a full effort. For a team that was already circling the drain, it turned out to be the final nail in Gonzalez’s coffin.
Hitting the reset button has helped. Now granted, chances are when a team is playing that poorly, any new voice could make a difference. But if you watched that first game last Tuesday, when the Braves got down early 9-0, you know that team never gave up. They lost 12-9, but would that comeback have ever happened under Gonzalez?
Snitker is just the perfect man to protect this franchise the rest of the season. He can give the team respect, some legitimacy. He knows how to handle young players. After managing more than 2,000 games in pro ball, he knows how to manage. Maybe we see some most pieces of the future (Dansby Swanson?) come up and immediately make the team look better. Maybe we see them play hard. Maybe we see Snitker make a difference.
The personality leading that kind of team is important. Snitker is very genuine, and he appreciates players who play hard for him. He believes in team chemistry and will simply do what’s best for this team. Sure, he’s going to want to win, but he’s going to do what’s best for this organization for the rest of the summer.
This is Snitker’s audition. Perhaps the front office already has its eyes on someone else. Perhaps the front office has decided to go outside the Braves’ family for the next manager. But there’s no reason to make that decision now. Let’s see what Snitker can do. If they win at a rate of more than 30 percer, he’ll be doing better than the last one.
Heck, if Snitker wins with this group, you might want to build a statue for him.
It might be flashy to bring in a big name, particularly for season one in SunTrust Park next year. But this will be about getting the best manager for the future, and remember, the immediate future will still consist of a lot of young players. This team isn’t going to grow old anytime soon, so a manager that has great experience with young players, like Snitker, might be the perfect match.
So don’t count out Snitker. He might prove he’s the best man for the job, after all.
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 www.twitter.com/BillShanks and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.