Bill Shanks

It’s time to give Snitker credit

Home plate umpire Hunter Wendelstedt points out the eccentricities of Busch Stadium to Atlanta Braves interim manager Brian Snitker prior to the Braves’ game Friday.
Home plate umpire Hunter Wendelstedt points out the eccentricities of Busch Stadium to Atlanta Braves interim manager Brian Snitker prior to the Braves’ game Friday. AP

Just imagine if this conversation had taken place back in early May between then-Gwinnett manager Brian Snitker and Atlanta Braves general manager John Coppolella. It didn’t, but just imagine it did for a moment.

“Snit, look, we’re thinking of making a change. We want you to take over and be the manager of the Atlanta Braves,” Coppolella said.

“Really? Great,” Snitker said. “I’ve waited 40 years, and I’m ready.”

“But there’s one catch,” Coppolella said. “In mid-August, you’re going to have Mike Foltynewicz as your No. 1 starter. Tyrell Jenkins, who you now have in the Gwinnett rotation, will be your No. 2. Joel de la Cruz, who is now in your Gwinnett bullpen, will be your No. 3 starter. We’ll have Rob Whalen, now in Double-A Mississippi, as your No. 4 starter. And then we’re going to sign Roberto Hernandez, who used to be called Fausto Carmona, off the scrap heap, and he’ll be your fifth starter.”

“Uh, Coppy, can I get back to you on that job offer?” Snitker said.

Well, thankfully, that conversation did not happen. If it had, and if Snitker had known how his major league rotation was going to fall apart, he might have thought Gwinnett and the minor leagues were not so bad after all.

Somehow, someway the Atlanta Braves are watchable again. Just when you thought the rest of this season was for just playing out the schedule, the Braves are actually fun to watch.

The Braves are still what they are — a last place team. They’re still the worst team in baseball, and it will be a miracle if they avoid 100 losses. But at the rate they’re going, why not?

Snitker deserves tremendous credit. He inherited a dumpster fire, a team on pace for 120 losses. It’s still not very pretty, with the rotation still in shambles. But somehow, someway the Braves are winning.

Going into Tuesday’s game in Milwaukee, the Braves were 11-12 since the All-Star break, 9-4 in their past 13 games and 5-2 in August. After starting 9-28 (a .243 winning percentage) under Fredi Gonzalez, the Braves are now 33-42 (.440) under Snitker.

With this rotation? How?

The Braves have 10 pitchers on the disabled list. Ten. Julio Teheran, Williams Perez and John Gant are three starters who are out. The No. 2 starter to begin the season, Matt Wisler, is now in Triple-A. Aaron Blair, who was expected to be in the rotation, did not stick after an ERA of 7.99. Now he’s hurt in Gwinnett and unavailable.

But Atlanta’s bullpen, even with main closer Arodys Vizcaino out, has been really good. Jim Johnson has taken over as the closer and has been lights out. Ian Krol and Mauricio Cabrera have been solid.

The offense has been better after getting Matt Kemp from the San Diego Padres last week. They’ve scored 5.6 runs per game since Kemp joined the lineup. I don’t need to do the math or provide the numbers. If you’ve watched, you know they weren’t doing that well before. Ender Inciarte and Adonis Garcia have also done really well lately to help the offense.

Who knows if the Braves have even figured out what they’re going to do with the manager. Snitker is only the interim, so he might be out in another 50 games if the Braves simply want someone else. But if this team avoids 100 losses, after being mentioned in the same breath with the worst teams in baseball history early on, how can it not keep Snitker exactly where he’s at right now?

It’s time for Snitker to get some credit. And it might be time to give him the full-time job.

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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