Atlanta Braves: How Hot Is Brian Snitker’s Hot Seat?

Feb 15, 2017; Lake Buena Vista, FL, USA; Atlanta Braves manager Brian Snitker (left) talks with former manager Bobby Cox during MLB spring training workouts at Champion Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 15, 2017; Lake Buena Vista, FL, USA; Atlanta Braves manager Brian Snitker (left) talks with former manager Bobby Cox during MLB spring training workouts at Champion Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports /

The Atlanta Braves surprised some people when they decided to move forward with Brian Snitker at the helm. Just how long a chance does he get as skipper of the new look Braves?

The 2017 Atlanta Braves continued to reshape their roster this offseason as they head toward their promising future. Unfortunately, they play in one of the more competitive divisions in baseball.

The New York Mets and Washington Nationals aren’t merely threats in the National League, but are the sixth and seventh best odds to win the World Series. The Philadelphia Phillies’ rebuild is nearly complete as they are ready to take big strides this season. The Miami Marlins will be playing with heavy hearts, and thus with a young roster and one of the most promising outfields in the game, anything can happen.

So, that likely leaves the Braves one more year away from truly competing. Their pitching rotation is almost entirely new faces and their lineup will see a few make their full season debuts as well.

Just how hot does that make Brian Snitker’s hot seat?

Snitker took over last season after the Braves ended the Fredi Gonzalez era. They were 9-29 at that point. Behind a team that ranked at the bottom of most categories and had perhaps one true superstar in Freddie Freeman, Snitker took the Braves to a 68-93 record. They finished the season as one of the hottest teams in baseball, crushing teams like the Detroit Tigers’ playoff aspirations along the way.

Snitker went 59-64. While the Braves went back and forth on the hire, Snitker won the right for one more chance.

One of the big parts behind the decision was that he was an “organization guy”, like Gonzalez before him. Gonzalez was a complete failure as the manager of the Braves. The talented teams he had often underperformed, and the talentless teams he had took zero strides in the right direction. 

Thus, when it came time to move forward with all of these shiny new pieces, the thought was to move outside the organization. Eventually, they decided to stick with Snit.

And it’s the right move.

Snitker is entering his 40th season as a part of the Braves organization. He saw the success of John Schuerholz’s “Braves Way” and how Frank Wren dismantled it. He worked under a Hall of Fame manager in Bobby Cox who is among the greatest of all-time. And he was a skipper for many years in a farm system that has continually pumped out home-grown talent.

His resume speaks volumes.

The Braves, however, did not commit long-term. Snitker’s deal is for one year in 2017, with a 2018 option.

Is Snitker on a prove-yourself contract this year, with a seemingly short leash?

With the aforementioned competitive nature of the NL East, and a pitching staff with so much uncertainty due to a bizarre combination of veterans perhaps beyond their years and inexperience, it doesn’t seem very fair. That being said, John Hart and John Coppolella are not afraid to make impulse decisions at the sign of something going awry.

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The coaching staff does have some immediate replacements should the front office feel a change is necessary. Ron Washington took the Texas Rangers to back-to-back World Series a short time ago. Terry Pendleton and Eddie Perez have long been seen as ready for their chance, and Kevin Seitzer is one of the up and coming names to add to that list.

The Braves have a lot of promise, and they have a much more exciting lineup than last season. The top of their order — Ender Inciarte, Dansby Swanson, Freddie Freeman and Matt Kemp — is matched by very few. That doesn’t mean Braves fans should expect some monumental turnaround. This is still an 80-win team at its very best.

Come 2018, this will be almost an entirely new team. The likes of Bartolo Colon and R.A. Dickey will likely bow out to names like Max Fried and Sean Newcomb. 34-year-old closer Jim Johnson is on borrowed time himself, because the Braves have some hard-throwing relievers ready to shine. If the Braves are out of contention by the trade deadline — which they likely will be — these faces may be gone by September.

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Snitker is in a dubious position. The Braves should not realistically have Wild Card aspirations this year. Coming off last September, however, he does need to show he can continue to move this team in the right direction. Should he do that, he should have every chance to man the exciting 2018 team the Braves have in store.

If they take a step back, however, Snitker may not even get a chance for that option.