As the 2017 season reaches its conclusion, naturally we’re all starting to focus on what the Braves should look like in what should be a very intriguing season in 2018. One thing that’s interesting now is the fact the Braves are (according to Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports) “still assessing the manager situation for 2018.”
The fact that we’re this close to the offseason and Brian Snitker still hasn’t done enough to confirm his spot in the dugout for next season seems to indicate that there’s a pretty decent chance that the Braves are going to have a new manager in 2018.
Personally, I assumed that the only way that Snitker wouldn’t be retained was if the Braves completely bottomed out and looked utterly horrendous down the stretch. While that hasn’t happened — and Dan Syzmborski of ESPN pointed out that the Braves have basically performed as expected down the stretch — it still seems like the front office may decide to decline Snitker’s option and go with a new manager for the 2018 campaign.
With that in mind, there are a few directions that the Braves can go in for next season and I can imagine that there’s one direction in particular that most of you won’t want, so we’ll start there.
Retaining Snitker for 2018
When a team is losing, one of the most unpopular guys in town will always be the manager, and whenever the Braves have gone through extended stretches of losing, Snitker has taken plenty of heat. It’s easy to blame the manager for that type of thing, but it’s certainly understandable when you look at the various tactical blunders that we’ve seen since Snitker took on the role in the early stages of 2016. It’s also understandable since his managerial style is a branch that’s pulled from the Bobby Cox tree and also very similar to what we saw when Fredi Gonzalez was running things.
With that being said, Snitker still retains popularity with players like Freddie Freeman and guys like John Schuerholz. Like it or not, that’s a big positive for Snitker and probably the biggest reason why there’s still a chance we could see Snitker calling the shots again for 2018. In my opinion, that wouldn’t be the optimal way of doing things, but the Braves have their way of doing things and this would be an example of the old way continuing to hold sway on the franchise while trying to move forward. You can’t go in two directions at the same time, but that’s what the Braves would be doing if they went with this option.
Promoting Washington or Porter
If the Braves do decide to go in a different direction with the managerial role, I predict that this is what they’ll decide to do. The Braves have had two opportunities to pick up a new manager since Bobby Cox retired, and they’ve stuck close to home in both of their managerial selections. It just so happens that the Braves have two prime managerial candidates on their staff at the moment.
Ron Washington was one of the finalists last year, and it wouldn’t shock me if the Braves just decide to hand him the reigns should they choose to move on. He’s certainly got the credentials — he was in charge of a Texas Rangers squad that finished over .500 in five of the seven full seasons he was in charge (even though that record was definitely in peril by the time he left in his eighth season) has two World Series appearances under his belt and was one strike away from having a title as well.
In addition to the credentials, he’s already made plenty of inroads with the clubhouse and the current crop of prospects who have made their way to the big league squad this season. The players already know and trust him, he’s got a history of winning, and he’s still a relative outsider to the Braves’ organization. There’s a lot to like, here.
Meanwhile, Bo Porter would also be a prime candidate for promotion should the Braves decide to switch. While he definitely doesn’t have the winning history of Ron Washington, it would be difficult to judge him as a manager based on the fact that the two Houston Astros teams he managed were in clear tanking mode. So we really haven’t gotten an idea of what Bo Porter can do with a team that actually has some intention of winning more than 70 ballgames in a season.
Plus, anybody who’s willing to say something like this (in an interview with the Houston Chronicle) should be welcomed if you’re really trying to move on in a new era of baseball.
Like most players, Porter barely paid attention to advanced stats when he roamed the field. But since becoming a coach, the youngest manager in MLB has has started to delve deeper into the inside-baseball side of the game.
"When you're trying to make a decision and place value to how important is this guy versus the importance of this guy, you have to go beyond the surface," Porter said. "For me, I can give you my eye-test opinion. But when you're trying to really get to the (bottom) of it, there's information that will let you know."
Personally, if the Braves went with the option of promoting from within then Washington would be my preferred choice. Even still, I wouldn’t be too mad with Bo Porter taking over. You at least know what you’re going to get with Washington, or you’re going to get a manager who isn’t set in old-school ways in the form of Porter. Either way, either manager wouldn’t be a bad choice going forward.
Going on an actual managerial search
Then there’s also the possibility that the Braves could shock us all and actually go on a vast search when it comes to looking for a new manager. They brought in guys like Bud Black for interviews last season, and while the Braves decided against bringing Black into the fold, I’m sure that Colorado is happy with how things turned out.
That’s not to say that every outsider imaginable would result in the Braves taking a leap from pretender to contender in the blink of an eye, but it would be interesting to see what would happen if John Coppolella and John Hart got to cast their net wide, instead of doing what the Cox’s and Scherholz’s would do, which is just sticking with candidates who have been with the organization for a long time now.
2018 figures to be a very important season for the Braves, and while you could argue as to what’s the tangible effect that a manager has on a squad, it’s still important to know that you have someone who everybody can trust as the manager. So while the Braves’ managerial choice for 2018 probably won’t sink the team or suddenly boost them into the playoffs, it’s still important that they get this right.
At the very least, please find someone who won’t be tempted to put a league-average hitter in the cleanup spot if said hitter is still around in 2018. That’s seriously been a thing since 2015. Let’s move on, please.