I’m sure that y’all remember this story pretty clearly, but it has to be repeated just to set the tone for this piece. It was late-August 2017 and the Braves had just got done losing yet another game in another rebuilding season. This one came in heartbreaking fashion, as the Braves had rallied back from being down two runs on two occasions to take an eighth-inning lead but lost that lead to the Mariners thanks to a poor outing from Jim Johnson. This was just the latest in a string of bad performances from Johnson and Brian Snitker was feeling the heat from bringing him into the game once again.
Snitker especially caught the heat from then-President of Baseball Operations John Hart, who stormed to the clubhouse after the game and lit into the manager for the poor decision. It was loud enough for the players to hear it, and one player in particular was none-too-pleased about it. Nick Markakis sent a message to Hart that effectively said that if that happened again, he would beat the brakes off of John Hart. I’d imagine that Nick Markakis wasn’t speaking as a lone wolf in this case, either.
Whether the message was received loud and clear is unknown, but Brian Snitker ended up having the last laugh since John Hart was pushed out of the organization in the wake of John Coppolella’s chaotic exit and now it’s 2023 and Snitker is still manager with a World Series trophy in his cabinet and over 500 wins to his name. Not only that, but Snitker is also planning on being here through the 2025 season as well after he signed a contract extension to stay on as manager of the Atlanta Braves.
The reason why I shared the story about Nick Markakis threatening to check John Hart into the Smackdown Hotel in defense of Brian Snitker is because that basically sums up why and how Brian Snitker has managed to have such a successful run as the skipper here. We’ve all had our complaints about Snitker as a tactician and in-game manager and that’s normal since no baseball manager is perfect or infallible. Snitker’s had more than his fair share of gaffes as manager and a lot of the famous comebacks that the Braves have made in recent years could be attributed to the fact that they were digging themselves out of a hole that the manager had a hand in creating.
What makes Brian Snitker special is the fact that he may be the best man-manager in all of baseball right now. It may be a bit of a corny phrase, but former Braves TV play-by-play commentator Chip Caray really hit the nail on the head by repeatedly saying that the Braves “don’t quit under Snit. One of the strongest attributes that this team has is the fact that you rarely see them just roll over and surrender in any given game that they’re trailing in. Again, while Snitker’s decision-making could be the root cause of some of these deficits, it’s also a huge credit to Snitker as a motivator that his teams always seem to have an incredible amount of resiliency.
You could talk to any of the players in that clubhouse who have been there for longer than a year and each of them would probably tell you at some point that they would run through a wall if Brian Snitker asked them to. The players having that type of faith in their manager is a huge positive for the Braves as an organization and it’s also gotten to the point where resiliency and determination has been firmly implanted into the club’s culture.
I’d say that Snitker more-than-earned this contract extension after the job he did in 2022. This is a team that could’ve decided that a World Series victory in 2021 was well enough and simply rested on their laurels — especially considering the start that they got off to in 2022. However, it wasn’t enough for Brian Snitker and the team meeting that the team had before the final game of their series in Arizona will likely go down in Braves legend as the turning point in a division-winning season that was heading for disaster in a hurry. That incredible 78-33 run to erase a 10.5 game deficit in the NL East doesn’t happen without Brian Snitker re-affirming his team and bringing confidence back to a squad that seemed to be bereft in that regard.
While baseball is turning more and more into an analytical game (and to his credit, Brian Snitker is doing his level best to keep up with the sabermetric side of things), Snitker’s brand of management is proving that intangibles still play a pretty big role in the sport as we know it. He’s absolutely earned this contract extension and while he may not be the perfect baseball manager, he’s perfect for the Braves. If you don’t believe me, just ask yourself how many managers have had their players publicly declare that they would throw hands for their skipper. We know of one, and he’s currently the manager of the Atlanta Braves and will be through the 2025 season.