While the Braves aren’t ready to remove the “interim” label and hire Brian Snitker as their full-time manager, they’ve seriously narrowed the field of other candidates for the position.
Veteran former managers Bud Black, who interviewed with the Braves Monday, and Ron Washington, who’ll interview later this week, are the only outside candidates that have been scheduled to meet with the Braves, who already interviewed Snitker, Terry Pendleton, Eddie Perez and Bo Porter from their own coaching staff about the position.
President of baseball operations John Hart was candid Monday when he said that while Pendleton, Perez and Porter all were attractive candidates, “It would be very difficult to bring a coach off of Brian’s staff with the job Brian did.”
In other words, don’t expect Pendleton, Perez or Porter to be named Braves manager. Not after Snitker, 60, stepped in as interim manager in May and turned around a moribund team, which went from 9-28 under fired manager Fredi Gonzalez to 59-65 under Snitker, playing three games over .500 in its last 97 games and winning 12 of its final 14.
“I want to recognize just the tremendous job that Brian did coming in under very adverse circumstances and taking a year that was spiraling out of control and restoring order,” Hart said, “in fact, really dramatically turning around this ballclub. I think we all know that we’re in a manager search, and it goes without saying Snit has put himself squarely in the middle of consideration as we go forward.”
Hart was seated in the middle between Snitker and John Coppolella during a Monday media session at Turner Field.
“We haven’t made any final decisions one way or the other,” Coppolella said, when asked if the other three Braves coaches were eliminated from the job competition given Snitker’s performance and the praise he’s drawn from Braves players. many of whom have openly lobbied for Snitker. “I would just add this: These are great men, they’ve all got bright futures. What was kind of cool from that interview is, they showed a lot of love for Brian and the job that he had done.”
As for any other possible candidates, Hart said, “Right now we’re going to talk to Bud Black, Ron Washington. We’re looking at some other potential names that might surface. But we spent a lot of time on this, recognizing, again, the job that Brian has done and what we have in-house, that if we are to do this and people that we want to have discussions with are guys that we feel we know and guys that we feel would be a fit for us and what it is that we’re doing.”
What that entails is guiding a team that has been in a rebuilding project and will continue to bring up young players over the next couple of seasons. In Black and Washington, the Braves have candidates with ties to Hart and Braves vice chairman John Schuerholz, and with reputations for working well with younger players in addition to veterans.
Black, 59, is considered by some close to the Braves to be the only candidate the team would seriously considering hiring over Snitker. He’s a former major league pitcher – he was a starter for Kansas City’s 1985 World Series championship team when Schuerholz was Royals GM – and was pitching coach for the Angels in 2000-2006 before managing the Padres from 2007 to 2015. He was National League Manager of the Year in 2010.
Black was nearly hired as Nationals manager last year, but negotiations stalled and he became an Angels special assistant.
Washington, 64, managed the Rangers for eight seasons through 2014, guiding them to four consecutive seasons with at least 90 wins and American League pennants in 2010 and 2011. He’s a third-base coach with Oakland.
Coppolella said that he and Hart talked several times a day over the past three or four months and discussed “probably 40, 50 names” of potential candidates for the managerial job. As Snitker’s team progressed, candidates were eliminated. But the Braves wanted to go ahead with the process rather than hire Snitker without considering anyone else.
“One of the things I’ve found when you go outside and you talk (to candidates), you learn things,” Hart said. “There’s a lot of smart guys out there, a lot of guys with different ideas, and I think it would be shame on us if we didn’t take this opportunity and take a look at the landscape and get a feel for what people think about our club, about our players.
“We’ve talked to Brian about this and he understood. He said, ‘Look, I’m a lifelong Brave, I want the right guy there.’ If it’s me, that’s great. If it’s someone else, that’s great too.”
Snitker was asked if it were uncomfortable being in front of reporters as the managerial job was being discussed.
“No, I’m comfortable in my own skin here,” he said. “I didn’t need this job to validate my career. If I would have never got this opportunity – I love the game, I love what we’re doing here, but I wasn’t on the prowl or need this job to validate anything I’ve done over my 40 years. I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished in my career, how I’ve helped guys.”
As for the Braves going ahead with the search despite the praise he’s received, Snitker said, “I get it. I understand. If I was them, I’d be doing the same thing. You never know, somebody might come in here and blow them away with something they never even thought of before. And if that’s going to make this club, this organization better, heck, I’m all for it….
“I’m going to be here somewhere. I’m going to work next year. I’m going to help some way. If I’m the manager, great. It’s a great group of guys, I love to be a part of it. And I will be in, in some capacity. I don’t plan on going anywhere.”