Q&A with Brian Snitker: Braves season and his future

After improving their record to 45-45 with a sweep of the Diamondbacks coming out of the All-Star break, the Braves were a National League-worst 26-45 since July 16 going into the final game of the season Sunday. The disappointing finish, including six straight losses entering the season finale against the Marlins, has put manager Brian Snitker’s job in serious jeopardy.

Snitker, who turns 62 in October and has been in the Braves organization for 42 years, discussed some of the highs and lows of the season and his future before Sunday’s game. The Braves haven’t said if they’ll pick up the option on his contract for 2018 and there is increasing speculation that Sunday would be his last game as manager.

Q. The results weren’t what you hoped for, but do you think the team has grown over the course of the season?

A. Yeah, I think it’s grown just because of all the young guys who’ve been injected into the whole thing. They’ve all grown, so consequently I think that you have to say that the team has. We’ve got a lot of young guys come up and get some unbelievable experience here. The record, yeah, it’s not what we wanted it to be when we started out, especially the way we ended up last year (strong finish to 2017 season). It’s a complete polar opposite from where we were a year ago today. But a lot of good things have happened. You look at four rookies in the rotation – I still consider Folty (Mike Foltynewicz) a rookie because it’s his first full year to start – and (Ozzie) Albies and (Johan) Camargo, and the year Ender (Inciarte) had was really good, all the games he played and the 200 hits …. There’s a lot of really good individual things here.

I look back to April and there’s probably five games where we beat ourselves, not by pitching or hitting – we didn’t make plays. We didn’t make enough plays. You can take those games you should’ve won and all of a sudden, we did pretty good. I mean, it was a situation where (in that case) we’re probably sitting here going, this is kind of where we thought we’d be. Because of that, we’re sitting here and it’s disappointing, the record. But it’s not disappointing what we accomplished here, I don’t think. Never one time did I feel like these guys played a single game to not win it. I mean, I can say that for the last six months, I can’t think of a game where I felt like our guys didn’t give it everything they had for 27 outs. And I’m proud of that fact. I’m proud of our players that I can say that about them. It says a lot about them as players, the character that they had. It’s really hard to win a major league game. It’s an easy thing to lose one, but it’s a hard thing to win.

Q. You mentioned not making plays, anything specific come to mind?

A. Just turning double plays that needed to be turned, catching ground balls, things like that. Simple. I mean, baseball plays. We didn’t do that in April; consequently it cost us a few wins.

Q. Your team was pretty much where you hoped to be at the 90-game mark, with a 45-45 record.

A. Yeah, felt real good at that time, we were five games out of the wild card. It was OK, I liked where we were going. Even when Freddie (Freeman) went down, we hung right in there, made a great acquisition with Matt Adams and hung in there and I liked everything we were doing. Can’t put your finger on exactly what, where, when (things started to go awry). It’s just kind of the nature of the beast.

Q. How have things changed for you since you took over as interim manager in May 2016?

A. I had more of a handle on the routine this year, knew the league a little better. I think every year is a little different in its own way. I mean, they’re all different. Nothing ever gets to where you’re really sure what’s going to happen, because it’s just too unpredictable and way too many variables every day that you have to deal with in this sport. I was better prepared when the season started than I would have been if I’d have just came on here in the winter. Just to go through what I went through last year – last year was tough, that was a tough one to get through. This one – they’re all hard. It’s not easy to navigate through 162 games. It’s tough. That’s why I have so much respect for those guys that have done it for a long time. I mean, just to get through, year in and year out. ...

I know those guys, after they’ve done this for a while, their normal is this. And I can see where it would be addicting. I mean, you start doing it and you drive yourself crazy doing it, but then when you’re not doing it that’s the things you miss the most. You roll around the bed worrying about the team. What am I going to do? Those things like that, when you don’t have it are the things that you miss. Because I think we’re all kind of like adrenaline junkies. When the game starts you’re on edge and for three hours you’re putting yourself out there. Then you take a deep breath and relax a little bit. And when you wake up in the morning it starts revving up again. I can see where guys, they get into it, they do it for a long time and it kind of becomes who they are, what they do. Well, I wouldn’t say who they are, but what they do. And they look forward to all of it.

Q. I’m sure you’d like to know your job status going forward, but how do you feel going into the offseason?

A. You know what, I’m kind of where I was last year, mentally. Whatever the organization deems is best for this organization, then that’s what they should do. Like I’ve always said, not by any stretch of the imagination is me doing this job going to define my career. I mean, I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished over the last 42 years, and if it’s to continue to manage this team, fine. If it’s not, if it’s something else, it’s whatever I do. Like I said, I’m not going to retire. I’m going to keep working. I enjoy the game, enjoying doing all this in whatever capacity, so we’ll just wait and see.

Q. What does it mean to you when your current players say how much they enjoy playing for you, that they’d run through a brick wall for you?

A. It means the world to me. It validates everything that you’re trying to do in the game every day, to hear things like that. Because in essence, I’m here for them. I’m all about the players. Without them, we’ve got nothing. I understand how hard it is to play; these guys are really good and make it look easy, and I respect each and every one of them. Because I know this is tough to come out and play 162 games and to keep that edge all the time. In there it’s a great group of guys. I mean, I’ve enjoyed every minute with those guys the last two years. And when I hear that, it just kind of validates everything that I was trying to do.

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