Prepare for more Braves upheaval: Bench coach Terry Pendleton and first-base coach Eddie Perez will be dropped from the coaching staff and former Rockies manager – and ex-Braves shortstop -- Walt Weiss is the likely replacement for Pendleton as bench coach, from what I’ve been told by more than one person familiar with the situation.
Pendleton and Perez might be retained in front-office or other organizational roles, but will not be back as coaches, thereby cutting the last connection to the coaching staffs of Hall of Fame manager Bobby Cox and two of the few remaining ties to the Braves’ unprecedented run of 14 consecutive division titles. Both were extremely popular with fans and respected by past and current players.
The Braves wanted to add someone with recent managerial experience as bench coach and came away impressive from an interview with Weiss, 53, who served four years as Rockies manager before stepping down after the 2016 season. The Rockies were 283-365 in his four losing seasons as manager, but he was praised by players for his managerial skills and especially his ability to communicate.
Weiss played for the Braves in the final three seasons (1998-2000) of his 14-year career, earning his only All-Star berth in 1998 in his age-34 season when hit .280 with .386 OBP for the Braves.
Perez will probably be replaced by a coach well-versed in baserunning and outfield instruction, areas lacking on the 2017 staff.
The Braves aren’t expected to announce the coaching staff until an off day in the postseason schedule – that could be as soon as Saturday – and possibly not until after the World Series, if they wait until after Major League Baseball announces the findings of its much-chronicled investigation into major infractions by the Braves on multiple fronts but primarily the signing of international free agents.
The coaching changes aren’t believed to have anything to do with that investigation, which already has led to the forced resignations of general manager John Coppolella and international scouting supervisor Gordon Blakeley. The Braves already announced they would pick up the 2018 option on manager Brian Snitker’s contract, and now it appears Weiss will serve as his bench coach.
Pitching coach Chuck Hernandez, meanwhile, likely will be retained despite the inconsistent performance of a pitching staff that had several underperforming veterans and a median age that was steadily reduced throughout the season, to the point where four rookies were making starts by the end of the season. The Braves seemed reluctant to make a pitching-coach change for the second consecutive year, after firing longtime pitching coach Roger McDowell last winter.
Pendleton and Perez have a combined 27 years on the Braves coaching staff. No other current Braves coach has spent more than three seasons on the staff.
Ironically, Pendleton and Perez had been candidates for managerial openings with several other major league teams in past years, and a year ago they, along with then-third base coach Bo Porter, were in-house candidates interviewed for the Braves managerial position along with outsider Bud Black and Ron Washington. The Braves opted to re-up with Snitker, dropping the interim label from his title in October 2016. Washington was hired as third-base coach with Porter getting bumped to the front office.
Earlier this month, the Braves exercised a 2018 option on Snitker’s contract to return as manager for at least one more season, after much speculation during the team’s second-half struggles that Snitker would be dropped and replaced by Washington. The front-office unrest and ongoing MLB investigation were thought to have played a part in the decision to bring back Snitker, so that there would be some stability in at least one highly visible position in the organization.
With no change in the managerial job, the Braves were not content to bring back the coaching staff intact after a fourth consecutive losing season and third in a row with at least 90 losses. Pendleton and Perez will apparently be the ones to pay the price, so to speak.
Pendleton, 57, was a 16-year member of the coaching staff following an impressive 15-year major league playing career that included 4 ½ seasons with the Braves. “TP” won the NL MVP award in 1991 in his first season with the Braves after batting a league-leading .319 and being a catalyst and leader in the “worst to first” season that began the Braves’ run of 14 division titles.
A three-time Gold Glove winner, Pendleton finished his playing career with Kansas City in 1998 and joined the Braves coaching staff in November 2001. He spent nine seasons as hitting coach through 2010 and just over five seasons as first-base coach before becoming bench coach at the request of Snitker when the latter was named interim manager in May 2016.
Perez, 49, has spent well over half of his life playing or coaching in the Braves organization, working for 11 seasons on the Atlanta coaching staff following a 20-year professional playing career that included 18 seasons in the Braves organization and parts of 11 seasons in the majors, nine of those with the Braves.
A .253 career hitter in regular-season play, Perez raised that to .299 in 30 postseason games with the Braves including a stunning .464 (13-for-28) with a 1.250 OPS in 15 games during four National League Championship Series, the highest batting average in NLCS history for any catcher in 25 or more at-bats.