The Braves’ tumultuous offseason continued as Terry Pendleton and Eddie Perez, popular ex-Braves and the team’s longest-serving coaches, were dropped from the staff and Walt Weiss was hired as the new bench coach.
Two other newcomers were added to the staff: Eric Young Sr. replaces Perez as first-base coach and will also work with outfielders, and Sal Fasano was hired as catching coach, a new position on the major league staff.
Weiss, former Rockies manager and one-time Braves All-Star shortstop, replaces Pendleton as bench coach. Pendleton and Perez have been offered other positions in the Braves organization and neither has so far accepted the offer.
The moves involving Pendleton, Perez and Weiss had been rumored for weeks, but the announcement was delayed while the Braves waited for some clarity with their front-office situation while an MLB investigation into multiple alleged rules infractions by the team in areas including international free agency and the draft.
The Braves still don’t have a general manager -- John Coppolella was forced to resign Oct. 2 -- and continue waiting for MLB to announce its findings and penalties.
The rest of the Braves coaches were retained, including third-base coach Ron Washington, pitching coach Chuck Hernandez, hitting coaches Kevin Seitzer and assistant Jose Castro, and bullpen coach Marty Reed.
Brian Snitker returns as manager after the Braves announced in October that his 2018 option would be picked up. He’ll have a couple of former big-league managers on his staff in Washington and Weiss, which undoubtedly will fuel speculation that Snitker could be on a “short leash” if the Braves get off to another slow start.
Weiss, 53, had a 283-365 record in four years as Rockies manager before stepping down after the 2016 season. He was praised by players for his communication skills and honest, straightforward approach, and lauded by other observers for a willingness to adapt to change, including the use of modern analytics.
Weiss played for Braves in the last three seasons (1998-2000) of a 14-year career, earning his only All-Star berth in 1998 when he hit .280 with a .386 OBP in his age-34 season for Atlanta.
Young, 50, hit .283 with a .359 OBP and 465 stolen bases in 15 major league seasons through 2006 and and was an All-Star second baseman and Silver Slugger Award winner in 1996 at Colorado, where he was Weiss’ double-play partner for four seasons. He was first-base coach on Weiss’ Colorado staff during the 2014-16 seasons.
The father of former Brave Eric Young Jr., Young worked as a base-running and outfield instructor with the Astros after his playing career ended and also served as first-base coach for the Diamondbacks (2011-12).
Fasano, 46, was a backup catcher for nine teams during an 11-year major league career through 2008 and began his minor league coaching career in the Blue Jays’ system in 2010. He was the Double-A Eastern League manager of the year in 2011 and managed the Angels’ Double-A Mobile affiliate last season in the Southern League.
Pendleton and Perez, who had a combined 27 years on the Braves’ coaching staff, were the only remaining holdovers from the staffs of legendary former manager Bobby Cox other than Snitker, a former third-base coach under Cox. No other current Braves coach has spent more than three seasons on the staff.
Pendleton and Perez both were candidates for managerial openings with the Braves and other major league teams in recent years.
Last winter those two, along with then-third base coach Bo Porter, were in-house candidates interviewed for the Braves’ managerial position along with outside candidates Washington and Bud Black.
The Braves opted at that time 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, and Black was hired as Weiss’ replacement in Colorado.
The Braves are bringing back Snitker again in 2018, after much speculation during the team’s second-half struggles in 2017 that Snitker would be dropped and replaced by Washington. The current 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.
It did surprise some that Pendleton and Perez would be the ones let go while Hernandez retained his job, after Braves pitchers posted the National League’s fourth-highest ERA (4.72), third-worst strikeouts-to-walks ratio (2.15) and fourth-highest WHIP (1.42).
But after firing longtime pitching coach Roger McDowell a year ago, the Braves decided against making another pitching change. They took into consideration the fact that Hernandez was given an inordinate number of inexperienced pitchers to work with, including several top prospects who showed signs of improvement under his tutelage.
On the other hand, many of the teams veteran pitchers underperformed in 2017, several of them to an alarming degree.
The Braves wanted to bring in a bench coach who had managerial experience and who was comfortable with advanced analytics, and also sought to add a coach who could help their outfielders and base runners, hence replacing Perez with Young.
Pendleton, 57, was a 16-year member of the coaching staff following a distinguished 15-year major league playing career that included 4 ½ seasons with the Braves. Highly respected across baseball by players past and present, “TP” won the NL Most Valuable Player award in 1991 in his first season with the Braves after batting a league-leading .319 and emerging as the fiery on-field leader in the “worst to first” season that began Atlanta’s run of 14 consecutive division titles.
A three-time Gold Glove winner and 1992 All-Star, Pendleton finished his playing career with Kansas City in 1998 and joined the Braves coaching staff in November 2001. He served 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 Snitker was named interim manager in May 2016, replacing fired manager Fredi Gonzalez.
Perez, 49, has spent well over half of his life playing or coaching in the Braves organization, and his playful and engaging personality made him extremely popular among fans. He worked 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. He toiled for parts of nine seasons in the minors before making his major league debut for the Braves in 1995.
A .253 career hitter in regular-season play, Perez ramped that up 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. He was MVP of the 1999 NLCS against the Mets after going 10-for-20 with two homers and five RBIs.