As I type this up, our beloved Atlanta Braves are in 1st place…
…and in the debate upcoming, that cannot be watered down. Yes, they’re in first place despite the fact that Peter Moylan and Sam Freeman have logged nearly 70 innings of poorly-pitched baseball.
Or, that Ryan Flaherty has carried a .372 OPS in 98 plate appearances since April 23rd.
Or, that Lucas Sims (10.1 IP, 7.84 ERA), Brandon McCarthy (78.2 IP, 4.92 ERA), and Matt Wisler (28.2 IP, 5.40 ERA) have combined for nearly 12 full games of pitching.
Or, Miguel Socolovich, Chase Whitley, Wes Parsons, Evan Phillips, Rex Brothers, Danny Santana, Jose Bautista, Peter Bourjos, Carlos Perez, Chris Stewart, and even newcomer Adam Duvall…the Braves are in 1st place despite the fact that nearly 1/2 the players employed by the team have put up numbers that would make even the most loyal Braves homer red in the face.
This cannot be watered down. I complain, gripe, get angry, put up numbers, sample sizes, speak my dispraise on Brian Snitker’s decision making, Alex Anthopoulos’s lack of fixing the obvious problems, yet the Braves are in first place.
Snitker’s 25-Man Roster
Let it sink in, crew. This isn’t to temper your opinions, belittle the masses that have spoken their minds about players or thoughts above, rather it’s to drive home a point that even with a team that’s been partially complete with players that obviously didn’t belong, they’re still winning. How? Why are some players still here? I think the answer is quite simple.
Brian Snitker. Most that don’t like Snitker see him in one dimension…his in-game strategy. And it is quite awful sometimes: the double-switches, his need to use poor relievers when the game is still winnable, his loyalty to guys whose play doesn’t warrant loyalty, and the after-game reflections that sometimes make no strategic sense. Yes…even the Snitker homers have to scratch their collective heads when he says, referring to Sam Freeman: “If I had the chance to do it all over again, I wouldn’t have changed anything”. That’s hard to swallow.
But the guy runs a good clubhouse. From top to bottom, the front-office praises him, past players praise him, current players praise him, and there’s not one person that has watched this team that will argue this point: Brian Snitker’s players like playing for him. He provides clubhouse value and in a 162-game season where tempers flare, players tire, players get hurt, kids come up, vets go down, it’s always great to know that no matter how any player is playing at that time, the manager always believes in “his guys”.
That’s Clubhouse value. And with the combination of good players and a manager that believes in his players, that can propel a team to a winning season. If you were around for the years of Bobby Cox, you’ll agree that there were some of those teams that had no business winning the division, yet it happened 14 straight times.
1 World Series win. I watched. Religiously I watched every postseason game during the division streak. I nearly cried in 1995 when, as a senior in high school, the Braves brought home the World Series trophy. Every year the Braves were one of the top 3-4 teams in the MLB and many years they were the absolute best. They were built for postseason success with 3 ace starters in Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, and John Smoltz, so the question that all of us have to ask is “Why only 1 World Series?”
In my heart, tatooed with a tomahawk, one of my favorite things about the team was also what drove me crazy in the postseason. Bobby Cox. His in-game moves were never…never his strength. He, like Snitker, loved the game of baseball with his whole heart, managed like his life depended on it, was the biggest cheerleader in the clubhouse, and was beloved by all. He loved his players fiercely and the admiration they still show for him, shows the belief that all of us knew during those 15 years of beauty and pain: Bobby was a father-figure to his players.
The Braves are entering into, what should be, a long stretch of really good baseball. It could be 5 years, could be 10, could be 15, but what we know is that it’s here to stay for a while. Team is young, revenue is up, money will be spent, excess will be traded to strengthen the 25, and we as fans will have something to cheer about for a good long while.
But are we looking at a repeat of the predecessor? With Snitker at the helm, we will see what we’ve seen in the past? A team built to win during 162 but not in 7? I don’t think so….and time will tell and that time is coming soon. The difference isn’t Snitker vs. Cox, rather Anthopoulos vs. Schuerholz.
Anthopoulos’s 25-Man Roster
The time is coming (and I think that time will be August 30th and 31st) whether this opinion is right or wrong, but I feel that during the season, we have seen a 25-man product that supports what Snitker is about, and that his clubhouse value. He believes in keeping the players healthy, and not just in the physical variety but mentally as well. Guys like Ryan Flaherty, Danny Santana, Peter Moylan, Sam Freeman, these guys have 2 things in common:
- Their on-field play has been awful.
- They provide an immeasurable amount of value in the clubhouse
Flaherty rides to games with Markakis every day, is his brother in-law, and Markakis is performing at elite levels. No matter how many players are better suited for this team, Flaherty is going to be here for the rest of this regular season year.
Moylan is the loose-goose. As we see in interviews, Moylan doesn’t take himself too seriously and is always light-hearted and upbeat. There are guys that provide relief in-game, but Moylan provides it prior to them, and likely after a tough loss.
While I don’t know a lot about Sam Freeman’s personality, reading between the lines, the dude is very well-liked and seems to be a calming presence.
And Danny Santana…geez, I don’t like his game at all, but do you ever watch him with his teammates? He’s constantly chumming it up with the Latin American guys, providing smiles and, more than likely, insight on what it’s like to be a big leaguer from another country.
However, come September, when rosters can expand, I think we are going to see the world of Snitker collide with the world of Anthopoulos. As most of you know, any trades that happen after September 1st, the acquired player cannot be on the playoff roster. However, I think AA’s got a plan up his sleeve. He’s going to continue to allow Snitker his 25-man team throughout most of the month of August, however a few days before 9/1, he’s going to get his men to build a team that can win in the playoffs.
Who are those guys? I don’t know. I think it will start with Donaldson, a few back-end relievers, and a LH bench that will upgrade Flaherty. However, come the end of September, the Braves will have a team that’s built to win in the postseason and Anthopoulos will finally have his 25.