June 17, 20201
The Braves blew yet another ballgame on Wednesday in a contest against the Red Sox. Following home runs by Dansby Swanson and Freddie Freeman in the fifth and sixth innings, to put Atlanta up by two, in the seventh Boston’s Christian Arroyo proceeded to spoil the night by slugging a grand slam off lefty AJ Minter, flipping the script and giving the Sox a three-run lead.
Of course, like all games similar to these (and believe me, we’ve had several this season), the actual blame goes further than simply Minter. Sure, he allowed the decisive blow, the slam by Arroyo that ruined the Braves late-game lead, but those three base runners had to get on base somehow; which is where you must also hold righty Shane Greene responsible, for prior to Minter entering the game, he allowed a double and two walks, hence the jammed up bases.
Entering the ninth still with a 10-7 deficit, Atlanta had a shot to come back with it’s nos. 8 thru 1 batters in the lineup. Guillermo Heredia led off that final frame with a single, and with Pablo Sandoval — one of team’s most clutch hitter this season — pinch-hitting for reliever Will Smith, there at least seemed to be an optimistic scenario in which the Braves could climb back in this thing and avoid its second crushing defeat in two days. However, Sandoval flew out to right, which then gave way to Ronald Acuna Jr. with one out and a runner on first.
As you can see, RAJ goes nearly straight back up the middle on a fastball by Boston’s Adam Ottavino and crushes a line drive that travels 102.1 MPH out to deep right-center. Heredia hustles and scores from first. But Red Sox right fielder Hunter Renfroe makes a perfect throw to cut-off man Xander Bogaerts, who then makes another impressive throw to third baseman Rafael Devers, who proceeds to easily tag the Braves base runner. Don’t get me wrong, Acuna was probably roughly a second too late, which is quite a lot and definitely not an amount of time that constitutes as a bang-bang play. It was evident from the start that the star outfielder had made the wrong decision to go for third, and I don’t believe anyone is arguing that fact. With one out in the final inning of an attempted comeback, you’re certainly not in a position to trade outs for runs.
But then the infamous post-game press conference happened Wednesday night. An understandably frustrated Brian Snitker took the podium and essentially put the team’s loss on Acuna and his base-running mistake.
For Acuna fans, there’s a lot to dislike about the clip above. Not only is Snitker just simply dead wrong for trying to blame the Braves outfielder, but the manager is also breaking one of the golden rules as skipper, and that is… never publicly criticize one of your players, which he proceeds to continue doing for several minutes. And this is far from the first time Snitker has stayed on Acuna in a press conference.
And I tell you, the dynamic between Snitker and Acuna sure is weird. The playing the game the right way stuff is pretty much expected coming from the 65-year-old Snitker, and let’s not forget, there have been a few instances in the past in which Acuna was in the wrong and probably deserved a little criticism. But a hustle-type play in the final inning of a game in which RAJ is running his ass off to take the extra base?… yeah, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen Snitker critique such a thing, which makes the obsession with dogging Acuna even more egregious.
Is Brian snitker’s job in danger?
Finally getting to the premise of this post, the million dollar question is whether or not Braves fans’ attitude is consistent with that of Atlanta’s front office. With as quiet as GM Alex Anthopoulos is when it comes to such matters, it’s probably impossible to know for sure how the Braves brass feels about its field manager. But they have to be aware, right?
Regardless of the front office’s thoughts, it’s truly incredible just how dramatic the love for Snitker has wavered over the last couple of months. I mean, this is the man that led the Braves to three-straight division titles and helped pull the franchise out of non-contention, all while possessing this friendly, players-manager mantra. If you didn’t think winning and losing sways the public’s opinion of a manager’s performance, you certainly do now.
But it’s not as if Snitker’s critics are being unfair. The Braves manager has routinely made questionable decisions ALL season long, and I wouldn’t even call it hyperbole to claim that Snitker has cost Atlanta several games in 2021. We’ve known this for years now, but his bullpen management is incredibly far behind as Snitker continues to over-weigh titles or specific roles in favor of actual data. And this season his obsession with pushing his starting pitchers three times through the batting order, despite unquestionable evidence illustrating that it’s a BAD idea, has been borderline psychotic.
So no, Wednesday’s loss didn’t start all of this ill-will towards Snitker. If anything it sort of confirmed the very thing Braves Country has been stating for much of the season so far… and that’s that maybe it’s time to go in a different direction manager-wise. Acuna isn’t an angel in this, but Snitker has now crossed the line.