The Wander Franco extension is another example of just how incredible locking up Acuña and Albies was

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

-Clint Manry

Just a few hours ago, it was announced that Wander Franco and the Rays had agreed to an 11-year, $182 million extension, which includes a $25-million club option for a 12th season. As the latest incredibly young player to become locked up by his team, Franco (20-years-old) should be a Ray on into his early-30s, and at just an AAV of $16.5 million, Tampa Bay gets a future MVP at basically a 50% discount. Even though I’m sure the narrative among national writers will be that Franco was somehow taken advantage of, these types of deals are beneficial to both the player and the team. Franco has a guaranteed salary for much of the rest of his MLB career (which is definitely a valuable thing), while the Rays can relax knowing it has locked up its generational talent.

But just like when Fernando Tatis Jr. signed his massive 14-year, $340 million extension with the Padres this past February, following the announcement regarding Franco, I can’t help but appreciate even more the pair of deals put together by Alex Anthopoulos and the Braves back in April of 2019.

I’m sure I don’t have to break down the math, but at eight years and $100 million for Ronald Acuña Jr., and seven years and $35 million for Ozzie Albies — in terms of average annual salary, the Braves are paying both Acuna and Albies combined what the Rays will pay Franco. And though he’s the type of talent that will most likely go on to appear in several All-Star games and probably even win an MVP, you can’t pretend that 11 years of Franco is a better haul than a decade of Acuña and Albies. Not only is two better than one, but it’s also two of the best players at their respective positions!

Then there’s the timing of the Franco extension, which for the Rays, obviously needed to come as early in his career as possible, hence the team-friendliness of it all. At this juncture, Franco has played in just 70 MLB games, hitting .288 with 30 XBH (7 HR) and 39 RBI, good for a 127 wRC+ and 2.5 fWAR in 2021. Those are some strong numbers for a first-year player, and you could argue that, if he’d received an earlier promotion and hadn’t suffered a hamstring injury late in the year, Franco could’ve posted even better stats in 2021.

But Franco’s impressive rookie campaign still doesn’t come close to how established Acuna and Albies were prior to their extensions. Consider what each player had accomplished leading up to their April of 2019 deals…

Acuña – coming off an NL Rookie of the Year campaign in 2018, which featured a .293 AVG, 26 homers, 64 RBI and 16 stolen bases (142 wRC+) in 111 games – good for 3.7 WAR.

Albies – in the midst of his third year in the majors, having hit .268 with 30 homers and 22 stolen bases over the past seasons spanning 215 games (102 wRC+) – good for 5.5 WAR overall.

Sure, Tampa Bay is extending Franco at just the right time as the sport’s top prospect will enter his age-21 season in 2022. But both Acuña (entering age-24 season) and Albies (age-25) are still in their early-to-mid 20s AND they’re two of the most prolific players in baseball right now.

We probably won’t ever see another extension like the ones given to Acuña and Albies, and I’m beginning to realize that each and every year. But even nearly two years later, it’s still amazing to me. Honestly, if Anthopoulos never makes another savvy deal in his tenure with the Braves, we should all forever appreciate what he was able to do back in April of 2019.

The hostility towards Brian Snitker is about much more than Wednesday night’s press conference

June 17, 20201

-Clint Manry

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.