Archive for August, 2008

56: Eighteen years later, losing still stinks

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By ssiscribe

ATLANTA – Eighteen years. The time it takes for an infant to grow into a high-school graduate.

That’s how long it’s been since the Atlanta Braves have provided us with a season like this, a season that flew off the rails long ago, a season that is destined to finish with 90 losses.

Eighteen years. It’s a long, long time frame. Let’s rewind the clock for a minute.

I was 17 in 1990, looking forward to my senior year in high school, looking forward to college and adulthood. Atlanta was awarded the Summer Olympics, the city’s first major victory in anything remotely related to sports. Evander Holyfield won the heavyweight boxing championship. Georgia Tech kicked off its undefeated season, one that would end with the Yellow Jackets claiming a share of the national championship.

The Braves? Well, they stunk, losing 97 games and finishing last in the NL West. But what else was new? The Braves had been bad for the four previous years, and the 1990 season was no different. Atlanta lost 13 of its first 15 games, found itself 10 ½ games out of first as early as April 28, and finished 26 games behind the eventual World Champion Reds.

Then came 1991. I graduated high school and started college, and everything changed for my favorite baseball team … forever.

The fall would come; this, we all knew deep down inside. At some point, the run of division championships, the thrilling Octobers, the pursuit of the world championship, would come crashing down. We knew it would be painful to watch. But nobody dared to dream it would take this long to occur.

Even the past two years, which ended with the Braves standing outside the postseason party, carried with it a modest amount of hope as August unfolded. The wild card was still in play for Atlanta two years ago, the division still up for grabs last season.

Then came 2008. A season of high hopes, of lofty expectations, of talk surrounding a division title and a pennant, crashed into an abyss we haven’t seen in, oh, 18 years. The pitching staff imploded under the weight of injuries and overuse. The hitters became allergic to clutch situations. The team couldn’t win on the road for the first two months, couldn’t win at home in the heat of summer, couldn’t win at all in games decided by one run. Too few players lived up to expectations.

And so, here we are, smack-dab in the midst of misery, baseball style. It’s a long, long season when you’re winning. When you’re losing, well, it feels like the journey to October never will end. Get up, watch, lose, go to bed. Shake. Stir. Repeat.

It tastes bad going down, for sure, especially after eating steak and shrimp for the better part of two decades.

The focus long ago shifted to 2009, and that’s probably a good thing. There is little to salvage from a season that’s seen more injuries, more blown games, more frustration than this franchise and its now-beleaguered fan base has endured since the dawn of the ’90s. We’re tucked into the bomb shelter, experiencing the depths of a nuclear winter, something not experienced by Braves Nation in what seems like forever.

Actually, it’s not been forever. It’s been 18 years. And while so much has changed since 1990, one thing remains the same:

Being buried in August stinks.

The Scribe abides.

—30—

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55: Who ARE these guys?? … part 4

Comments and articles herein are the intellectual property and opinions of the writers and may not be copied without permission of the writers.

by Carolina Lady

He’s been with the Braves since 1977. Bob Dider signed him after he graduated from the University of New Orleans as a non-drafted free agent to fill out a spot on the Kingsport roster.

Fours years later, after he had wrested the last possible drop out of his playing career, then-farm director Hank Aaron made a job offer.

He told Baseball America –

“I played real hard to be mediocre and I was fortunate when Hank offered me the coaching job. I was single and living out of my car, so I gave it a try to see what happened.”

Brian Snitker

Brian Snitker

Brian Snitker. Born 1955 in Illinois. He didn’t have an easy time of it either. Never made it to the majors, but has made the best of his talents and abilities as player, roving instructor, coach and manager in the Braves system for more than 30 years.

He coached, taught and managed for 20+ seasons in the minors, leading clubs from the rookie leagues to AA in Anderson, Sumter, Durham, Macon, Danville, Myrtle Beach, Greenville, and Mississippi before he was named manager of the Richmond Braves in 2006.

Snitker once said, “The players are the one thing that keeps you coming back. And that’s because we have good players. The Braves always get guys who are good people with strong work ethics and great makeup. They have the intangibles that make them the best players they can be. And that’s what makes it fun to go to work everyday.”

He said he never really developed a “style” of managing because a minor league manager never gets to pick his team; he just works with what he has.

And he did pretty well at managing the rookies and kids: 1,140-1,145 (.499). Five of his clubs advanced into post-season play and he won 2 championships (back-to-back titles with Myrtle Beach in 1999 and 2000) and 3 Minor League Manager of the Year awards – 1997, 1999, 2000.

He was managing the Mississippi Braves in Pearl in ’05 (Francoeur, McCann, Boyer, McBride, Lerew, James, et al) when an unprecedented 11 “Baby Braves” were called up to Atlanta. Still, Snitker led Mississippi to a 64-68 record in its first year, quite an accomplishment considering that they had just moved to a new city, most of the team’s stars were promoted to fill needs in Atlanta, and the last 8 games of the season were canceled due to Hurricane Katrina.

Snitker said, “It’s my job to hold things together and keep the best possible team on the field every day.”

When Dayton Moore was Atlanta’s farm director, he said, “Snitker is the most highly respected manager we have in our system.”

Year Team League Record Finish
1981 Roving Instructor
1982 Anderson Braves South Atlantic

72-70

5

1983 Durham Bulls Carolina

59-78

6

1984 Durham Bulls Carolina

68-72

5

1985 Atlanta Braves (Bullpen coach)

1986 Sumter Braves South Atlantic

77-60

3

1987 Durham Bulls Carolina

65-75

7

1988 Atlanta Braves (Bullpen coach)

1989 Atlanta Braves (Bullpen coach)

1990 Atlanta Braves (Bullpen coach)

1991 Minor League coach Macon

1992 Macon Braves South Atlantic

58-81

13

1993 Minor League coach

1994 Minor League coach

1995 Minor League coach

1996 Danville Braves Appalachian

37-29

5

1997 Macon Braves South Atlantic

80-60

1

1998 Macon Braves South Atlantic

69-72

8

1999 MB Pelicans Carolina

79-60

2

2000 MB Pelicans Carolina

88-52

1

2001 MB Pelicans Carolina

71-67

3

2002 Greenville Braves Southern

65-59

7

2003 Greenville Braves Southern

68-70

5

2004 Greenville Braves Southern

63-76

9

2005 MS Braves Southern

64-68

6

2006 Richmond Braves International

57-86

14

2007 Atlanta Braves (3rd base coach)

2008 Atlanta Braves (3rd base coach)

Brian was quoted as saying –

“You should expect your team to win. Winning needs to be a priority at this level. Results need to be a priority. You’ve got to have results to show you can play in the big leagues. Pitchers need to win games, and hitters need to produce in key situations.”

Mel Roberts, once Brian’s hitting/first base coach who has known him since the ’80s, said Snitker’s main strength is his communication skills.

He doesn’t do anything that’s just, ‘That’s the way we do it,’ Whatever it takes to get it done, that’s the way he’s gonna do it. When you relate that to these players, they relax, and they’re able to be a little more susceptible to what you’re trying to get them to do.”

After serving as Atlanta’s bullpen coach for parts of 3 seasons, he returned to the Minors in 1991. He didn’t know if he’d ever make it back the the Majors despite having accumulated 1,140 managerial victories with 9 different teams from Rookie level through AAA.

Guy Curtwright wrote for MLB.com:

After what amounted to a 16-year baseball road trip through the Minors, the 31-year Braves lifer is a full-time resident of suburban Atlanta again and no longer a far-away father.

“It was tough. Real tough,” the 51-year-old Snitker said of the strain that being a vagabond Minor League manager puts on family life. “You want to be there, but you can’t. Talking on the phone isn’t the same.”

When Snitker told his wife Ronnie last fall that he’d be home (in Lilburn, GA) the next year, she said, “What?? Were you fired?

Nope, Fredi Gonzalez went to Florida and Brian Snitker was back in the Majors again as 3rd base coach for Atlanta.

“Snit was like a father figure for us in the Minors,” Francoeur said. “Now he gets to be a real dad for his own family.” (He has a son and a daughter.)

“He’s had to miss a lot and I know that was difficult for him,” Ronnie said. “It isn’t easy to balance baseball and family, especially in the Minors.

“But it’s all worked out. He was a baseball player when I married him. We knew what we were getting into.”

'Snit'

'Snit'

Snitker always seemed to have a great relationship with his players and he’s said to be a great communicator. He’s coached or managed all the young players now in Atlanta – and, from what I’ve read, it seems to be accepted that one day he will manage in the Major Leagues. Along with Terry Pendelton, Brian was considered by the Royals for their manager’s position. Bobby’s successor??

It’s just my opinion, but I wonder if he wouldn’t better serve the Braves, Bobby in particular, as bench coach instead of Chino. Chino has managed but his strengths seem to be more in coaching, while Brian is clearly the better manager. That’s just my take on it.

Brian Snitker. He’s been there, done that, and got all the T-shirts. Got to respect those long, long years in the Minors, his perserverance and just plain old doggedness, as well as doing a really good job. Respect for a good guy.

~CL~

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54: Who ARE these guys?? …part 3

Comments and articles herein are the intellectual property and opinions of the writers and may not be copied without permission of the writers.

by Carolina Lady

Bill James said of him, “He looks like a hobbit.”

Listed as 5’7″, Glenn Dee Hubbard was born in 1957 at Hahn AFB, West Germany, is married and has three sons.

Drafted right out of high school in 1975, made his major league debut in 1978 when he was promoted after being named Rookie of the Year in Richmond, Hubbard played for the Braves from ’78-’87, then signed as a free agent with Oakland for his final two playing years. (Others who debuted in the same year are Paul Molitor, Ozzie Smith, Pedro Guerrero, Mike Morgan, Dave Stewart and Terry Kennedy.)

Through 10 years with the Braves and 2 with the A’s, Glenn was better known for his fielding than his hitting, though he was an excellent bunter who led the National League in sacrifice outs in 1982. A steady glove and his willingness to stand his ground while turning a double play, even with a runner coming at him full tilt, made him a valuable asset.

A check of the records indicates that he holds the Braves’ fielding records for second basemen in all categories.

In 1981 he set a then Atlanta Braves’ record for second basemen with a .991 fielding percentage, but his most successful year was in 1983, when he hit .263, set career highs with 12 home runs and 70 RBI and was also named to the National League All-Star team.

He led all NL second basemen in double plays in 1982, 1985 and 1987. Post-Season play: 1982 NLCS, 1983 All-Star, 1988 World Series (A’s).

A couple of career-total numbers that stand out to me are:

– in the 1,354 games he played (11,206 innings)

– he had 2,795 POs (that’s more than 2 per game)

– 4,444 assists (more than 3 per game)

– committed only 127 errors in 12 years – or about 10 a year; that’s .06 per game. Or, just for fun, that’s 0.01 over the 11,206 innings he played.

– had 975 DPs

– and a .983 FP

Wow.

For that he was paid grandiose sums –

Year Salary
1985 $455,000
1986 $505,000
1987 $555,000
1988 $425,000

Before joining the Braves major league staff in 1999, Glenn spent the previous nine years coaching in the Braves’ minor leagues: Bradenton [’90], Macon [’91-’92, ’94, ’98] and Richmond.

Hubbard seems to have a gift for teaching. from an article at MLB.com:

Throughout the offseason, when they were targeting Kelly Johnson to serve as their starting second baseman, the Braves possessed a confidence that was created by the remarkable work Glenn Hubbard had done with Marcus Giles.

As Braves general manager John Schuerholz remembers, there was a time when “Marcus couldn’t catch a cold.” But Hubbard worked diligently with Giles at Class A Macon in 1999, and by the time the 2003 season ended, the young second baseman had become a Major League All-Star with Gold Glove potential.


“I think if Hubby can turn me into an average second baseman,
compared to where I was in the Minors, he could probably turn you guys (in the media) into a pretty good second baseman,” Giles said as he and his Padres teammates prepared for Monday night’s series opener against the Braves at Turner Field.


Johnson is certainly a better athlete than the media members that Giles was speaking to on Monday. But he had never previously played second base and thus it has been remarkable to see him evolve into a dependable defender, who has committed just one error in his first 141 chances of the year.


“Kelly Johnson has been brilliant there,” said Braves manager Bobby Cox, who last week said his new second baseman was playing the position as well as Hall of Famer Bill Mazeroski once did.

Having seen what Hubbard, who was a sure-handed second baseman in Atlanta from 1978-87, has done with both Giles and Johnson, Cox thinks it’s time people realize the importance of his current first-base coach.


“I think Glenn’s name never gets mentioned, but it certainly needs to be,” Cox said. “He turned them into really great second basemen.”


Because Giles’ cost was beginning to surpass the offensive value he was providing, the Braves opted to not re-sign him after last season. He says that he understands it was a business decision that has given him the opportunity to play in his hometown of San Diego and with his older brother, Brian, who is a Padres outfielder.


“About the biggest thing I do miss over here is Hubby,” Giles said. “Just having him there to remind me of the tips of how to play defense and the room service (batting practice) that he throws, I kind of miss that, too.”

Hubbard isn’t very happy with the new edict that now requires him to wear a helmet on the field. This from an ESPN story:

Glenn Hubbard trotted on the field Wednesday wearing a helmet — and feeling downright ridiculous.

“You know what it feels like?” he asked before a spring training game. “Look at that kid over there.”

Hubbard pointed toward a young batboy standing at the edge of the Braves dugout, his head dutifully covered by a helmet.

“That’s what I feel like,” Hubbard said, not bothering to hide the disgust in his voice. “A batboy.”

Hobbit or not, helmet or not, Glenn Hubbard is a good man to have in your corner: unpretentious, hardworking, down-to-earth, steady. Somebody you can respect.

~CL~

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