HBT Weekend Wrapup

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Between legitimate distractions and frivolous ones, it was a hard weekend to concentrate on baseball news. Thankfully, aside from the usual injury stuff you see this time of year, there wasn’t a heck of a lot of it.  The highlights:

  • Ruben Amaro gets a four year extension. And he was so slick about it that Phillies ownership didn’t know they were even giving it to him until the papers had already been signed. He’s that good.
  • Major League Soccer thinks the Wilpons would make great owners. I’d crack wise here, but given that just about every MLS team’s entire payroll runs to around what the Mets are paying Mike Pelfrey, I figure that even the Wilpons could swing it.
  • The Nationals apparently feel that Bryce Harper is not quite ready to have somebody else carry his bags, to hit white balls for batting practice, to play in ballparks that are like cathedrals, to stay in hotels that have room service, to be around women with long legs and brains and, most importantly, to face pitchers who throw ungodly breaking stuff, exploding sliders.
  • The Bergen record reports that Johan Santana will miss all of 2011. The Mets and Santana say that the Bergen Record is lying.  In other news the Mets stand by their denial that Kelvim Escobar is unable to grip a baseball and anticipate his first action of 2010 any day now.
  • The Red Sox indicate that Diasuke Matsuzaka and Tim Wakefield could be had in a trade. In other news, I’m selling some real estate on which I speculated in the Las Vegas suburbs in 2006 and an old truck I drove into the ground for the past 20 years. Tailgate is broken. Serious inquiries only, please.
  • Bengie Molina is basically retired, but he’ll consider a comeback if the right opportunity comes along. He’s a good candidate for that seeing as though “getting back into playing shape” is more of a theoretical concept for him.
  • Mitchell Page enters baseball Valhalla. He hit .307/.405/.521 in 592 plate appearances in 1977. That was a better OPS than Reggie Jackson and George Brett had that year.

And into the week we go.

Andrelton Simmons is absolutely freaking ridiculous

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I’ve been watching Andrelton Simmons play shortstop since he came up with the Braves back in 2012. From the moment he burst onto the scene it was clear that he was an otherworldly defensive talent. His arm was incredible. His range was astonishing. His sense of where he was on the field and his instincts about what to do with the ball were unmatched.

I’ll admit, however, that I’ve seen him less in the past couple of seasons than I used to. It’s understandable: he no longer plays for my favorite team and he now plays most of his games after old men like me go to bed back east. The numbers have shown that he’s still the best defensive shortstop around and the highlights which get circulated are still astounding, but I’ve not appreciated him on a day-to-day level like I once did.

But that just makes me more grateful for the highlights when I miss him in action. Like this one, from last night’s game against the Astros. You can see it in high resolution here, but if you can’t click over there, here’s the play as it was tweeted around:

I didn’t see last night’s game, but my friend Dan Lewis tweeted this out a bit. His observations about it in this thread explain why what Simmons is doing here is so amazing:

The lay-outs, the bobble-saves, the jump-throws and all of that spectacular stuff are understandably appreciated, but the various skills Simmons displayed in just this one play — not to mention the freakin’ hustle he displays backing up third base after it all — is just astounding.

There hasn’t been one like him for a while. We should all appreciate him while he’s still in his prime.

The Braves are leaning toward keeping Brian Snitker as manager

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Mark Bradley of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported over the weekend that the Braves are leaning toward keeping Brian Snitker as manager. Part of that comes after team meetings between Snitker and top brass. Some of it, however, is likely attributable to player sentiment, with Bob Nightengale of USA Today reporting this morning that Freddie Freeman and several Braves players have told the Braves front office that they want Snitker back.

Is it a good idea to bring Snitker back? Eh, I’m leaning no, with the caveat that it probably doesn’t make a huge difference in the short term.

The “no” is based mostly on the fact that Snitker has had a disturbing trend of preferring veterans over young players, as Bradley explains in detail here. For a brief moment this summer the Braves seemed surprisingly competitive. Not truly competitive if anyone was being honest, but they were hovering around .500 and were arguably in the wild card race. Around that time he made a number of questionable decisions that favored marginal and/or injured veterans over some young players who will be a part of the next truly competitive Braves team, likely messing with their confidence and possibly messing with their development.

These moves were not damaging, ultimately, to the 2017 Braves on the field — they were going to be under .500 regardless — but it was the sort of short-term thinking that a manager for a rebuilding team should not be employing. Part of the blame for this, by the way, can be put on the front office, who only gave Snitker a one-year contract when they made him the permanent manager last year, creating an incentive for him to win in 2017 rather than manage the club the way a guy who knows when the team will truly be competitive should manage it. Then again, if Snitker was so great a candidate in the front office’s mind, why did they only give him a one-year contract?

I suspect a lot of it has to do with loyalty. Snitker has been an admirable Braves company man for decades, and that was certainly worthy of respect by the club. That he got the gig was likewise due in part to the players liking him — the veteran players — and they now are weighing in with their support once again. At some point, however, loyalty and respect of veterans has to take a back seat to a determination of who is the best person to bring the team from rebuilding to competitiveness, and Snitker has not made the case why he is that man.

Earlier, of course, I said it probably doesn’t matter all that much if they do, in fact, bring Snitker back. I say this because he will, in all likelihood, be given a short leash again, probably in the form of a one-year extension. It would not surprise me at all if, in the extraordinarily likely event the Braves look to be outclassed in the division by the Nationals again in 2018, they made a managerial switch midseason, as they did in 2016. If that is, indeed, the plan, it seems like the front office is almost planning on losing again in 2018 and using the future firing of Snitker as a time-buying exercise. Not that I’m cynical or anything.

Either way, I don’t think Snitker is the right guy for the job. Seems, though, that he’ll get at least an offseason and a couple of months to prove me wrong.