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Report: Braves to keep Brian Snitker as manager

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Mark Bowman of MLB.com reports that Brian Snitker is likely to remain the Braves manager.

Snitker’s contract expired at the end of the season, but the Braves are going to give him another year. It’s a questionable call, coming at an awkward time for Atlanta, given that their front office blew up in scandal yesterday with the resignation of GM John Coppolella and his lieutenant,¬†Gordon Blakeley. John Hart is the acting GM, but he is unlikely to be in control once the 2018 season starts, meaning that the team’s new general manager, whoever that is, will likely be stuck with a manager he may not have chosen. Of course, it’s unclear when the team will have a permanent GM in place, which could, in turn, leave the team without a manager for some time if Snitker wasn’t re-upped. There were no great options here.

Whatever you think of that, it’s not at all clear that Snitker has earned another year at the helm. While he is a well-respected organizational guy for the Braves, and has been for decades, he did not exactly show the world that he is the guy to take the Braves to the next level. Indeed, at times he seemed to be an obstacle to the development of the Braves young players. He is popular among Braves veterans, who have lobbied for him to stay, but many of those guys will not be a part of the next good Braves team. But I suppose when you have no one in charge at the top, the guys at the bottom get to have a larger say.

The only thing that seems certain here is that the Braves brass, whoever that is, now has a built-in excuse for the team to underperform for another season. After a slow offseason, they can say “hey, our front office blew up so we couldn’t be as active as we liked.” After a slow start in 2018, they can fire Snitker, replace him with someone else and say “hey, we thought he was right for the job, but he wasn’t, but now we have the right guy in place.” Then, as the season ends with 90+ losses again, they can say “really, the idea was to contend in 2020 all along . . . ”

Whatever. I’m tuning them out for the next couple of days because there are Wild Card games to watch featuring teams competing that lost 103, 93 and 87 games in 2016, putting lie to the notion that you can’t get good more quickly than the Braves seem to be taking. One of those teams has a manager — Bud Black — the Braves passed up before giving the job to Snitker last year. Funny how that all works.

The Astros gave the Yankees an opening. Keuchel and Verlander will try to close the door.

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If Game 4 of the ALCS had been even remotely conventional, it’d stand at 3-1 in favor of Houston right now. The Yankees’ starter pitched well but got no run support. A mighty Astros team with an ordinarily good closer in Ken Giles had a 4-0 lead in the late innings. As the Yankees set out to mount a comeback, a base runner fell down in between first and second and should’ve been dead to rights. This is playoff baseball, however, so stuff, as they say, happens. The runner was safe, the closer struggled, the Yankees rallied and now we’re tied 2-2.

But are we even at 2-2?

On paper, no, because the Astros now will send Dallas Keuchel and Justin Verlander out in Games 5 and 6, and that gives them a clear advantage. Keuchel dominated the Yankees in Game 1, tossing seven scoreless innings and striking out ten batters. Verlander struck out 13 batters in a 124-pitch complete game in which he allowed only a single run. Beyond the mere facts of the box scores, however, the Yankees have looked profoundly overmatched by both of the Astros’ aces, in this postseason and on other occasions on which they’ve faced off against them. Most notably in the 2015 wild-card game at Yankee Stadium when Keuchel pitched six scoreless innings in the 3-0 victory.

But remember: stuff happens.

Stuff like Aaron Judge‘s and Gary Sanchez‘s bats waking up. The two most important sluggers in the Bombers lineup combined to go 3-for-6 with two doubles, a homer, a walk and five RBI in last night’s victory. Each of them had been silent for the first three games of the series but if they’re heating up, the Yankees will be a lot harder to pitch to.

Stuff like Masahiro Tanaka showing that he can tame the Astros’ lineup. Which he did pretty well in Game 1, giving up only two runs on four hits in six innings. He was overshadowed by Keuchel in that game, but it was a good performance against a strong lineup in a hostile environment. Tanaka pitches much better at Yankee Stadium than he does on the road, so don’t for a second think that the Astros bats will have an easy time of it today.

Stuff like the Yankees bullpen still being the Yankees bullpen. Yes, the Astros got to David Robertson yesterday, but it’s still a strong, strong group that gives the Yankees a clear advantage if the game is close late or if they hold a lead.

All of which is to say that we have ourselves a series, friends. While, 48 hours ago, it seemed like we were on our way to an Astros coronation, the Yankees have shown up in a major way in Games 3 and 4. If you’re an Astros fan you should feel pretty confident with Keuchel and Verlander heading into action over the next two games, but we have learned that absolutely nothing is guaranteed in the postseason.