Brian Snitker wins NL manager of the year

Braves skipper Brian Snitker won National League manager of the year, the league announced Tuesday night.

Snitker oversaw one of MLB’s most pleasant surprises, his Braves winning 90 games and claiming the National League East title.

Seventeen of the 30 first-place votes went to Snitker. Milwaukee’s Craig Counsell finished second with 11 votes. Colorado’s Bud Black was third.

“The respect I have for all major league managers is unbelievable,” Snitker said. “I’m not looking to set the world on fire or anything, I’m just enjoying this ride. What it means, being with the players. It’s come at a good time in my life.”

He joins friend Bobby Cox as only managers to win award in Braves history. Cox won in 1991, 2004 and 2005. The announcement comes a day after Ronald Acuna won NL rookie of the year. 

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Snitker, 63, has pledged more than four decades to the Braves organization. He began as a minor league catcher before the legendary Hank Aaron, then part of the front office, hired him as a coach in 1991.

His dedication resulted in the interim Braves manager job in May 2016. His command of the clubhouse, along with a 20-10 finish that year, helped him retain the job. The Braves won 72 games the following season while ushering in several prospects.

This past season was Snitker’s most talented team. His ability to maintain a calm, level-headed clubhouse in the down times prevented the Braves from experiencing any lengthy skids. His “Take it a day at a time” philosophy was reiterated constantly by his players.

After piloting the biggest surprise in the National League, the Braves awarded Snitker a two-year extension in October, only the second multi-year deal he’s signed in his time with the Braves.

There were a few defining moments, most notably Snitker’s passionate defense of Acuna after the 20-year-old was intentionally hit by a pitch from Miami’s Jose Urena. Snitker defended Acuna, referring to the rookie as his “kid” and declaring a passion for protecting his players.

Earlier in the season, Snitker’s decision to move Acuna to leadoff was a season-altering one. Perhaps the Braves wouldn’t have won the division if Acuna had stayed in the lower part of the order. He rejuvenated the offense, and Snitker’s call proved brilliant.

When Snitker benched Ender Inciarte for a lack of hustle, it produced a delicate situation. Ultimately, Inciarte maintained his respect for the manager and their relationship was still strong – not an easy bridge to cross in those circumstances.

People skills are an integral part of the managerial job. More so than anything else, Snitker’s ability to communicate, discipline and coordinate motivated his players. It resulted in a return to the postseason.

“Just the way he fights for us, battles for us,” starter Mike Foltynewicz said. “We’ll go to war for him every single day. So I’m glad that he’s our manager. Everybody loves him to death. You’ve seen how he’s turned this team around.” 

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