A question – should the Braves, whose playoffs begin at home Saturday against Philadelphia in the NL Division Series, make good on their standing as World Series favorites and win their second championship in three years, does Snitker become a candidate for the Hall of Fame?
The strongest case for Snitker would rest with two World Series rings, particularly in a three-year window, and his consistent success.
There have been only 23 managers in baseball history to lead teams to more than one World Series championship. Of the 10 who have won more than two, nine are in the Hall of Fame and the 10th (Bruce Bochy, now managing the Rangers) will be eventually.
Of the 13 who have won two, six are enshrined in Cooperstown and a seventh (the recently retired Terry Francona) is a strong candidate to one day be enshrined.
Of the other six, the résumés have pluses and minuses and paint a picture that Snitker probably would have more work to do, even if the Braves were to win this year.
The six two-time World Series winners who are Hall of Fame inductees also averaged 1,536 regular-season wins and five of the six had a regular-season winning percentage of .520 or higher. The six (not including Francona) who are not enshrined averaged 986 regular-season wins. Four of the six had winning percentages under .520.
Snitker’s 646 regular-season wins are 111th in major-league history. Of managers who’ve won precisely two World Series and are in the Hall only as managers, the one with the fewest wins is Billy Southworth, with 1,044. (Southworth managed the Boston Braves from 1946-51.)
There are myriad differences between the cases of Southworth, who managed 13 seasons between 1929 and 1951, and a hypothetical two-time champ Snitker, but winning 398 more regular-season games to catch him (and doing so at his current pace) surely would build his argument.
If Snitker, who turns 68 on Oct. 17, were to continue to manage and average 90 wins per season, he could reach Southworth’s 1,044 in 4-1/2 more seasons.
At that point, two World Series titles, 1,000-plus wins and a strong winning percentage surely would enter him into the conversation. Since 1900, only 19 managers have had as high a winning percentage as Snitker in their first eight seasons.
And, it perhaps goes without saying, if the Braves were to win a third World Series under Snitker’s watch, it would be difficult not to send him to Cooperstown no matter how many years he managed.
For those who would argue that Snitker merely happened to be the manager of the Braves when a powerhouse roster was assembled for him, a counterpoint is that the same logic could be applied broadly. Joe Torre had a .471 winning percentage with one postseason berth in 14 seasons (with the 1982 Braves of Dale Murphy and Phil Niekro) before assuming managership of the star-studded Yankees before the 1996 season.
As Yankees manager, he won four World Series titles over his 12 years with a .605 winning percentage. Talent has a way of making any manager look good.
Still, in Snitker’s case, the details affirm him. The Braves won the 2021 World Series despite missing Ronald Acuña Jr. with a torn ACL. They have been lifted this season by a historically productive offense, but also had to start 16 different pitchers in the regular season because of injuries. And, if they do finish on top, the achievement ought to consider the difficulty of successfully navigating three postseason rounds.
But perhaps the larger point is this. On May 17, 2016, when Snitker was called up from Triple-A Gwinnett to become the Braves’ interim manager after the firing of Fredi Gonzalez, who could have imagined that this would even be a possibility seven years later? You might remember that Snitker had to interview for the full-time job after the 2016 season and that his future remained in doubt throughout the 2017 season and going into 2018, when he led the Braves to the NL East title and was named the league’s manager of the year.
However much talent has been delivered to his clubhouse, he has turned it into wins at a rate that few of his peers can match. Over the past 50 years, only three managers who have won more games than Snitker can claim a higher winning percentage (Hall of Famer Earl Weaver, Davey Johnson and a man Snitker may match wits with in a week and a half, Dodgers skipper Dave Roberts, who is building his own Hall of Fame résumé).
He has further done so with a humble manner that has endeared him to his team and organization, one that, most improbably, could one day land him enshrined among legends.
It’s a hypothetical discussion for now. A World Series title is assured to no one, not even the 104-win Braves.
But, that’s wild to even consider for a man whom “grinder” and “baseball lifer” are common descriptions and didn’t achieve his dream until he was 60. In 2016, two weeks before he was elevated to interim, Snitker spoke with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution columnist Steve Hummer in his Gwinnett Braves’ office.
“I don’t feel like I’m done in the big leagues yet,” he said. “I want to go back. I think I can still be a part.”
Looks like he nailed that one.
Credit: AP file photo
Credit: AP file photo