ATLANTA -- A little more than a year after being introduced to one another, Braves manager Brian Snitker and general manager Alex Anthopoulos have formed a strong bond that they will have a chance to strengthen over the next couple of seasons.
Snitker's long history with the organization was extended on Monday morning when the Braves signed him to a two-year contract that includes an option for the 2021 season. The 62-year-old baseball lifer believes this is just the second multi-year deal he has had since joining Atlanta's organization in 1977.
"It feels good," Snitker said. "It does give you a sense of accomplishment. I feel good really good about having an opportunity to stay around here longer and be a part of it. I really like where we're going. The front office and the organization is really solid again. It has that vibe of what I remember from years ago."
Snitker will return next year to begin his fourth season (third full season) as the Braves' manager. Many of the same players that captured this year's National League East title will be back. The only alteration to the coaching staff was made Friday, when the Braves announced that pitching coach Chuck Hernandez would not return.
Anthopoulos has not yet specifically targeted anyone to potentially fill the pitching coach vacancy. He looks forward to conducting a widespread search. Internal candidates include bullpen coach Marty Reed, director of player development Dom Chiti and director of pitching Dave Wallace.
"We had a good year on the mound," Anthopoulos said, "but we did want to open it up directionally and change some things."
Partly out of respect for Hernandez, who may fill another role within the organization, Anthopoulos chose not to specify what he meant by "directionally." But it's believed the Braves will now be looking for a pitching coach who can more capably digest and properly communicate the potential game plan data provided by the analytics department.
Though he admits he is not necessarily sure exactly what a simple metric like BABIP (batting average on balls in play) stands for, Snitker did not allow himself to be overwhelmed by the much more aggressive analytical approach to which he was introduced after Anthopoulos was hired in November.
More importantly, Snitker quickly realized the benefits of analytics, especially as it applied to defensive positioning and certain in-game matchups. Catching coach Sal Fasano and hitting coach Kevin Seitzer already had a strong understanding of analytics. Consequently, they proved instrumental in conveying the proper message to the players.
"You never stop learning and you never stop growing," Snitker said. "You're going to experience something every day that you haven't before. I think the longer you're in it -- if you're open and you experience that -- you're going to continue to grow."
Given Snitker became a top National League Manager of the Year candidate after helping the Braves follow three consecutive 90-loss seasons with this year's 90-win campaign, there was little reason to doubt he'd be given this contract extension.
On the way to guiding the Braves to a National League East title, Snitker impressed Anthopoulos with his willingness to occasionally show tough love and convey tough messages, like the one he delivered in May, when he informed Nick Markakis it was in the team's best defensive interest for him to transition to left field during a series at Fenway Park.
Ender Inciarte was removed from a game in Milwaukee because he did not hustle out of the batter's box on a ball that unexpectedly fell fair along the left field foul line. Two weeks later, the Gold Glove center fielder was briefly benched against left-handed starting pitchers.
But Inciarte remained one of the many players within the Braves clubhouse who have praised the leadership Snitker has shown since becoming the team's interim manager six weeks into the 2016 season.
"By the end of the season, Ender Inciarte is in [Snitker's] office telling him how great he is and how much he respects him," Anthopoulos said. "That's a hard thing to do: to be able to manage and to be able to handle those things."
Along with evaluating the team's success and what occurred during games, Anthopoulos kept tabs on how Snitker spent this year interacting with the players, coaches, executives and support staff. A combination of the collected data led him to determine he already had the right man in place to guide the Braves to the next level.
"I don't know of any manager that would go through six months and 162 games without someone complaining about some decision made in a game," Anthopoulos said. "It's just the reality. I think other things like communication and respect are the most important components."