Houston Astros: World Series Preview Against Atlanta Braves
Tenured manager Dusty Baker has the edge over the Astros’ hitting coach’s father, Brian Snitker.
Brian Snitker has taken the Braves to the World Series and went through what many believed was the best team in baseball on the way there. He did it without Acuna and Mike Soroka. It’s an extremely impressive run.
He’s made some great calls none bigger than pinch-hitting Pederson in Game 3 of the NLDS for Ian Anderson in a no-score game. Anderson had thrown only 84 pitches and definitely had another inning in him.
There were runners on first and second with nobody out, and Snitker could have bunted moving the runners to second and third with one out but instead he went for the knockout punch and it felt like the Braves postseason changed right there.
He has his players believing in themselves as evidenced by their 4-2 series win over the vaunted Los Angeles Dodgers. He’s navigated having so many new faces added to the clubhouse after the trade deadline, basically an entire new outfield in Rosario, Pederson and Duvall, and has them playing with a chemistry of a team that’s been together for years.
All that said, Baker is the superior manager in this series. Obviously he has the experience, which he’s discussed with the media.
The heartbreaks of his career are too many to list, but the main one is 2002 with the San Francisco Giants being up 5-0 in the seventh inning, nine outs away from a World Series championship only to see it slip away in the bottom of the seventh and the eighth. He’s been close so many times but has said it has prepared him for this moment.
While many didn’t care for Baker’s regular season decisions from bullpen management to resting players, he has been close to perfect in the postseason for the Astros.
Starting last year when he decided to leave Greinke in to finish off the Rays in a bases loaded situation in the sixth inning of Game 4 of the ALCS, a series changing at-bat if you ask me, he has done a lights-out job.
This all in a season where the Astros lost more than they gained from losing George Springer in free agency, to not having Valdez for two months, to not having Bregman for two months, to losing Greinke in the final month of the year, to losing McCullers for the ALCS and let’s not forget a second year without the last full season Cy Young award winner Justin Verlander.
The biggest off-season additions were re-signing Brantley and adding starter Odorizzi. Most pundits picked the Oakland A’s or Los Angeles Angels to take over the division title. And yet, here are the Astros.
Beyond the roster issues, he had to deal with managing players who were getting arguably the most verbal abuse any one team has ever endured in a regular season. Not to mention in the age of social media the players get no respite from the constant messages of hate. And yet here they are.
Managing is not just about when to pull your starter or when to pinch hit for someone. Fans forget these players are human beings and considering the physical toll of a full season plus the mental toll of the constant haranguing from fans and media personalities alike, he got them to this point.
It would be very easy to fold, to crumble underneath the intense scrutiny. The Astros played under a microscope this year, knowing if they didn’t perform it would be an indictment of their worth.
It’s a microscope Christian Yelich and Cody Bellinger have not had to play under despite both having underperforming years. One bad game and it’s “see, they can’t hit without cheating.” That would have been the narrative if this team had failed.
Baker had them believing in each other and defended them every step of the way. And now he’s combined his old-school personal touch such as going out to reassure Valdez it’s his game in Game 5 of the ALCS, to Game 6 when after giving up only one hit and throwing only 76 pitches, he knew the numbers said to pull Garcia for a third time through the order after giving up his first and only hit. The 2003 Baker may not have done that, but the 2021 Baker did.
Overall, this will be a tough series but both teams are deserving. That said my prediction is the Astros will win in six games.