Former Marlins manager and Braves third base coach Fredi Gonzalez on retiring Braves manager Bobby Cox:
“I always came out during media time on the road. He was always out there watching the other team’s bp, so I’d always go out there with him and talk. Smoke a cigar. When the media came around, I usually just hung out and heard what he had to say or what they were asking him about. It was either my first year or second when Kelly Johnson (was struggling) and Bobby told the media he reminded him of Stan Musial. I almost
spilled the coffee I had. Stan Musial, skipper? He was bad, like he’d never swung a bat in his life. Then all of a sudden it was like he was hitting off a tee. Whether Kelly read it or one of the writers went over and said ‘Bobby’s got a lot of confidence in you, he reminds him of Stan Musial’ or it was just pure coincidence. He went on to win player of the week; he just went completely off. You couldn’t get him out. The old gray fox.
“When I have a player going through those scenarios, like we had with (Chris) Coghlan last year, he was hitting .080, I take that experience that I was able to witness. When the media asks ‘How long are you going to leave Coghlan leading off,’ I’m like, ‘You know what? He’s hitting the ball on the nose. He’s walking, He’s close.’ You’re hopeful the player reads that, and you keep putting him in the lineup and he’ll get out of it.
“I can’t remember where we were, but (Cox) was (arguing a call) at first base. It would have been first and third, but we ended up with a man on third. He got ejected, and as he was going back to the dugout, he gave me the squeeze sign. And I’m thinking to myself, ‘Did he just give me the squeeze sign?’ So we did. We squeezed. He always says, keep an eye on me all the time. After it happened, it worked, he goes ‘I didn’t think you saw it,’ and I said, ‘Well I didn’t think you put it on.’ It was funny. It worked. He is two and three, four steps ahead of everybody else.
“I never asked him a move, whether it worked or didn’t work, until like three or four days later. I didn’t want him thinking I was second-guessing. I just wanted to learn. We were playing the Pirates, it was a three-game set. We had won the first two games. This was going back to when we had (Gary) Sheffield, Vinny Castilla, Chipper (Jones), Javy (Lopez). It was a day game on a getaway day. He put (Mark) DeRosa, (Darren) Bragg, Matt Franco, he calls it the B squad, the B bombers. And I’m writing the lineup, I think that Pat (Corrales) might have had knee surgery at that time, so Pat wasn’t there. I’m writing the lineup, and I’m going ‘Man, oh man, we’ve got a chance to sweep the Pirates, and he’s taken the whole lineup out of the game for the day game.
“We go down early, and sure enough, next thing you know we’ve got base on balls, base hit, and I look in the dugout. The bench is stirring. Next thing you know, in the blink of an eye, it’s Sheffield, Vinny, Chipper. Before the Pirates knew it, we were up by four. We had one player left, a backup catcher, maybe Julio Franco left on the bench. And we win the game, we swept the Pirates, so I’m thinking I’ve got to ask him this.
“So on the plane I ask him, ‘Skipper, day game, and you take out the whole lineup?’ He said, ‘Fredi, you’ve got to play your bench, that’s No. 1, because if not, what are you going to do when you need to call on them?’ I go, ‘OK, but you took four of your starters out at one time.’ He goes, ‘It’s almost better.’ I go, ‘What do you mean it’s almost better?’ He goes, ‘You can put them anywhere you want to during the course of that game. Can you put Chipper in with the bases loaded, in the beginning of the game?’ I said ‘no.’ ‘Well, we did today and he hit a double. He pinch hit in a spot where they couldn’t walk him, they had to pitch to him, same thing with Sheffield.’ I said, ‘You know what, you old son of a gun, you’re absolutely right.’”