He deserves another season. He deserves another chance to win with a rebuilt roster. He deserves another year to be recognized for a career that one day should and will be etched on a plaque in Cooperstown.
I know. Many of you disagree. You’ve screamed for new blood, younger blood — I guess any blood that will make you forget about the Dan Kolb experience and the Jeff Francouer career dive and the Mike Hampton exploding body parts. Anything to forget how Gary Sheffield and Mark Teixeira really didn’t do what they were supposed to do, when they were supposed to do it. Anything to forget about the budget cuts or the lack of a leadoff hitter or any semblance of team speed.
In less than two weeks, the Braves officially will have gone four seasons without a playoff game. Blame the manager. Blame Bobby Cox. It’s so easy, right?
The Braves have not been a great team for a long time. They have not been even a pretty good team until the last two months. They were average. Moves by general manager Frank Wren to improve the roster — and make up for some of his earlier miscalculations — have changed that. Things are set up nicely for the future, next season and the ones thereafter. Decisions need to be made about who gets dropped from the starting rotation, who might be available to juice a too-often anemic lineup. But the Braves now have pitching and youth and hope.
Bobby Cox deserves the chance to manage this team.
This isn’t about giving him a retirement present. The rocking chair will come later. This is about giving one of baseball’s most able managers the tools he deserves to have in his toolbox. When the Braves announced Wednesday that Cox will manage for one more season and then retire, it was the right move for him and for them.
Maybe you disagree. But I guess it’s easy to forget the resume. The World Series, the pennants, the division titles.
I know. Old news, right? What have you done for me lately, right?
I have a question: Do you think Bobby Cox went to sleep one night and woke up the next morning dumb? Or is it possible that he was sitting at the table and his cards suddenly changed?
I’m not saying the Braves should not have won more championships during their 14-season run. Blowing that 2-0 series lead to the New York Yankees in 1996 certainly comes to mind. But history also tells us those Yankees turned out to be pretty good.
When I spoke to Cox a week ago, he declined to publicly commit to next season.
“We’ll see,” he kept saying.
Now, Wren says in a statement that, “Bobby and I have been talking about this for some time. [He] is one of the best and most respected managers in the history of baseball, will again be managing our club in 2010. Personally, it has been a true honor and a pleasure to work with such a great manager and leader.”
Yes, Cox does want to enjoy the non-baseball part of his life — the eight children and the 14 grand children. The wife. The farm. He even wants to travel. But his passion for the game clearly is still in him.
“The game is still amazingly fun,” he said last week. “To be able to participate in a game every day is every kid’s dream. That’s never changed. I still love it. It’s the competition. Whether it’s a so-so team or a great team, it’s still competition. It’s what you thrive on.”
You want somebody like that running your team. Maybe you disagree. But then you’ve forgotten too much.