Braves shouldn’t race to name Cox’s replacement

Here's Pendleton with one guy whose problems he couldn't fix.

Here's Pendleton with one guy whose problems he couldn't fix.

When the Braves announced that Bobby Cox will retire after managing one more season in 2010, it ended one mystery and started another: Who will replace him? But if the organization has learned anything from the mistakes of others, they won’t answer that until at least late next season, and preferably not until after the year.

I’ve never understood the whole coaches-in-waiting concept. It almost has become a fad in football, with Will Muschamp already getting the designation as Mack Brown’s replacement at Texas, and Jimbo Fisher sitting on deck behind Bobby Bowden at Florida State, and Jim Mora getting it written into his contract in 2008 before Mike Holmgren coached his final game with the Seattle Seahawks.

It’s easy to understand why it’s a great thing for the rising coach. He gets career and financial security — and without that nagging procedure of actually having to interview against other candidates.

But how can a college team or a professional organization know one year – or in Texas’s case, maybe several years – ahead of time who it wants to hire when the incumbent head coach/manager retires? Players change. Circumstances change. Directions change. Desires change.

Fisher hasn’t quite enjoyed universal support at FSU, especially after the Seminoles struggled against Jacksonville State two weeks ago. But rolling up 54 at BYU has quieted crtics for now. Seattle is such a mess that there’s no way of knowing how Mora will pan out, but certainly a five-year extension seemed nonsensical.  At Texas, it’s way too early to tell with Muschamp.

This should not be taken as a vote against Braves hitting coach Terry Pendleton as Cox’s replacement. Pendleton would lead on the odds board if you walked into a sports book today. He was at the center of the team’s improbable rise in 1991. He was an MVP here. While Pendleton has been blamed – mostly by fans — for the team’s hitting problems, he remains a respected figure in the clubhouse and arguably was the best leader this franchise ever has had as a player. So there’s no reason to believe he can’t lead as a manager.

But if Pendleton indeed is the right man, he’ll still be there after next season. It doesn’t make sense not to look around and make sure. Certainly, general manager Frank Wren doesn’t project to be the nostalgic type. Wren told our David O’Brien, “I think it’s something I’ll visit with Bobby about, as we get into next year. I don’t think there’s going to be any great rush, obviously.”

That’s the correct approach. Agree or disagree?

46 comments Add your comment

Paul Williams

September 24th, 2009
3:38 pm

First?

There is no way to know who might be available next year. It would be foolish to rush-

Ben

September 24th, 2009
3:38 pm

First?…And, yes, I agree: Correct approach.

Ed-Covington

September 24th, 2009
3:43 pm

The reasoning is flawed; teams do this to keep the prospective coach from leaving for another job. If Wren is convinced that Pendleton is the man, what does he do if someone else offers him a managerial position in November? He designates him then and he becomes a “manager in waiting”. That’s why Texas named Muschamp and FSU named Fisher. I have no idea why Seattle named Mora (and don’t forget the OC in Dallas); I can’t believe another team was about to steal him away.

dozer

September 24th, 2009
3:46 pm

Give us Barabbas…..

Ed-Covington

September 24th, 2009
3:46 pm

BTW, I’m NOT saying TP would be the right choice. I really don’t think I’m knowledgeable enough to make that guess. I had never heard of what’s-his-name until the Rockies made him manager. (old “MAD” magazine margin script: “I’ll never forget what’s-her-name”)

F-105 Thunderchief

September 24th, 2009
3:48 pm

I think they should immediately sign up the blogger known as “Robert,” to a lifetime contract, because, according to him, he knows much more about baseball than Bobby Cox. Just forget about that whole 2,400-win difference in Major League wins thing. Robert, according to him, is the man.

Jerry

September 24th, 2009
3:56 pm

Yeah take your time. This is the most critical baseball decision Frank Wren has had to make in his career. I would have both Schuerholz & Bobby Cox involved in the process. Baseball clubs go 10 or 20 years & never have a good manager. The Braves have been there before, they do not want to be there again.

Wayne

September 24th, 2009
3:59 pm

Enter your comments here
There are a lot of ex-brave prospects available including current coaches. Ned Yost would be a great option, as well as Gonzales in Florida and Pendelton must be considered. Old catchers seem to make real good managers.

Josh Smildress

September 24th, 2009
3:59 pm

agree, but how about this name…Freddy Gonzalez. Bobby protege and has shown that he can manage a team. Start throwing his name out there please

Bama Aaron

September 24th, 2009
4:03 pm

I agree that they should wait until after next season to even think about announcing who it is. I completely disagree that Pendleton should even be in the discussion.

bowman

September 24th, 2009
4:12 pm

Agree that Frank Wren doesn’t project as the nostalgic type. I’m thankful for that because I disagree with your logic: “… Pendleton remains a respected figure in the clubhouse and arguably was the best leader this franchise ever has had as a player. So there’s no reason to believe he can’t lead as a manager.” Allow me to introduce to you The Peter Principle, promoting a person to the level of their incompetency. Pendleton may have been the franchise’s best leader as a player, it would be hard to convince me that he’s the best hitting coach to wear an Atlanta uniform. The next step up, to manager, is even more difficult and Pendleton has rarely exhibited the ability to handle 25-40 men over the course of a season. Other conflicting logic: “best leader” … “lead as a manager”. Two different jobs. Pendleton may have excelled at one but I haven’t seen anything to indicate that he can the other.

Second point (sorry to be so long-winded): I, too, am perplexed with college football teams hiring the coach-in-waiting but, if the very right man became available, I wouldn’t oppose the Braves hiring the manager-in-waiting. The wait at the college level is undetermined; for Fisher it could be a lifetime at FSU. The wait for the Braves is finite. We know when Bobby’s last day as a a manager will be. Hiring the right man sooner than later, because too late will arrive before the Braves know it, might help in the transition and help the Braves remain a destination of choice for potential free agents.

If Wren were to become nostalgic, I hope he’d become nostalgic for Fredi Gonzalez.

just my thoughts, your mileage may vary,
bowman
– -
“Art will always be Art.” – Goethe

Horner 82

September 24th, 2009
4:26 pm

Enter your comments here
“Pendleton has rarely exhibited the ability to handle 25-40 men over the course of the season.” (?)

What in the world do you base that statement on?

I am not looking to bust your chops for no reason, but do you have any examples or inside knowledge to make that claim?

I don’t, so I guess my preference for Pendleton is based on my sentimental enjoyment of his playing career. That is not very credible, either, just curious why you think Pendleton is not manager worthy.

Navigator

September 24th, 2009
4:27 pm

I’m sorry that Cox is retiring in 2010, only because he should have this year. If he didn’t show his ineptitude handling Chippers demise (isn’t he still hitting 3rd), he did with poor handling of starting pitching and bull pen. If the Braves are positioned to win the Division Title next year, he’ll be there to blow it in the playoffs.

Bob Glazebrook

September 24th, 2009
4:28 pm

Too bad Phil Neikro is older than Bobby Cox.

Joey

September 24th, 2009
4:35 pm

Why would Ned Yost be a “great option”when he got fired in mid-season ‘08 and still has not been hired anywhere. I would hope the Braves can hire a winner away from another organization…

hmmmm.......

September 24th, 2009
4:44 pm

If Chipper doesn’t hit next year, he could retire and take bobby’s job.

leland

September 24th, 2009
4:46 pm

On the chance that Wren, like Joe Cox, does not read the AJC and its blogs, I think you should call him up on the telephone and make him acquainted with your thought that they should not jump the gun on replacing Bobby Cox. You could tell him also that you will let him know when the right time is upon us.

hmmmm.......

September 24th, 2009
4:48 pm

Rick

September 24th, 2009
4:50 pm

Enter your comments here
I don’t understand how Pendleton can even be considered for the manager position in 2011. Didn’t he once walk off the field on his teammates during his Atl playing days because he thought the Braves pitcher should have retaliated by hitting an opponent after a Braves hitter had been plunked?

Frank Wren

September 24th, 2009
4:52 pm

That’s OK, leland, I read the AJC blogs all day long to gather the pulse of the public, as it were.

By the way, I hear the FBI is working on that whole imposter situation. Hope that works out to your satisfaction. I think it was that Poirot guy, since you ragged on his Belgian heritage that time.

mudcat

September 24th, 2009
4:54 pm

Out of loyalty, Bobby will be pushing for Pendleton. That’s a given. Ideally, Wren is going to go for his own guy. Manny Acta, Brad Mills, Don Mattingly, they all make sense. Frank Wren is really going to do his due diligence on this pick and it’s going to be someone who’s not on everyone’s radar. He’s got a good team and he’ll want an effective leader who’s going to do what’s good for the team, not because “he’s one of the guys” and everyone loves him. Trust Wren to do the right thing, not the “popular” thing. That’s the key to winning.

Joe Cox

September 24th, 2009
4:54 pm

Dear Mr. leland – I only read your posts on the AJC blogs. I’m a big fan. Your pal, Joe

Einstein

September 24th, 2009
5:15 pm

If the Braves want a manager who will get the most out of the available players, have a sound baseball strategy, evaluate talent effectively, and win, then hire whomever is managing the Florida Marlins at the time. No TP, no Yost, no Bobby Cox clones…just someone who can actually be a good manager. (The Marlins always seem to kick our a*s). And why is Greg Norton still in the major leagues? Peace.

Ace

September 24th, 2009
5:33 pm

The coach in waiting thing helps with recruiting. Shows continuity, etc.

Booby Cox

September 24th, 2009
5:45 pm

“C’mon Chip, Take ball four, c’mon kid”, c’mon Tex—WHAT?.. he doesn’t play for us any more? Where am I?”

TS

September 24th, 2009
6:09 pm

I will be very disappointed if TP is the successor. I don’t have any particular beef with his mediocre job as a hitting coach, but he’s done and said too many things that demonstrate questionable character. See, e.g., Rick’s post.

I think Atlanta Braves is a pretty cool guy

September 24th, 2009
6:34 pm

eh chokes in the World Series and doesn’t afraid of anything.

Herschel Talker

September 24th, 2009
7:23 pm

Schultzie:

They should definitely do it before next season starts. That accomplished two things. First, it removes any uncertainty. No one likes uncertainty. All the players will know exactly who will be steering their ship going forward. Second, and don’t discount this, it will remove any possibility of Booby changing his mind. If Booby changes his mind, and they haven’t named a replacement, they will have a PR nightmare fighting him on it, and if they let him change his mind, there will be a fan revolt. Once a replacement is named, Booby will be forced to honor his decision.

Baba O'Riley

September 24th, 2009
7:25 pm

No…no…no…no to Fredi Gonzalez. The success of the Marlins is not because of Fredi, but in spite of him. The Marlins are competitive due to their scouting and shrewd deals. They also have been lucky with Rule V (Uggla). If you ask any of the 438 Marlins fans, they’d trade you Fredi for a Cuban sandwich.

Hillbilly Deluxe

September 24th, 2009
7:43 pm

I wouldn’t show my cards until my bet was called. That’s just me though.

todd

September 24th, 2009
7:57 pm

If they hire Pendleton as manager it would have to be because of affirmative action quotas. He has proven for the last few years that he cannot coach players into hitting properly so why would anyone honestly think he could handle an entire team.

bob horner

September 24th, 2009
9:03 pm

Seeking a manager in waiting will reduce the pool of available candidates, particularly the good ones. Another negative is the fact that the team will surely be for sale after next year since the SEC imposed deadline on Liberty will pass.

In short, this devotion to a farewell Bobby tour will haunt the team. Bobby’s legacy to this franchise will be continued third place finishes and more free Octobers.

richbrave

September 24th, 2009
9:56 pm

JEFF:

There just isn’t any replacement for BOBBY COX. There’s just someone new.

Poorbrave

September 24th, 2009
10:03 pm

There is no one that can’t be replace. God made alot of good mgrs, some that don’t know it yet. Bobby Cox is not God. Get real.

only one choice

September 24th, 2009
10:11 pm

The only logical choice is Larvell ‘Sugar Bear’ Blanks. Nick Esasky is his hitting coach, Lem Barker or Cecil Upshaw gets the pitching coach job and of course, Biff Pocoroba is the bullpen coach.

matt r

September 24th, 2009
10:31 pm

100% agree, plus players may feel the need to coast through the last season under one coach knowing you are probably going to outlast him and don’t need to try to hard to please him. See 2008 Seahawks.

Sonny Clusters

September 24th, 2009
10:33 pm

We would bide our time and see what happens with Jeff in New York. He always wanted to be a ball coach and if it don’t work out for him past next season with the Mets he could come on down and help the Braves. We suspect we’d be a coach for him if he gets the manager’s job here. We was always close when we was playing ball together.

matt r

September 24th, 2009
10:33 pm

I like M Bradley’s inclination to go outside the family and get a numbers guy to shake things up a bit. A fresh perspective is always helpful. But I doubt the Wren-Schuerholz-Cox team would want a numbers guy, they are likely too old school. Or maybe Wren will surprise me.

a

September 24th, 2009
10:37 pm

A thought: don’t sleep on these braves just yet.

seven of their last ten games are against the nationals – a team that, even though they’ve given us plenty of issues the last couple years, they’re still the worst team in the national league.

meanwhile, six of the rockies last ten are against either the cardinals or dodgers – two of the best in the league.

don’t seep yet! if rockies drop tonight’s game, we’re just 3.5 back…

Justafan

September 24th, 2009
11:01 pm

Don’t hold your breath “a”

Dr. R

September 24th, 2009
11:09 pm

Count me in for Freddie Gonzalez. He spent some time in Atlanta under Bobby and knows his style, so there’s some continuity there. And he’s done a marvelous job in Florida with a team that every year is full of rookies and castoffs, yet they overachieve more often than not. Casual fans never want to give a guy credit when he takes talent and succeeds, but he’s done well with a constantly changing roster. If his contract is up in time, it would be worth considering. And I wonder if Mazzone could be coaxed to come back as pitching coach for a second go-round under a new skipper. The staff has been good this year but no one could get the most out of the Braves’ arms like Leo could.

Reid Adair

September 24th, 2009
11:50 pm

I agree wholeheartedly, Jeff. Liberty Media and Frank Wren will screw this up. No sense making the mistake before they absolutely have to.

Bob

September 24th, 2009
11:53 pm

Rockies just lost to the Pads again. Three back in the loss column and the Rocks now face the Cardinals. Hmmmm, this may not be over yet.

Jim

September 25th, 2009
10:20 am

It’s interesting to note and remember that Bobby’s also inked up a 6-year ‘consulting contract’ with the Braves, after his ‘formal’ retirement. Most likely one of his first ‘consulting’ priorities will be to offer assistance in selecting his replacement. Personally, I just love Freddie Gonzalez as a ‘dark-horse’ pick

Maretta

September 27th, 2009
9:11 am

The Braves should name Cox’s replacement now and get that person in now so that person can be preparing. We’re tired of mediocre and uninspired teams.

Turkey Hunter

May 18th, 2010
1:04 pm

Say what you will about TP leading the team as a player. I remember a game when TP told an Atlanta pitcher to hit a batter and the pitcher refused, TP walked off the field, abandon his position and team. That is not the kind of leader Atlanta needs.