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?