Bobby Cox doing one of his best managing jobs ever

Bobby Cox's Braves are 29-10 since May 10, despite Kenshin Kawakami. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

Bobby Cox's team has gone 29-10 since May 10, despite Kenshin Kawakami. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

Eric Hinske has played for eight managers in his nine major league seasons, and he has determined that Bobby Cox stands out from the others in at least one way.

“He’s kind of like a mob boss,” Hinske said on Sunday. “Everybody brings him stuff – chairs, coffee, water. Then he makes the decision. He’s like our own Tony Soprano.”

Nice analogy. Especially on Father’s Day. The Braves even provided the appropriate musical score before the game against Kansas City: The “Godfather” theme played over the public address system at Turner Field.

Hopefully, Kenshin Kawakami was listening, because he might be close to waking up with a horse’s head in his bed.

Cox can’t fix Kawakami. The Braves’ manager will have to focus on simpler tasks, like world peace and planting a vegetable garden on Neptune. But aside of being subjected to the disastrous $23 million import that is his 0-9 starting pitcher, is there anything Cox is not doing right this season?

This is his last season as manager. It also has to rank as one of his best. The Braves won again Sunday, 8-5. They swept the Royals and in fact haven’t lost a series since early May (10-0-3 since). They are 29-10 since May 10, a stretch that began a day after a 5-3 loss to Philadelphia (a Kawakami loss; who knew?).

Troy Glaus and all the Braves have hit the dirt often this season. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

The Braves (like Troy Glaus) have hit the dirt often. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

The Braves are doing all of this despite the fact that for most of the season their big boppers aren’t bopping. They have long been a team associated with great starting pitcher, solid defense and an offense that sits back and waits for the home run, but now they’re playing small ball. Cox is manufacturing runs. He is doing the things his misguided critics have long slammed him for not doing. Hit-and-runs. Sacrifices. Squeeze bunts? Check that: Two successful squeeze plays in the span of a week.

The Braves even stole three bases Sunday, including the fourth of the season by Chipper Jones, who also had two doubles, two walks, three RBIs, two runs scored and afterward committed to playing through 2017. (Kidding.)

They’re not among the leaders in stolen bases (now with 35). But they are No. 1 in walks (317) and No. 2 in sacrifice hits (38).

“This has been different from any team I’ve been on,” Brian McCann said.

Cox, Hinske said, “has been amazing. He does it all in stride, with a poker face. We were all jacked up in Minnesota [last Saturday]. He hit and run to get the guy to third and then he squeeze bunts. He’s just standing there with a straight face. I’m like, ‘Yeah! Good job! That was awesome.’ He just kind of smirked.”

Now, there are two theories about this:

♦ The popular theory: Cox is determined to go out with a bang. Therefore, he is managing like he hasn’t since the early 1990s.

♦ The logical theory: Cox is managing differently because he has the players to do so.

“We’ve got base runners,” he said. “That means a lot. We’ve been leading or tied in games, which also helps. It’s all situations. The situation you’re in, who the hitter is, who the pitcher is. You can’t just do things all the time. If it backfires then you could be out of the ballgame completely.”

So it’s nothing orchestrated in his last season?

“Nah.”

The Go-Go Braves. Sounds strange, doesn’t it?

As Tim Hudson noted the other day, the Braves have taken on “a different personality.” They’re now playing “dirtball games. … It seemed a little bit passive and not a real aggressive type of baseball [in recent years].”

Teams are a reflection of their manager. If the Braves are scrapping more now, it’s not merely the additions to the roster but the tone and direction set by the manager.

“This year is his best,” bullpen coach and former player Eddie Perez said. “He’s doing little things I’ve never seen before. Some of the guys who’ve been here the last few years are saying, ‘My God, we’ve already got two squeeze plays.’”

Hitting coach Terry Pendleton, another former player, said of Cox: “He’s doing what he always does – managing guys to the best of their abilities. If [people] feel like he’s pulling more strings, maybe it because he’s got more strings to pull on.”

After 29 years as a manager, it turns out he knows what he’s doing.

Follow me on Twitter @JeffSchultzAJC and Facebook.com/JeffSchultzAJC

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157 comments Add your comment

stachemoney22

June 20th, 2010
6:25 pm

thanks, bobby!

Matt

June 20th, 2010
6:26 pm

Besbol is boring.

heartofdarkness

June 20th, 2010
6:27 pm

A lot of Frank Wren’s moves aren’t looking too bad, either.

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by ajc sports editor, Jeff Schultz. Jeff Schultz said: A thought on Bobby Cox: Is this one of his greatest managing jobs ever? Read on: http://bit.ly/dsSSpO [...]

bj fussell

June 20th, 2010
6:27 pm

Vino Fino

June 20th, 2010
6:40 pm

Nice article Jeff! This could certainly turn out to be Bobby’s finest season. His team is playing the most inspired baseball I’ve seen from an Atlanta club in years, and you just get the sense that every last player is going to do whatever it takes to send Bobby out on top. This is a lot of fun to watch!

Chop Chop

June 20th, 2010
6:41 pm

Jeff, the fact of the matter is that the Braves have to do something with this run. As you well know, the critics are harder on Bobby in the postseason than at any other time. This team is certainly good enough to be in the playoffs. All the kids in the bullpen are pitching well. The team is hitting. Aside from Kawakami, the team is getting dominant starting pitching. A nine-game losing streak is the only thing keeping this team from having the best record in baseball.

As amazing as all of this is, it won’t mean a damn thing unless the Braves do the job when it matters the most. This team has made the playoffs fifteen times in my life (I’m 30), so just getting there isn’t enough. I’m spoiled and know it, but that doesn’t mean the standards get lowered because the team missed the playoffs for a few seasons. It’s time to get back on top and bring a World Series title home to Atlanta.

cantondawg

June 20th, 2010
6:41 pm

This team is really fun to watch. They remind me so much of the 91 team. They are very aggressive and play like they have nothing to lose. Troy Glaus is the MVP of the team so far and i hope everyone apologizes for the comments made in the first couple of weeks in the season. Patience is one of BC best traits and we’re lucky that he stuck it out with TG. This team just has the “IT” factor that we haven’t seen with the Braves since 1999. I really think this team can go all the way

Paul

June 20th, 2010
6:47 pm

Let’s hope to God he doesn’t put McLouth back in as a starter when he comes back from the DL. One thing Cox tends to do is stick with his starters and and show tenacious loyalty to his veterans, sometimes to the detriment of the team. The chemistry is great now…McLouth is an automatic out and should not start.

Oil spill sux

June 20th, 2010
7:02 pm

This team is good. This team MAY be good enough to send Bobby out with one more WS Loss!

Oil spill sux

June 20th, 2010
7:03 pm

Just kidding- go braves- Win It All!!!

"Chef" Tim Dix

June 20th, 2010
7:04 pm

Sending Troy today showed a sense of urgency and that’s just one example since the 0-9 slump.

Players feed on it and come to expect it.

Whopper Dawg

June 20th, 2010
7:12 pm

I always thought that Cox got a bad rap from his dis-tractors, and I can complain with the best of them.

Here’s hoping the Braves can do something special for Cox in his final season.

kevin Mckillop

June 20th, 2010
7:14 pm

I see you think Bobbys doing great managing over the team.I say he is the worst manager in the big leagues in the way he destroys a bullpen.He sits guys brought up tp help and runs Moylen,Oflarity and venters until they fail.The pen gets rusty and fails because of no use.

Jeff Schultz

June 20th, 2010
7:23 pm

Vino — Thanks for the comments and, yes, it’s fun to watch this team play.

Jeff Schultz

June 20th, 2010
7:24 pm

Chop Chop — I understand final judgments always are made after postseasons but I’m talking about right now.

Jeff Schultz

June 20th, 2010
7:25 pm

Field of Dreams — This is not a preacher blog. Try that again and you’re banned.

Kevin S

June 20th, 2010
7:33 pm

KK gets no run support while he is pitching. It is just bad luck but Cox sticks with the people that play hard, remember Sosa didnt last too long. Also KK has had a good june til this game so lets wait and see with him.

A little patience during a 162 game seasons would be nice. You shouldnt praise or bash until atleast half of a season is played. What happens if Glaus blows out his shoulder? Wagner? What if they both make the all star team? Too much can change with how much time is left.

Patience. Wait and see.

the TRUTH

June 20th, 2010
7:44 pm

LOL. The bald idiots on 790 the Zone wanted Bobby run out of town. I remember FAT HEAD Steak going on a rant. He should be more concerned about his 2nd wife leaving him.

Bob Horner could pull anybodys fast ball

June 20th, 2010
7:47 pm

Outstanding blog Jeff….loved the horse’s head comment….How come I didn’t of that..?? good stuff man….

rekingball

June 20th, 2010
7:52 pm

I like seeing the team play hard and never giving up, even to the last out.
I think they will make it to the playoffs, but even if they don’t, as long as they keep trying and playing hard, I’ll still be happy.

cattle dawg

June 20th, 2010
7:53 pm

This team is hungry and so are the fans. Its a real refreshing change.

Ken Stallings

June 20th, 2010
7:54 pm

This may be the best overall pitching staff the Braves have had. The starters are not Smoltz, Glavine and Maddux. But, the bullpen is vastly superior to previous pens. And as far as starters go today, no one has a better collection that Hanson, Hudson, Lowe, Jurrgens, and Medlen.

The biggest challenge for Cox is who to keep in the bullpen when Saito comes back! The Braves have pitchers at AAA that many other teams would covet on their rosters.

The offense is wearing pitchers out by having excellent eyes at the plate. None of our hitters are free swingers. They stay controlled and are very willing to take what the pitchers give them. By working counts they inflate the pitchers’ pitch counts and by working the ball based on what is given, they are staying alive. To me, it seems these hitters now have faith that no one is an easy out, and because of this, each individual is staying within himself and the situation.

Jason Heyward provided this team a huge spark early on. Eric Hinske is showing us why he’s been a good luck charm in postseason.

With Prado and Infante both morphing into excellent hitters and the resurgence of Troy Glaus, the Braves suddenly have a lineup that is strong 1-8. Unlike in previous seasons, there is no place any opposing pitcher can go to find outs.

MLB

June 20th, 2010
7:54 pm

This year, the Braves have played a bunch of lame NL teams and this weekend they played the next to last place AL Royals and swept them–so what–that was nothing. Anyone could have beaten the Royals with one hand tied behind their back. Not much to brag about at this point.

http://www.baseballsavvy.com/ob_BobbyCox.html

CJDawg

June 20th, 2010
7:54 pm

Schultzie…ANY idea who may be at the helm next year? Personally, I am saying little prayers BC chenges his mind and signs for two more years.

cattle dawg

June 20th, 2010
7:54 pm

What did fod say? i missed it.

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jesse james

June 20th, 2010
8:03 pm

Bobby Cox is doing what he has always done, manage well. He surrounds himself with good people. Coaches, players, support staff and he has had GM’s that aren’t power people. They work as a team and Cox deserves alot of credit because of his leadership. I once heard that Otis Nixon questioned the lineup and Bobby told him he wasn’t there to manage, he was there to play, so play. That story was told by Nixon himself. Bobby Cox – A Hall of Famer

TS

June 20th, 2010
8:03 pm

Great game today.. W?O Prado it would be a completely different story.. So far he is by our most valuable player.. its his hustle and heart which is setting the tone.. How bout this Prado for MVP consideration?

jesse james

June 20th, 2010
8:08 pm

TS- I agree Prado is making a big difference and so is Glaus. Last night many pro players would have taken themselves out of the lineup after he had his ankle rolled on and been day to day. He has that Jeter/Ripken mentality. He plays the game the way it should be played.

Guido

June 20th, 2010
8:08 pm

What we’re seeing is the result of Chipper’s diminishing influence on the team. Remember, he’s the last of the “briefcase Braves” .These guys aren’t buying the uninspired, bland and outdated flavor of baseball that Chipper comes from.

rekingball

June 20th, 2010
8:11 pm

Cox is not going to retire this year.

General Sherman

June 20th, 2010
8:17 pm

People just shut up and enjoy the show. you would complain because they did not hang you wih a new rope!

jesse james

June 20th, 2010
8:20 pm

General Sherman – We are enjoying it. And we know the truth, you couldn’t carry General Lee’s jock strap.

BEND OVER, Here Comes the Change.

June 20th, 2010
8:37 pm

Your hero didn’t look so smart allowing the SUCKY Royals to tie the game so quickly at 4-4. Can you admit Kowakami doesn’t have it this year(0-8) and keeping him in the starting rotation is a mistake.
You might try some of the LA Oil Kool-aide instead of the Bobby Cox version.

jesse james

June 20th, 2010
8:39 pm

Bend Over – Your name fits you perfect! You must be one of them know it all, travel ball, daddy coaches.

BEND OVER, Here Comes the Change.

June 20th, 2010
8:42 pm

jesse james – dugout seson ticket holder since 1982. Put YOUR money where your mouth is, dimwit.

GT3O

June 20th, 2010
8:45 pm

^ Philli fan crying on his cheesestaeak sandwich…

MitchC

June 20th, 2010
8:48 pm

Jeff, I agree with many of the points you make in your article. Bobby is doing all this in spite of Chipper having a pathetic season until this week, and Mccann being subpar. The only power guy who is really producing is Glaus.

In the glory years of the division title streak, this team far too often sat back and waited for the three run homer. Think of it, except for in the early 90s when we had Nixon and Deion, and when Grissom was with the team, the Braves were never a team that manufactured many runs. We bashed balls over the wall, period. We had Mcgriff, and Andres, and Klesko, and Chipper, et al.

This team has been playing amazing, especially when we have a starting pitcher who is 0-9.

That having been said, while I’m happy we’re in first place, I also have to get back to reality that it’s only June 20, and our lead is only 2 1-2 games. Philly has been playing terribly, but that team is so talented, that at some point, you know they will wake up. The Mets, basically have been a surprise. I’m waiting to see if they can sustain this over a 162 game season.

With another long homestand coming up after the brief trip to Chicago, hopefully the Braves can keep winning, and pad the lead in the NL East.

TS

June 20th, 2010
8:48 pm

I agree with you Jesse… Both him and Glaus r having such a great year. You r so correct.. he has the ripken toughness.. watch him guide the braves to the post season.. not bad for a dude who struggled getting out of the minors!!

Michael Bryan

June 20th, 2010
8:56 pm

Kawakami needs some support is all… You gotta love Bobby’s comments on him after the game. Thank God the team hasn’t given up on him, because that’s what teammates do, which, BTW has a lot to do with them winning. Jeff, give it a rest about him. He’s a much better pitcher than you are a writer. Bashing a teammate is for LOSERS!!!

Joel

June 20th, 2010
9:00 pm

Bend over, as a season ticket holder you should know Kawakami is 0-9

jesse james

June 20th, 2010
9:01 pm

Bend Over – I could care less about you having season tickets. I’m impressed. You have money, so what. That doesn’t mean crap to me. You better wish you knew a 1/8 of baseball that Bobby Cox know.

BEND OVER, Here Comes the Change.

June 20th, 2010
9:01 pm

Michael Bryan – ZERO and 8. They gave him a 4 run lead and he choked it up. He was awful today, take off the blinders.

BEND OVER, Here Comes the Change.

June 20th, 2010
9:02 pm

jesse james – I guess that means you have NO money to put up – so shut the hell up.

jesse james

June 20th, 2010
9:03 pm

Today was a pretty good sign of a good team. They overcame bad starting pitching and beat a team they were suppose to beat. That is taking care of business.

jesse james

June 20th, 2010
9:05 pm

Bend Over- You need to raise your head up. You are getting touchy. Take deep breathe and everything will be okay. I have no hard feelings. Just don’t come on here a bash managers and players when you haven’t been in their shoes. Everything is going to be okay.

Urban Meyer

June 20th, 2010
9:07 pm

Bobby has done a great job with so many lousy players but I am the best !

BEND OVER, Here Comes the Change.

June 20th, 2010
9:07 pm

jesse james – Guess what? The section is for coments. If you can’t take the truth, maybe you should stick to the sports section.

B

June 20th, 2010
9:12 pm

For nearly 20 years we braves fans have had interest in our team. On October. That stretch of divisional titles is one of the great achievements in sports history. My grandmother died years ago, but she watched every night, even after she was too deaf to hear the play-by-play. Now my mom watches every night. No team in the country can claim the continued success of the braves. And those of you who keep complaining: honestly, I don’t have any thing to say to you. Become an orioles fan. Then you’ll have legit crap to complain about.