The new Bobby Cox? He’s managing the Red Sox

Of Bobby Cox, I’ve maintained — sorry to be quoting my silly self here, but know no way around it — he’s the best manager I’ve ever seen and the best I’ll ever see. But now I’m thinking maybe only the first part applies.

Because Terry Francona has Bobby Cox written all over him, and I mean that as the highest possible compliment.

Francona manages the Red Sox, and that’s a job unlike any other in sports. “I don’t think anything prepares you for Boston,” Francona said Saturday, speaking before Game 2 of his team’s series at Turner Field. But then, in almost the same breath, he admitted that maybe something did help ready him for Red Sox Nation.

The Red Sox have and have had a slew of good players in Francona’s five-plus seasons — Manny, Big Papi, Pedro, Beckett, Schilling, Papelbon, Pedroia, even Nomar — but none of them was, is or will ever be the greatest athlete this manager has managed. See, Francona had Michael Jordan.

The year was 1994, and Jordan was a Birmingham Baron. Francona was the manager, and he learned early about the caring and feeding of the mass — and massively hysterical — media. “The situation was kind of unique,” he said. “I had to deal with more media than a minor-league manager is used to. That was good training.”

He laughed. “Before Michael got there, the Birmingham [media] was {two print reporters], and they’d come down and ask a couple of questions and then go eat.”

As for dealing with MJ himself: “There were many people wanting to get at him. I can’t imagine going through that … I was shocked at how someone could handle what he had to handle … I really think he enjoyed being on the bus [Jordan rented a special one for the Barons] and playing dominoes or cards. For those 10 hours, nobody could get at him.”

In Boston, the Sox are Rock Stars, same as Jordan was whenever he roamed. Handling MJ was essentially a pilot film on how to handle the RS and, as Francona said, “You try to learn from everything.”

It helps, too, that he’s a great baseball man. His dad, Tito Francona, was a big-leaguer (and even an Atlanta Brave) of note — the younger Francona is invariably called “Tito” by his players — and Terry had a promising future as a Expo truncated by a knee injury. He managed the Phillies and was fired for no real reason, and in his first four seasons in Boston he twice won the World Series.

He has the Cox touch with his players — he worried about giving outfielder Jason Bay, who hates to sit, Saturday off — but has that Red Sox thing about numbers. (Francona also noted Bay had hit only .167 against Javier Vazquez.) He travels not just with a BlackBerry but with a laptop and a printer. He’s a lifelong baseball man who’s suitably 21st Century.

And that’s what I see Terry “Tito” Francona becoming — the Bobby Cox of the 21st Century. He has in Boston the resources to win for a good long while, the same as Cox did here. And that’s also why, should the Braves ever need a new manager, I’d look first to Brad Mills.

He’s Tito’s bench coach. He was once Tito’s roommate. If Tito is the next Bobby, then maybe Mills is the next Tito.

107 comments Add your comment

Ghost of Shane Vendrell

June 29th, 2009
6:07 am

If you think Cox is the best manager ever you haven’t been paying attention.

Cletus

June 29th, 2009
6:45 am

No one who handles a bullpen as badly as Bobby Cox should be considered the best. He frequently used Soriano and Gonzales in non-save situations, then the very next game has to use the clowns of the bullpen (like Jeff Bennett) to finish tight games (which they invariably lose).

And he’s far too beholden to slumping players. Why is Kelly Johnson still playing? Frenchy seems to be getting better, but he should have been benched a long time ago.

And a “great” manager would have won more than one World Series, especially considering he had Maddux, Smoltz, Glavine, Avery, etc.

Buzz

June 29th, 2009
6:46 am

Joe Torre is better than Bobby Cox. Haven’t you seen him?

braveshoo

June 29th, 2009
7:17 am

Bobby Cox has always been a players manager.That was fine when he had a team of All-stars,but times have changed, and I dont think Bobby has adjusted.He likes to play for the 3run homer,but we dont have home run hitters. Give me 6-8 hits a game, and I will score 3-4 runs. Lead off man walks; steal him to second;bunt him to third; and bunt him home.Run scores-no hits-ball never leaves the infield. Get the first two runners on; bunt them over; bunt them home. Bobby never does this.If he has a runner at second with no outs, he lets the hitter try to get him to third by hitting the ball to the right side. Too often we get a pop-up or a srike-out instead. If we get a runner to third with only one out, Bobby waits for the sac fly or a ground ball to score him instead of bunting him home. Too often we get a pop-up or a strikeout and dont score. With the pitching we have, Bobby needs to play small ball-something even our poor hitting team can do or should be able to do. We need to bunt more; run more; put pressure on the defense and stop leaving so many RISP.

bull-gator

June 29th, 2009
7:20 am

LaRussa deserves some mention. By the way, whay the hell is Johnson in the line-up? Does he even know how to play 2nd base? And what was that super screw up of an attempted run down yesterday? I’ve seen little leagures do a better job than that as most are better coached. It’s amazing the lack of basic baseball skills major league players have today. I don’t think a lot of them really know how to properly play the game.

braveshoo

June 29th, 2009
7:38 am

This may be heresy,but I think Bobby is playing favorites this year and it is causing disention, even though Bobby doesnt realise it. JF and KJ should be benched. They are not performing.They should practice harder;work on their hitting and earn their playing time in the future. Right now Prado and Diaz are better,and the other Latin players know it. This is probably causing problems with people like Escobar,who is young and immature, but is probably the best player we have and needs to play.When Infante comes back, he should play 2b and prado should play 1b. We need both of thes guys in the line-up,and CK hasn’t been getting it done either-look at his RBI total. Prado and Infante and Diaz can all hit and run; have better speed;strike out less often, and bring more energy and aggessiveness to the field that this team needs. WE need a spark and a change in philosophy.

Be-little, BeBOLD

June 29th, 2009
7:40 am

Mr. Bradley, if you think Bobby Cox is the best manager you ever seen, then I might suggest you start watching some other teams besides the Braves. And if you are still of that mindset, maybe you should find another sport to cover because you simply are blind to that fact. How much does Cox pay you to spout such foolishness on his behalf?????

bali

June 29th, 2009
8:03 am

thanks for standing up for bobby cox . i know things have not been as manywould like for the last few years…… but hey things happen in baseball sometimes that are out of his hands,,,,,,,,, the brave s are a team in transition,\ and it takes time to restock the cubbard so to speak, which many people do not seem to realize. The pitching got addressed this year maybe the hitting will get better or maybe we will see some offseason trades to make the braves more competitive

LSU

June 29th, 2009
8:16 am

Mark,

You say Bobby’s the best manager you’ve ever seen, but yet you can give any reasons why Bobby keeps playing a totally inadequate Kelly Johnson at 2nd base…Also, why did the greatest manager ever not have Tommy Hanson on the opening day roster? How can the greatest manager ever have 3 1/2 lackluster losing seasons in a row, and the teams play, just keeps getting worse & worse?

Shouldn’t the greatest manager ever be able to teach & motivate his team to where 3 1/2 seasons of subpar baseball doesn’t happen?

I’m thinking just about any run of the mill recycled MLB manager would’ve looked pretty great having Smoltz, Maddux & Glavine in their primes for many many years, along with $$$ to buy position players on a need be basis during that time….Looks like that’s maybe what’s happening for Francona in Boston.

Johnson

June 29th, 2009
8:21 am

Cox is far from the best as he made less out of more than any considered for that title . By my count, his mismanagement singlehandedly cost us at least 2 additional WS titles. Cox manages postseason same way he does regular season. He plays cold players while resting hot ones. You can’t manage a 7 game series like a 160 game season.

Phil

June 29th, 2009
8:32 am

Moron Cox the best ever?? Please Bradley, go easy on the drugs.

Henry D.

June 29th, 2009
8:44 am

The “greatest manager ever” would not put up with the atrocious defense we have seen this year, nor the little league base running that is going on. Cox needs to be booted upstairs if he wants to remain with the organization and someone hired that will close the clubhouse door and chew some butt every now and then. These guys know Bobby isn’t going to do or say anything so it doesn’t matter.

Joey

June 29th, 2009
9:04 am

Mark, I would have agreed with you a few years ago, even with Cox’s dismal playoff failures. But I believe Torre, LaRussa and others could take this year’s Braves team and be leading the division right now. Coach Pendleton, Jeff Bennett and Kelly Johnson (and probably Frenchy) would be long gone. How can you stay pat at pitching coach with the way this team hits? They can’t bunt, move runners over, nor drive them in. But the “player’s manager” is fine with it all…

Joey

June 29th, 2009
9:05 am

Hitting coach that is…

Paul H

June 29th, 2009
9:20 am

Bobby Cox is a great manager but every time I see Bennett or Moylan come in for “relief,” I question him.

Phil

June 29th, 2009
9:21 am

How old are you Bradley? You never saw Leo Durocher(retired 1973) when you were a kid? Casey Stengel(1965, maybe before your time)? How about Earl Weaver(1986)? Sparky Anderson(1995)? Tommy Lasorda(1996)? Tony LaRussa? Joe Torre?

You must 22, right out of college and only get Peachtree TV, or whatever channel you get the Braves on. You’re living in a bubble.

Ken

June 29th, 2009
9:33 am

I’m a Braves fan through and through, but Tony LaRussa is the best manager I’ve ever seen, hands down. Lasorda is a close second.

Don

June 29th, 2009
9:34 am

You have got to be kidding. Bobby Cox is one of the worst offensive managers in baseball history. (Right Now, Braves are next to last in all of baseball in average number of pitches seen per at bat – violating the first absolute essential for run production.) He doesn’t even understand the first absolute necessity for offensive management – emphasize/teach/demand that your hitters work the count- make the opposing pitcher throw a lot of pitches – enableing your hitters to see what he has, adjust to him, get better pitches to hit, make him make mistakes, wear him down both within innings and for the game, get into their weak middle relief etc. ect. Cox does’t have a clue – has never emphisized/taught/demanded this. Braves offensive failres is NO MYSTERY – Cox’s failure to demaand essentil approach to hitting = the Braves now being NEXT TO LAST in all of baseball in average number of pitches seen per at bat = a guareantee that your run production will be terrible. Why do baseball writers protect him and not point this out – Don’ they understand it either. It’s like not understanding that 2 + 2 = 4. And this doesn’ even mention his incompetence and unbelievable moves he makes in – in game strategey – and so many time moves that takes the pressure off the opposing pitcher when he hs out of since and struggleing. Cox has been great in keeping the team on an even keel etc. But he won the championships because of having an All Star Pitching staff so dominant and so far far superior to all other teams that it made it almost impossible to lose over the 162 game regular season. – But he still won only one WS because of his shortcommings in the short series.

Ran Man

June 29th, 2009
9:36 am

Has there been one comment on this blog that hasn’t been beat to death over the last few weeks? Bobby didn’t win enough WS. Bobby is too loyal to his slumping players. Bobby can’t handle a bullpen. Etc, etc. Deja vu all over again.

The Fix is In

June 29th, 2009
9:36 am

Glad to see the Red Sox and their umpires finally leave town.

Phil

June 29th, 2009
9:38 am

Ran Man,
We’re only responding to Bradley’s blog. He’s the one that keeps bringing up how great Cox is. Blame him.

Atticus

June 29th, 2009
9:39 am

Mark, tell me why Bobby Cox IS (not was) a good manager now? He got the credit for winning ONE WS and for the 14 division titles (wow we can hang our hat on being better than 4 teams each year!) with 4 HOF players in Smoltz, Glavine, Maddux and Chipper and now Mac….so why doesn’t he get held accountable when this team goes 4 years with no playoffs??

I realize this team doesn’t have enough talent, but the point is Cox is too set, not hungry enough and works the game less than the LL coaches I see at the local park.

Case in point–We are going against Beckett, 2 men on, no outs and Francouer comes up. If this was Game 7 of the WS you bunt 100% of the time…so why not now? He does this time and time again. he has a team that can’t score runs and he does nothing to manufacture runs and he holds Yunel accountable but GA??

Cox WAS a great manager because he managed expectations and got the most out of players. No more. Every batter it seems is havin one of the worst seasons of their career outside of maybe Yunel and Mac. What is he doing to manage TP or that situation?

richbrave

June 29th, 2009
9:44 am

BRADLEY closed his eyes when TORRE was here. Didn’t see him.

LSU

June 29th, 2009
9:53 am

Mark,

Do you plan on defending what you wrote in this blog?

Also, in your opinion how much input if any does Frank Wren have on who plays & who sits? I ask because if the Braves are trying to showcase Francoeur & Kelly Johnson as trade bait, than it seems to be backfiring.

Brian Williams

June 29th, 2009
9:53 am

In a semi-related story, Michael Vick is the new Michael Jackson.

NC Braves Fan

June 29th, 2009
9:55 am

The Red Sox have really become the class organization in MLB. From Theo Epstein in the front office to Francona in the dugout, they really know how to manage a major league roster.

The Yankees may yet catch them or beat them in the postseason, but in my opinion the Sox, despite having a hefty payroll, come by their success by making smart decisions – not by opening the bank vault and trying to spend their way to titles.

Big Muddy

June 29th, 2009
9:55 am

Wow- Bradley. I assume you either wash your glasses with water from the big muddy (Mississippi River)or have been drinkng it. Bobby can’t carry Larussa or Torre’s jock strap.

Mark Bradley

June 29th, 2009
9:56 am

Fifteen first-place finishes in an era of free agency and constant change, 14 of them over consecutive completed seasons: There’s my defense.

Phil

June 29th, 2009
9:58 am

richbrave,
Bradley must not have been born yet when Torre was here 82-84. Torre’s teams finished 1,2,3 in that order. Just think if we had stuck with him for 20 years like we have with that idiot Cox. Can you imagine how many WS titles we would have now?

Smitty

June 29th, 2009
10:00 am

Mark, I agree with your estimate of Cox for the most part. I have been saying for a few years now that Cox will probably be remembered as one of or possibly the best Managers in the history of baseball “over the season of 162 games but not at all successful in any kind of a short series.” It is a case of greatest strength vs. greatest weakness. His faith in his players, his refusal to criticize in public, his patience in allowing them to continue to perform in search of their best results in superior performance and professionalism over the long haul of a season or 14 seasons. Its why his players love him; listen to Chipper talk about him. But, this same basic approach in a short series or even in one game, given his Amer.League philosophy(let hitters hit , let pitchers pitch, bunt ,sacrifice, steal only if you have to,but never at the expense of allowing a player to perform) results in crucial losses when he doesn’t have a team made up of superior players acquired by keen G M’s. Charlie Leibrandt in the world series being the best of many examples. This is a mediocre Brves team at the plate. They have rebuilt a very good pitching staff but at the plate compare the braves 6,7,8 hitters with any other teams. Every game is crucial but Cox doesn’t coach that way so runners at third base with no one out never score as weak hitters flail away.

Mark Bradley

June 29th, 2009
10:00 am

I covered Torre in 1984 here. He’s really good. I know La Russa a little bit — kind of spent a day with him a few years ago — and like him a lot. He’s really good. I was around Sparky Anderson in Cincinnati. He was terrific.

But Cox, in my view, is better. Now, do I think Cox is the perfect manager for the 2009 Braves? As I sought to indicate two weeks ago, I do not.

Blindog

June 29th, 2009
10:05 am

I can guarantee you if you give Bobby a 150-200 millon dollar payroll he will win more games than anyone. NO DOUBT
ABOUT IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Braves73

June 29th, 2009
10:08 am

Mark, you have well stated your point about Bobby being a “great manager” but you need to be more precise in regards to this statement. Bobby Cox is/was a “great players manager” meaning he treats everyone/player with respect, never rips a player in the paper, and defends “his boys” till the end…for that Bobby gets 100% credit & his 14 consecutive titles. Now, to be FAIR, Bobby Cox has to be one of the WORST tactical managers ever!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! If you can at least own up to this, then I will certainly respect the first half of your arguement.

Booger

June 29th, 2009
10:09 am

Tito, I served with Bobby Cox: I knew Bobby Cox; Bobby Cox was a friend of mine. Tito, you’re no Bobby Cox.

Bobby Cox is a nose picker.

SOS

June 29th, 2009
10:12 am

I will add to the general concensus here. You must be smoking something or have not been looking at other teams. The Braves won 14 division titles in spite of Bobby Cox’s mismanagment of the bullpen and his stubborn bullheaded insistence on playing his favorites while the better players ride the pines. (Ex. Andruw Jones, Reitsma, Kelly Johnson, Jeff Bennett to name a few). Sure he was a 162 game manager who builds confidence and trust with his players. However, we should have won at least 2 more Division titles or World Series if not for his insane use of the bullpen. The day has past him now and the current addition of the Braves is pitiful in their baserunning and defensive. Of course he also shows blind loyalty to Terry Pendleton who should also be run out of town.

Matt from Suwanee

June 29th, 2009
10:18 am

Ease up on Cox. He hasn’t forgotten how to manage a team. You can’t make chicken salad out of chicken .

sidslid

June 29th, 2009
10:20 am

Phil:

Earl Weaver was the Cox of the ’70s. Vastly superior teams that couldn’t get it done (when there were only two levels of playoffs). His four 20 game winner Oriole team was up 2-0 in the 71 series and coughed it up to the Pirates. To bookend the decade, he was up 3-1 on the “We are Family” Bucs and lost with the last two games in Baltimore.

jakej

June 29th, 2009
10:21 am

Good stuff about Francona, but when it comes to Cox, you’re hallucinating.

UGA Fan

June 29th, 2009
10:24 am

Mark, fifteen division titles in a row…what about a wild card team from your own division winning the World Series twice during that span while you are sitting at home watching it. Fifteen division titles with only one World Series Championship during that same time frame. How could you say that makes him the greatest ever? Sure, give him Maddux, Smoltz, and Glavine in their prime, and he can win the division but shouldn’t the greatest manager of all time be able to win more the one, I repeat one World Series during those fifteen years?

LSU

June 29th, 2009
10:25 am

Mark,

So you’re saying Bobby Cox is a great manager as long as long as what, as long as he doesn’t have to try and manage this current team? If you’d have said you thought Bobby used to be a great manager but not anymore, than that might’ve made sense. What’s Bobby done in the last 4 seasons to be considered great?

As for the 15 straight… Ted made sure Bobby had the horses, and Bobby did a great regular season job of not screwing it up…Postseason, not great at all. He screwed that up.

How bout an answer to my Kelly Johnson question too?

By the way..I like your blogs the best MB. Even though I disagree with you sometimes, at least you participate. So thanks.

Jfreak

June 29th, 2009
10:25 am

All managers have bad years and bad teams at times. We live too much in the 90’s and forget that not even the Yankees make the playoffs every year. With that said, Cox is stubborn to a fault. He is loyal sometimes to a fault. He is Bobby Cox and he isn’t going anywhere! I disagree with some of his calls and this team could probably use a more forceful motivator but like Frenchy he’s had good season in the past which proves to me he can do the job.

Bottom line the Braves just simply aren’t going to win much this year. The pitching has been what we thought it would be and that’s good. The hitting has been less than we’d hoped for. These guys just don’t seem to understand how to be professional when it comes to hitting and that is a product of their teaching. I don’t see the Braves really doing anything in the way of roster moves other than maybe trading a vet pitcher for some young prospects to build for the future.

Sorry guys but we have what we have this year. By the way, Chippers power numbers are that much better than Frenchy’s. Better average and a couple more home runs but RBI’s are VERY similar and RBI’s matter most of all to me.

Atticus

June 29th, 2009
10:26 am

Mark I didn’t disagree with that defense although I DID say beating 4 other teams is not exactly the same as winning multiple WS. My question was if he got all that credit then, why doesn’t he receive equal accountabilty when we have gone 4 years with no playoffs. You also didn’t answer my question about the situation in the Red Sox game.

By the way, I still think you are an excellent writer, I just want to keep you on your toes :-)

Helluva Engineer

June 29th, 2009
10:28 am

Kelly Johnson is HORRIBLE. Why does Cox continue to play this loser????

John

June 29th, 2009
10:28 am

Bobby Cox– needs to go. The big story today though is the Mark DeRosa trade. Where were the Braves??? They were nowhere, which is where they are going under current management and ownership. I also thought about Texeria yesterday when I saw him play with the Yankees on ESPN. 20 homers and 50+rbis. If the Braves had any real intention of winning they would not have swapped him out for Kotchman. Simply put– new ownership and financial committment are required.

Mark Bradley

June 29th, 2009
10:32 am

Now, if you’re asking me, do I ever say to my silly self, “Why is Kelly Johnson in the game?” — the answer would be yes. And I didn’t like Cox walking Ortiz to get to Kotsay on Saturday in the eighth inning. But that one at least worked out.

It’s not that I never disagree with Bobby Cox. It’s that I consider the six-month regular season a truer measure of a manger than the truncated postseason.

And I would note that Earl Weaver is in the Hall of Fame and lost three of his four World Series. And Sparky Anderson lost his first two. And La Russa lost three of his first four — twice on sweeps.

BigMike

June 29th, 2009
10:34 am

bobby has one MLB Championship ring with ATL, Torre has multiple with the yanks nuff said !

BigMike

June 29th, 2009
10:35 am

Enter your comments here

Manners Matter

June 29th, 2009
10:37 am

Dear Braves Fans,

If there is an empty seat in the row in front of you at Turner Field, and there is a person sitting on either side of that empty seat, it is VERY RUDE and INCONSIDERATE to put your feet in that seat and/or dangle them in the face of the person who paid to sit there to watch the baseball game.

Let’s All Have Consideration for Other People and Have a Great Time at the Ballpark Together!

Thank You.

BraveNoMore

June 29th, 2009
10:46 am

Bobby Cox is the worst manager I have ever seen. He has John Smoltz, Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux and wins 1 championship when all you ever hear is that pitching wins championships. He was out managed in all play-off series. Also, does a players manager mean that you tolerate loafing and sloppy play. This current team is lifeless. Has to start from the top down. Cox is the most underachieving manger there has ever been. By the way it is time to trade “Chipper” and go young.

Braves73

June 29th, 2009
10:47 am

Mark,I think you have beaten the horse to death, but it does make for good blogging.

On the whole buyers or sellers front, what would you do if you were the Braves? Would you start selling off key pieces for the future or slowly bring up your “future stars” and work them into the lineup (without giving up completely)?