Bobby Cox: Still cranky after all these years

There are moments when you’d swear he has mellowed. He is, after all, 68. But then one umpire makes one call and the Thumb King reminds us why he is the most-ejected man in the history of humankind.

Bobby Cox posted No. 146 Thursday at Turner Field, and it was a weird sort of ejection. He wasn’t so much outraged as incredulous. A 3-2 Barry Zito curveball to Yunel Escobar in the sixth inning was adjudged Strike 3 by plate umpire Jeff Kellogg, with whom Cox has a history. (Then again, Cox has amassed more history than David McCullough.)

Martin Prado, running on the pitch, was thrown out at second base after appearing to slow on his approach. Thus di what could have been runner-on-first-and-second-with-one-out become nobody on and three out in a tie game.

The manager emerged from the dugout and walked — he did not run — toward Kellogg. At first it was unclear which play Cox was arguing, and afterward those among us in the press box weren’t sure he’d been ejected. (Leaving the dugout to dispute balls and strikes is a mandatory tossing.) But Kellogg’s gestures were far from demonstrative, and a clarification came only midway through the next half-inning: The Thumb King had indeed gotten Heave-Ho No. 146.

Only afterward did Cox leave no doubt as to which call he found abhorrent. “A little high?” he said, referring to the fateful breaker. “I’ve never seen a ball called a strike that, not in 50 years.”

More: “I was yelling to Prado, ‘Stay up, stay up!’ [Meaning don't slide because Escobar had presumably drawn a walk.] That was so high it was a joke.”

And then: “That could’ve been the game.”

Maybe. The Braves lost 5-1, ending a rousing homestand on a dissonant note. They botched two bunts and made two errors in an eighth inning that yielded four San Fran runs, none earned. Still, the day was noteworthy not for the game or its misplays, but for this:

The 146th ejection of Cox’s career came on the worst call the Thumb King has ever seen. Worse than Eric Gregg and his double-wide strike zone. Worse than Kent Hrbek fork-lifting Ron Gant off first base. Worse than anything.

Until Ejection No. 147.

(Oh, and the call itself? It didn’t look all that bad. But that’s why he’s the Thumb King and we’re all just serfs.)

106 comments Add your comment

Cox has lost it

July 23rd, 2009
5:28 pm

You still suck Bradley. Stop trying to jinx the Braves. It’s neither cute nor funny.

Gen Neyland

July 23rd, 2009
5:39 pm

Is this the return of the Kelly Johnson Jinx..? Geez, I hope not. Wish we could find a spot for Conrad. Maybe we’re shopping/showcasing Johnson..?

Herschel Talker

July 23rd, 2009
5:39 pm

Mark – keep up the great blogging. It’s been phenomenal. That being said, Cox is a clown. He needs to be jettisoned sooner than later

Mark Bradley

July 23rd, 2009
5:44 pm

Why, thanks, Herschel. And might I say, even though we disagree on Bobby Cox, your screen name is among the top five I see on a regular basis.

(Although “Lars Tainted” is pretty good, too.)

DP

July 23rd, 2009
5:51 pm

The game today wasn’t lost on an umpire’s call, it was lost because the Braves botched two consecutive routine plays to first on bunts by the Giants. The casual play by Kotchman was reminiscent of Adam LaRoche jogging to tag first a few years ago and getting beat there by the runner. And then Moylan looks to third (where he had no play) before making a wild throw to first.

Did anybody get a look at the cetch former Brave Dewayne Wise made in the 9th today to save Buerhle’s perfect game? Outstanding, and he had just been put in the game for defense. The clip is up on the CNNSI website, probably ESPN as well.

NRBQ

July 23rd, 2009
6:03 pm

Maybe he was cranked off that he pulled our starter who was working a 4-hitter, to see six relievers give up 8 hits.

Be great if he learned something from it, but…….

All I'm Saying Is...

July 23rd, 2009
6:06 pm

Joe Torre wins while rarely displaying a pulse in the dugout, Tony LaRussa displays smoldering intensity (yet is rarely tossed) and Bobby Cox wins with constant supportive chatter when his guys are batting and a lethal fuse when defense is in order. Different strokes.

Back to the big picture: We are HOT with 6 wins and 2 losses since the All Star break (and have 13 wins versus 7 losses in July thus far). We last lost on Saturday night and then we reeled off four in a row—-I’ll take that. So, let’s move on beyond today and get the winning party started again against the Brew Crew.

LET’S GO BRAVES!

Lars Taint

July 23rd, 2009
6:14 pm

Thanks Mark, but it’s actually Lars Taint. The Taint is the area in between your two unmentionables. Also referred to as the Gooch.

David Granger

July 23rd, 2009
6:24 pm

Always thought that Cox was a good manager, but didn’t get everything out of some of the teams he has had. A baseball season is a marathon, while post season is more of a sprint in nature. Bobby’s been good at building a team for the long haul, not so good at getting maximum results in a short series. He’s an Eisenhower, not a Patton.

All I'm Saying Is...

July 23rd, 2009
6:48 pm

Been a Braves fan since 1969 so I’m grateful for the 1 WS title we have and the numerous winning seasons and playoff seasons we have had since 1991 but Bobby and Greg Maddux share a trait: both were outstanding over 162 games but in the playoffs—hmm, not so much. How many times did we make the playoffs between 1991 and 2005? How many NLCS? How many WS? And only 1 WS win? Tough facts to overlook and I suppose someone has to get the blame. Still, I’ll take it. LET’S GO BRAVES!

Mark Bradley

July 23rd, 2009
6:55 pm

You all know — to some of your chagrin — how highly I regard Bobby Cox. But the man can run through some pitchers. Seven of them today. (I know, it was bad luck on Gonzalez — who should be OK in a day or so, Cox said — but still …)

Braves Mom

July 23rd, 2009
6:57 pm

I watched the ESPN game Sunday night and it took until about the 2nd inning for the announcers to start gushing over how great Bobby is. And then there is the recent poll in SI of actual MLB players of which manager they would most like to play for, Bobby won by a wide margin. It makes me laugh how it is recognized all over the country how great he is, and there are so many here who don’t realize it. Kind of speaks to how uninformed so baseball fans are here in GA, kind of sad.

I turned on the game in the 8th today, just in time to see Kelly Johnson drop the ball at first.

If the Braves can get anything for him, please, please trade him!

Sonny Clusters

July 23rd, 2009
7:32 pm

We was thinking about who we’d want to be friends with on the team now that Jeff is gone to New York. We was pretty sure it’d be Kelly Johnson because Kelly has some at-bats like Jeff did when he was playing ball here. I know Kelly was not at his best when he dropped that ball because he hasn’t been playing major league ball for the past few weeks and some people say he hasn’t been playing major league ball all season, I don’t know. We was pretty sure Conrad and Prado both was playing better than Kelly and Kelly might get traded or something but there he is right back on the field and it reminds me of Keith Lockhart when he was playing with the Braves but even he was better than Kelly. We was also thinking that trying to trade these players when they are so far down is not going to get us much. We was remembering how Kelly Johnson and Ryan Langerhans was the toast of the town when they was projected to be the outfielders here and how both those boys petered out when they got their chance to play here for Bobby Cox.

Kurdt Kobain

July 23rd, 2009
7:32 pm

I’m pretty sure the ball hit the runner, and Johnson didn’t drop the throw. And I disagree, Mark, on the call. That pitch was way high. The frustrating part was Kellogg seemed to give Zito the corners, and the letters too apparently, and was not giving them to KK, who was pulled early because of his huge pitch count, not just because Cox likes to use a lot pitchers.

Ugly game, but all is not lost. Gotta shake it off and get back to business tomorrow.

Albert Hall

July 23rd, 2009
7:40 pm

I hit for the cycle in 1987, and stole 33 bases. http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/h/hallal02.shtml

Bobby’s only flaw, in my view, is that he works his relievers too much. Every season it seems he wears them out by July or August, and my biggest (and, truly, only) concern with this franchise this season is that we’re going to burn out both Gonzo and Moylan by the end of the month. Moylan came back earlier than I believe anyone has ever done from Tommy John surgery, and Gonzo’s got a history with arm trouble also, but both men have just been ran ragged this year.

On a side note, Kawakami’s been great for us, but his flaw remains in that he throws too many pitches to be efficient enough in going seven innings with consistency. I wouldn’t mind at all if he were the Mike Marshall of our bullpen when Tim Hudson comes back, someone that could be relied on to go 120 innings of relief or so a season.

Hillbilly Deluxe

July 23rd, 2009
7:45 pm

Why is he yelling “stay up”? Prado should finish the play out and let the umpires do the umpiring. You’d still have a runner at second with two out (assuming he beat the throw).

Nice David McCullough reference though.

Bob Horner had a sweet compact swing

July 23rd, 2009
7:45 pm

We needed to take 3 out of 4…and we did….we had allot of “ropes” hit today that were barely foul…that’s why we lost….

Roja

July 23rd, 2009
7:46 pm

Apparently when Corky Miller left town he willed his secret to how a .090 something hitter can stay on the Braves 25-man roster to Norton. That’s about the only explanation for sending Conrad down rather than sending Norton packing.

DP

July 23rd, 2009
7:49 pm

I’ll bash Kelly Johnson at any legitimate opportunity because I don’t think he’s an MLB caliber second baseman, but that play at first wasn’t his fault. He was trying to reach across the runner with his body exposed and it looked like Moylan’s throw hit the runner before it hit KJ’s glove. That play was all on Moylan.

jk

July 23rd, 2009
7:54 pm

What about the pick off play. I was there live and he looked out. Kelly did get a hit by the way. More than some of the others like um McClouth who hit into a double play.

[...] More: Bobby Cox: Still nettlesome after every these eld | Mark Bradley [...]

Buckman

July 23rd, 2009
8:05 pm

Roja: Good call. You know what? Maybe Conrad doesn’t keep hitting .350 or whatever it was.. but for now I’d much rather have him than Norton. The veteran stuff really doesn’t count for much when your batting average is 2 digits.

wes covington

July 23rd, 2009
8:18 pm

What would fans/media say if it was Escobar who made the casual flip of the ball to first on a bunt play instead of Kotchman? Hardly a word has been mentioned about it. Escobar would have been roasted. It turned the game around.

Dawgdad

July 23rd, 2009
8:27 pm

MB, right on about burning pitchers. What in the name of Eddie Haas was he thinking about when he took out O’Flalerthy and Logan. Logan throws to one batter who bunts to CK, who blows the play, enter Cox with the hook. We are 1-1, excellent chance to go into extra innings and all we have left to pitch is wildman Acosta and our closer, assuming Kerosene Moylan lives up to his recent history. Cox needs to call it a career, a great one after all.

Veteran fan

July 23rd, 2009
8:32 pm

When is MLB going to do something about the umpiring? I remember the days of Shag Crawford, Harry Wendelstadt, and other great umpires. The instant replay almost always showed that the umpire made the correct call. Now the instant replay shows that they are wrong about 50% of the time. This year the umpiring has been AWFUL. There are five umpires that are almost always terrible, yet they are back year after year. The call today by Kellogg was one of the worst I have ever seen in 43 years of following baseball!

Dawgdad

July 23rd, 2009
8:44 pm

Veteran Fan, you are right on about the umpiring. I’ve been around the block and never in my many years have i seen such inconsistancy. Someone should be appointed to decide what exactly is the strike zone, and umpires who consistantly refuse to call strikes by that definition need to fired. When I coached youth baseball I constantly encountered umpires with their own definition of what is fair. They either favored the pitcher or the hitters and if you got them away from the field they would explain why, using some flawed logic. They should be impartial to either and call the stike as it is defined.

One thing that is not talked about enough is how much the umpire behind the plate influences the game. There were games when Glavine was pitching that it was senseless to even start him. If the umpire refused to call the ball on the corners or off the corners, Glavine was doomed, so why start him. KK is the same, he has no chance is he gets the wrong umpire. Those umpires that make the pitcher throw the ball into a breadbox sized strike zone, turn the game into a slug fest and make it long and boring. The umpire controls the tempo of the game and who wins and loses too dang much. Todays ump was favoring Zito by giving him pitches that KK was not getting, especially the high strike. Where is the commisssioner?

Hillbilly Deluxe

July 23rd, 2009
9:11 pm

Veteran fan & Dawgdad

And what about the trend of the last 25 years or so of umpires baiting players and looking for conflict?

Doug Harvey was the best umpire that I remember.

Mark Bradley

July 23rd, 2009
9:12 pm

Thanks, Hillbilly. And you know how David McCullough narrated much of “The Civil War” on PBS? I could’ve sworn the voice was John Chancellor’s. And the one thing I do possess is an ear for voices.

Mark Bradley

July 23rd, 2009
9:15 pm

And back to the Zito curve: It started way high, but it dropped. That’s a hard pitch to call because you’re not sure where it crosses the plate. Even the center field camera doesn’t quite give you that.

Another reporter and I were talking about it on the way out of the stadium, and we kind of agreed: Might have been a bit high, but it wasn’t the worst call in the history of sports.

Mark Bradley

July 23rd, 2009
9:16 pm

Doug Harvey was a fine ump, tall and authoritative. But I remember Nestor Chylak being regarded as the best balls-and-strikes guy.

Great name: Nestor Chylak.

Hillbilly Deluxe

July 23rd, 2009
9:22 pm

Never thought about it but the voices are/were similar. David McCullough is from Pittsburgh and John Chancellor was from Chicago so that doesn’t explain it. This discussion is going to show our age though.

Mark Bradley

July 23rd, 2009
9:27 pm

No, it doesn’t explain it. But it absolutely shows our age. Me, I’m 103.

Antonio Gramsci

July 23rd, 2009
9:40 pm

Didn’t you just write about how defense is evidence that a team believes? You just wrote this, Mark. YOU JUST WROTE THIS. What did they do today? The trend is not your friend in baseball. What is your friend? Empirical observation. What made the team suddenly a contender again? “Dumping Frenchy and KJ. Prado and Church in the lineup.” No. No. NO. This team is average. Bah. Stop careening from one idea to the other. Celebrate the mediocrity that is the Braves, Mark. No errors one game, two the next. Pound “The Freak” one game, lose to Zito the next. This is not Zito five years ago.

It’s done, nice and boring, Write nice boring columns about the nice boring Braves and how they keep their uniforms so nice and boring and clean.

HERBIE

July 23rd, 2009
9:42 pm

Hey COX HAS LOST IT You are the one that sucks go get a life

HERBIE

July 23rd, 2009
9:45 pm

Antonio i you dont like his blog that much why dont you go read a sex blog

Hillbilly Deluxe

July 23rd, 2009
9:45 pm

If I’d had the proper amount of sleep for the hours I’ve been awake, I’d be 135.

Reid Adair

July 23rd, 2009
9:45 pm

In all seriousness, why should Bobby Cox “mellow” now? Why should he be any different than he has been over the years, especially during the 14 consecutive season streak?

Bobby is going to be Bobby. I think he has more than earned that right.

HERBIE

July 23rd, 2009
9:46 pm

Hey mark if you dont like the blog you dont have to read it

HERBIE

July 23rd, 2009
9:46 pm

way to go reid

HERBIE

July 23rd, 2009
9:47 pm

Enter your comments here

Are They Insane?

July 23rd, 2009
9:47 pm

Have they lost their minds?

Sending down Conrad (a .344 hitter who plays the game the way it should be played) to bring up a .217 loser who’s proven he can’t play in the bigs. Um, hello Braves brass knuckleheads, but Conrad is a major part of this resurgence that the Braves are experiencing.

Why don’t we just trade back for Frenchie while we’re at it?

ARRRRRGHHHH!!!

Mr. A

July 23rd, 2009
9:54 pm

Mark… umpires appear to be rather cocky! Have you had many up close dealings with them and if so, which ones are the bigger jerks and which ones are “actually human”?
My buddy goes to a umpire camp every year in Florida and they all say that Bobby is one of their least favorite managers. And Dusty Baker was their consensus favorite manager. They say if he comes out to argue then he is more than likely right!

dave

July 23rd, 2009
9:59 pm

Hey MB, was it John Chancellor or David McCullough that did Fred Flintstone’s voice?

terry forster

July 23rd, 2009
10:07 pm

Cox got tossed because he wanted to show Escobar he’s got his back. Makes Escobar feel important, especially after the tough media relationship lately.

Antonio Gramsci

July 23rd, 2009
10:08 pm

Reading it now. Thx Hubie. Good advice. Word, dog.

Mr. A

July 23rd, 2009
10:10 pm

Great article MB

Mark Bradley

July 23rd, 2009
10:16 pm

Thanks, Mr. A. And it’s funny you ask about umps: As a rule, we writers don’t talk to the umpires. But there was one Sunday in Cincinnati in June 1992 when I was dispatched to the umpires’ room as a pool reporter after the Braves lost to the Reds — those two were fighting for the lead in the NL West then — to ask about a call that had set Cox off. The crew chief, who did the talking, was Cowboy Joe West. The guy who made the offending call?

You got it. Jeff Kellogg. That’s why I said he and Cox have a history.

And Dave, I always thought John Chancellor did Scooby Doo’s voice.

Mark Bradley

July 23rd, 2009
10:18 pm

And thanks for the spirited defense, Herbie.

Fast Eddie Perez

July 23rd, 2009
10:44 pm

Church has been looking good in the outfield, maybe he should get more time in CF, like the way he plays, kinda like Brooksie all out hustler, we should have kept & let Norton take his .109 average down the road, ya think we can get by without him??? Dumb move Booby, I dont wanna hear that veteran bat crap, both are switch hitters, one is hitting .344 vs .109, enough said!

Sir Stealth

July 23rd, 2009
10:58 pm

Bobby Cox is the father, son, and holy ghost of Atlanta sports. If you believe otherwise you are an insolent ignoramus. Go get ‘em Bobby!