Your attention, please: This guy here criticizes Bobby Cox!

"You're lying! Bradley would never write anything like that!" (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

"You're lying! Bradley would never write anything like that!" (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

I, Mark Bradley, being of failing body and always-feeble mind, do solemnly swear that I write the following of my own free will. I am not under duress. I am not under the influence of anything stronger than Snapple Diet Lemon. I write this for no other reason than I happen to believe it. And also, I must admit, for the shock value of imagining the faces of those hundreds of thousands who’ve said: “No way this guy ever says anything bad about Bobby.”

Frank Wren took the big heat over the winter, but the general manager of uncertain portfolio, has had a much better season than his Hall of Fame manager. This marks the first time in Bobby Cox’s second tour as Braves manager his team can be said to have underperformed, at least in the regular season. This isn’t a team of vast talent, no, but neither is this a club that should have fallen from contention on Labor Day eve.

The Braves awoke Tuesday with the National League’s fourth-best ERA. Two of the teams above them are leading divisions, and the third, San Francisco, has a real chance of winning the wild card. A team with that sort of pitching could and should be in the playoff hunt, but the Braves are 7 1/2 games behind the wild card leader with 25 to go. In sum, it’s over.

If we fault Wren for not bolstering his batting order sooner — and we can also make the case that fixing the rotation first was the absolute proper course — we must concede the GM attempted correction after mid-course correction. He made three major in-season trades for everyday players, which is as much as anyone could reasonably expect. And there’s also this:

The Braves haven’t hit all that much, but as of Labor Day they had a higher team batting average than the Cardinals, the Phillies and the Giants. Put another way, the Braves have both outhit and outpitched Philadelphia — and yet they lag in the standings by 8 games.

For nearly two decades we’ve assumed Cox will maximize the resources on hand. He hasn’t done it this season. He has overworked his bullpen and done strange things with his two nominal closers and relied on Greg Norton to get the key pinch-hit two dozen times too many. He has also failed to be even slightly creative with his lineup.

It’s one thing to play for the three-run homer if you have men capable of hitting one. The Braves, alas, are 10th among 16 National League clubs in home runs. Brian McCann leads the Braves with 18 but wouldn’t lead 13 other NL teams. Were he a Phil, he’d be tied for fifth.

Grade Bobby Cox's year.

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If you can’t hit the ball over yonder wall, you must find alternatives. The Braves are fourth in the league in hits, which tells us they’ve gotten men aboard, but are next-to-last in stolen bases and fourth-worst at grounding into double plays. You should be able to do more with singles than they’ve done.

I’ve long resisted the notion that the Braves don’t play with passion. (This is baseball, where passion fizzles by Memorial Day and precision trumps all.) That said, this team wasted too many expertly pitched games against bad teams. (Case study: The Braves yielded a total of 10 runs over 30 innings to sub-.500 Cincinnati and just got swept.)

No, this suddenly lost season wasn’t all the manager’s doing. Seasons never are. A manager can’t hit and pitch for his men. But he can put those men in better position to succeed. Even great players have off-years. We’ve just seen a great manager have his.

372 comments Add your comment

robby

September 8th, 2009
12:36 am

I love Bobby Cox. I think he is one of the best managers. But I now think that he should step down. We need change and it needs to start in the dugout.

Mark Bradley

September 8th, 2009
12:39 am

He’s the best I’ve ever seen, Robby, but he hasn’t been the best this year.

Ghost of Shane Vendrell

September 8th, 2009
12:40 am

WooHoo! This so needed to be said. Cox is just like Tom Landry. Dallas had Jerry Jones to put him out to pasture, will Frank Wren be willing to do the same?

Ostrich Racer

September 8th, 2009
12:45 am

I’m one of those people who believes things just haven’t been the same since Leo left. That’s an oversimplification, and perhaps it gives him too much credit for coaching geniuses, but the number don’t lie. I’m not a McDowell fan. True, the dyanmic is substantially different now, but Bobby has not forgotten how to manage, and Leo had tremendous success keeping people healthy over the years. Bring back the other half of the brain!

bruce

September 8th, 2009
12:50 am

I bet next year we see that Jordan Shafer playing with injured wrist was the problem in the first two months. No telling how many games that cost us. Probably enough to lose the season. When something in a wrist snaps, it needs to be repaired. Now it has been repaired, only about five months too late.

Frankie Knuckles

September 8th, 2009
12:51 am

He has gotten softer in his older age. Unless you share a surname with a certain drug kingpin he isn’t being hard enough. Chipper shouldn’t have been hitting 3rd for a while now and Greg Norton??? Even Greg Norton has to be asking why? Kelly Johnson is another.

Joe

September 8th, 2009
1:01 am

I think Bobby Cox should step down or Frank Wren should fire him either one of these needs to happen asap. I’ve said this before that if the yankees can fire Joe Torre who won 4 rings for them then why are the braves still holding on with Bobby Cox who only won 1 ring and screwed up alot of other chances he is pass his time and the braves need a change.

The braves need to also trade chipper jones this offseason and yunel escobar. chipper is not going to hep the braves like he use too and they can get some good pieces in returun for him like say trade him to LAA for Gary Matthews Jr., Howie Kendrick and a minor league prospect.

Ghost of Shane Vendrell

September 8th, 2009
1:03 am

Yea, that’s what the Braves need to do, trade Escobar, their best player. That is one of the dumbest things that can be said.

Joe

September 8th, 2009
1:06 am

response to Ghost of Shane Vendrell comment.

why keep Yunel? He is a knucklehead and he slacks off at times on plays I’m surprised by your comment cause I’ve spoken with lots of braves fans and they agree with me.

BugKiller

September 8th, 2009
1:07 am

Mark,

Honest question, trying to ask it logically and totally without bias.

How is Bobby Cox the best manager you’ve ever seen?

Seriously, think about it for a second. Think about all of those wasted Octobers. I count that out of those 14 years, Cox had the BEST team in baseball six times. Three times he had one of the ALL-TIME great teams in baseball.

Of those six (and the three in those seven) teams, NOT ONE won a World Series.

1991 the Braves had a better team, but it was CLOSE, so the homefield (and umpire) advantage the Twins had couldn’t be overcome.

1993. One of the three ALL-TIME greatest baseball teams.

1994 the Braves were far better than the Expos, but would have only gotten a Wild Card. Too bad the strike happened.

1996. The second of the three.

1997. The third of the three.

2002. A huge disappointment.

Here’s the thing, 1992, the Jays had the better team. In 1999, the Yankees had the better team. In 2001, the Diamondbacks had the better team.

So, out of 14 trips to October, the Braves lost to the better team only THREE times.

They beat the better team in 1995 because Hargrove is a bigger Dunce of the Dugout than Cox, if that’s possible.

So, that means the Braves LOST TO A WORSE TEAM TEN TIMES!!!

Think about that for a minute. Really think about that.

Not winning three series in a row, from 1995-1997 is by far Cox’s fault. Losing to the Phillies in 1993 is Cox’s fault.

Why, Mark, if you have the BEST postseason pitcher in the HISTORY of baseball, do you let guys who disappoint year after year in October (Glavine and Maddux) start ahead of him?

In a seven game (or five) series, SMOLTZ is the guy ANY manager who isn’t a complete idiot would start in game 1.

But Cox, as always, put way too much store into the regular season, and let the other guys get all the series starts, except in 1996, when his poor bullpen decisions (a recurring October theme) screwed the Braves in Game 4. I mean, Mike Beilecki was MOWING down the Yankees, so why even bring in Wohlers? If Wohlers isn’t in the game, he doesn’t hang that pitch that Leyritz smoked.

Cox overmanages when games matter the most when it comes to his bullpen.

But he also undermanages with his starting pitchers and bench. He leaves hot bats on the bench to languish while he brings in his favored, low-percentage “vets” (sound familiar?) to strike out.

When it’s win or go home, bottom of the ninth with two on and two out, instead of pinch-hitting for rally-killers like Andruw Jones, he let’s them kill the team. I count two straight postseasons ended on Andruw whiffs.

When it’s win or go home, Cox doesn’t manage with ANY sense of urgency. He’s the WRONG guy for October. He never puts the guys in the position to win.

He is the WORST postseason manager in the history of baseball. That means he can be in no way the best you’ve ever seen.

Here’s the adage you need to understand:

In the regular season, a good team can overcome a bad manager, because talent can overcome bad decisions over the course of 162 games.

In the postseason, a bad manager will SINK a talented team, and kill any chance they have of winning through his horrible decisions. Because you don’t have 162 games to hide behind. You win or you go home.

I give you Bobby J. Cox.

He’s the most overrated manager in the history of baseball. He’s a great GM, and he and Schuerholtz’s acquisitions in the late 80’s and early 90’s provided Atlanta with the most talented team in baseball most years.

But his managing kept that talent from achieving all it should have.

And I’m SICK of people excusing his poor performances by calling the playoffs a “crapshoot.” Winning ONCE in 14 times is NOT a crapshoot. You know what is?

Winning 4 times in 12 tries. Joe Torre did that. THAT’S a crapshoot.

Winning 1 time in 14 is a TREND. The Braves weren’t the Dodgers. Most of those years, the Braves WERE the Yankees. Top payroll, top talent.

But unfortunately, the Braves didn’t have Torre in the dugout. They had the most overrated manager in baseball history.

BugKiller

September 8th, 2009
1:12 am

More proof that it was the talent and NOT Cox who should be given credit those 14 straight years?

Given worse talent than he used to have all those years, Cox hasn’t done ANYTHING to make it better.

In fact, some could say, because of the performance of some players (Andruw, Frenchy), Cox has made the talent WORSE.

Which would be the trend I pointed out.

All those years, Cox was given a Cadillac to drive and he treated it like a Yugo. Eventually, the car will break down. And it has.

Now, it’s just a simple question:

Who has done less with more, umm, more in his career? Bobby Cox or Willie Martinez?

The A Bomb

September 8th, 2009
1:16 am

Mark –

It’s clear — what made him great is what will eventually be his undoing — loyalty.

2009 is far different than 1980 or even 1991.

He has not done a good job of bringing this team together, at least on the field.

He should share the blame with a subpar coaching staff, but since he hired ‘em, I guess it’s his rear end.

You can be tough and liked at the same time — just like LaRussa.

Time for a change.

Joe

September 8th, 2009
1:17 am

BugKiller you are so right you couldn’t have said it any better your comment is absolutely right.

GK Chesterfield

September 8th, 2009
1:25 am

Gotta agree with Bug Killer, Mark. Bobby did very little with a lot. He seems to come up short when the talent level is even.

Hold on boys, we still need to play another down...

September 8th, 2009
1:31 am

Change the subject for a sec… I am curious if anyone else noticed that there was still time on the clock when the FSU pass fell incomplete in the endzone tonight. The ball was whistled incomplete and there was still a second showing on the clock. I figured they were reviewing the call not just to see if it was incomplete but to check the clock too. ESPN announcers never notice anything of course… they are dumb as fence posts.

sal governale

September 8th, 2009
1:31 am

Nice post, BugKiller. Although I’m sure Bradley stopped reading as soon as you pointed out that Smoltz is the best postseason pitcher of all time. Remember, in Bradley’s world, Smoltz’s most noteworthy and newsworthy accomplishment in his HOF career was going public with his disdain for vindictive hack “journalists”.

FSU game clock?

September 8th, 2009
1:39 am

Just curious if anyone noticed that FSU still had a tick on the clock when their third down pass fell incomplete in the endzone. Thought they had another shot, especially after the officials reviewed the play and didn’t seem to look at the clock.

Bob in SF

September 8th, 2009
1:50 am

Who would replace him? They would want someone who knows the “Braves Way” but part of that way is Cox himself. When it comes to Cox proteges, does anyone think Terry Pendleton could run this team? Could Fredi Gonzalez be pried from the Marlins? Could Ned Yost be the answer? I agree the game has passed Bobby by but who is better right now that wants to come to Atlanta?

Joe

September 8th, 2009
2:00 am

Bob in SF

How about Bobby Valentine The Mets old skipper he could be a great replacement or maybe Willie Randolph the mets former manager.

Coach (2010 or Bust)

September 8th, 2009
3:11 am

Amen Bradley.

70 wins and 67 losses, 82 quality starts and a Pythagorean formula which says we should be 75-62. Fourth best team ERA and yet just one complete game. An overworked bullpen should never happen under these circumstances.

Next to dead last in stolen bases with 49. Ranked 22nd in HR’s, 21st in RBI, ranked 20th in defense and on and on it goes……

Underachievement is the word of the day. It is Bobby’s fault and to some degree, Frank Wren’s too. Our Braves can throw the ball (pitch), but they can’t catch it (defense). Nor can this team hit the ball (offense) or run the bases (small ball, steal bases). Frank Wren built this team too and he failed to do much of anything except fix the pitching. His in season trades were to little to late when combined with the inept management of Bobby Cox.

And Wren’s treatment of Smoltz and Glavine however necessary the need to part ways was embarrassing and shameful. Schuerholz all but apologized for the way Wren handled the situation.

That said, Cox needs to retire, obviously. Wren is on the bubble as far as I’m concerned. Our GM needs to work on his people skills, just ask Cal Ripken Jr.

scottbravesfan

September 8th, 2009
3:21 am

The Braves need a change at manager. They have a good shot at contending in 2010 with Hanson and Hudson in the rotation the whole year and Jason Heyward in right field. Hopefully Wren can get us someone, anyone who can hit to play left. But the team should be right there contending for a playoff spot, hopefully Bobby Cox won’t be the one to screw it up again.

abudefdef

September 8th, 2009
4:22 am

Cox is defending Greg Norton based on what he did for the Braves LAST YEAR. It is not 2008, Bobby, it is 2009. What has Greg Norton done for us THIS YEAR? Not much…time to cut the string and let Greg go.

"Chef" Tim Dix

September 8th, 2009
5:29 am

Mark, the biggest difference between this and prior years with BC has been Bobby use to stay with his starters one pitch too many.

5 1/3 this year got him itchy. 7 brought the hook.

Jair’s record when he went 7 and gave up 3 or less runs gives the most acurate description of this team and season.

Keith

September 8th, 2009
5:32 am

Great article with the stats. I’ve seen him make decisions regarding Greg Norton and pulling pitchers, etc, all year, and he fails this year.

Keith

September 8th, 2009
5:33 am

Note also: leaving the original lineup in too long…and not starting prado soon enough….

Capt Caveman

September 8th, 2009
5:44 am

COACH you are still the biggest a$$clown on this or any blog. Don’t think that I wont be on this blog daily to blast you back to where ever it is you come from. You cherry pick stats and always try to find a way to blame Bobby.

At least Mark uses substance and intelligence to voice his opinion. Everyone on here has read your endless drivel of insults towards Bobby. So stick it in your ear.

geno

September 8th, 2009
6:16 am

if Atlanta had more fans like bugkiller, the town might have a chance of leaving loserville….Cobby Box should have been gone long ago and that florida redneck too. The PAIN….of one championship in fourteen essentially nullifies 1995. …..PS…dont let the same thing happen with Mike Smith, after he fails(my belief), get rid of him.

Rod

September 8th, 2009
6:25 am

Why is it that no one is pointing a finger at our “hitting coach?” His inability to teach and/or fix a swing has been ongoing. Jeff F. started to hit after he was traded. Jordan S. Kelly J. Even goes back to A. Jones.

No silly name here

September 8th, 2009
6:35 am

Geno, Why do you bring up Mike Smith? Comparing him to Bobby Cox is stupid. Cox has had years and talent and has failed. Mike Smith after one year has showed he can at least make solid decisions. I don’t know where you come from but they need to check the water supply. It is doing major damage to your brain.

bull-gator

September 8th, 2009
6:41 am

Wren should have asked Cox and his staff to step down when he took the reins. Who knows, maybe he did and Cox said “I don’t think so”. In any event, Cox had a great run and now it’s time to leave. The entire dugout looks like they’re just going through the motions waiting until the last out of the 162nd game. I hope they don’t trample one another running out the clubhouse door. In the off season, Wren needs to get rid of Cox (and his staff), Johnson, Lowe, Hudson, Anderson, Norton, and Soriano. Pick up a 5 tool center fielder, platoon Chipper at 1st and drop him in the order to seventh when ever he’s in the lineup. maybe Chipper should consider retiring also. In any event, a shakeup is in order.

Average Joe

September 8th, 2009
6:51 am

Mark, I appreciate the attempt at criticism, but this article is ridiculous, a slap on Bobby’s hand at best. You gave us a disclaimer at the beginning of the article for this…?

Robert J. Cox is not God, nor is he an idol, a martyr, or a saint. He hasn’t discovered a cure for the common cold, and the last time I checked, he hasn’t raced into any burning buildings to save a child. In short, he’s human, fallible, and capable of being questioned. I just wanted to clarify it, Mark, in case you were confused.

Robert’s job is simple. Win. However you have to. Leave stupid and misplaced loyalty (this is a business) at the door, and give your team the BEST chance at winning. This 5 game slide onto their collective post-season couches began when Cox once again called upon No-hit Norton (not a name you desire if you are a HITTER) in Florida with a chance to tie the game after the Braves had battled back to within one run. And what did Norton do? He whiffed. Just like he’s done all season. All he needed was a fly ball, a grounder, some kind of CONTACT!!! The only thing he succeeded in was in sucking out all the momentum that had accumulated within this team in the past month. But Bobby had called upon HIS man, and whatever the outcome, it would all be ok.

So here’s the thing: why should the players care about winning when they see evidence every day that their manager doesn’t? Frenchy, Kelly Johnson, Jeff Bennett, Jordan Schafer, Manny Acosta. All “first string” players who played miserably for the first 3 months, and all of whom Cox refused to bench/cut/ etc. even after they each proved DAILY that they didn’t have it. Ah, the eternal optimism of Robert J.

Martin Prado, Matt Diaz. Just think what might have been if Cox had allowed these guys to play ALL season? A day late and a dollar short. That’s Robert. That’s how he’s been for most of his 18 years in Atlanta. It’s never his pitchers fault, never his hitters. The other team always seems to hit it where they ain’t and we hit line drives right at guys.

I’m sure Greg Norton is a great guy, but unfortunately he’s become a symbol of all that is so horribly wrong with Robert J. Cox’s style. If Robert doesn’t care, why should his players? Why should we?

Toots

September 8th, 2009
6:51 am

This season wasn’t lost in the last week or month. It was lost in the first two months when Jordan Schafer and Kelly Johnson were everyday players. The Braves should have kept Josh Anderson, until an appropriate (Nate McLouth) trade came along, and played Martin Prado from the get go. They squandered two months and dug themselves a hole. It could have been avoided.

Mitch C

September 8th, 2009
6:52 am

Thank you, Mark! Finally, you criticize Bobby. I’ve been waiting five months to see this, and, quite frankly, I’ve been waiting for as long as I’ve been blogging here. (A year or two?).

You know that I have to ask about what you didnt say. It’s the obivious question after the fourth straight disappointing season. Is it time for a new manager? I will be very interested to hear your thoughts on this.

After what Bobby has done for this orginization, and all the success he had from 1991 to 2005, I would never say to “Fire” him completely. I would create a job title for him in the front office, put him in it, give him a paycheck from the Braves for as long as he wants it, and hire a new manager. A manager who won fourteen straight division titles deserves that, even if he didnt do a good job managing this year.

What do you think should happen with Bobby? Should he stay as manager, or should he go?

Mitch

Slug27marathons

September 8th, 2009
6:53 am

I am thankful for what Bobby has done also, even though his managerial style always changed (for the worse) in the playoffs! But what’s wrong with stealing a base, or bunting – once in a while? Yes the Braves seem dead in too many games. Where’s the fire?

01HAWK

September 8th, 2009
6:54 am

In order to rule out favoritism………………….The entire coaching staff needs to go. Also these players need to go by trade or released.

Norton, Carlyle, Acosta, Try to trade Lowe.

MiltonDawg

September 8th, 2009
7:14 am

All things must come to an end. Having said that, Cox will never be forgotten in this town but it is time for a new regime change. Move him to the front office or something. Need someone about 30-40 yrs younger in there—someone with fire who can kick these boys in the butt to make them play with passion. Such a pathetic performance against the Reds and will be shocked if we actually win a game against the Astros. Season over!!

bravesBobblehead

September 8th, 2009
7:23 am

Bobby has let the pitchers go to many innings when they appeared to lack their quality stuff and they were rocked, royally.

greg

September 8th, 2009
7:41 am

Lets look at it this way. He had a team with three frigging first ballot Hall of Fame starting pitchers and they won how many world series? End of story. Case closed.

kennyh

September 8th, 2009
7:44 am

the problem is terry pendleton..the braves are not hitting when it counts.. he has got to go even if Cox stays!

crose714

September 8th, 2009
7:45 am

Sure, lets toss him like Dale Murphy, Tom Glavine, and John Smoltz. Who cares if he is an Atlanta Icon and has done more for the Atlanta Braves than any other owner, general manager, on-field manager or player? Atlanta, what a great sports city… Embarrassing.

Daniel #12

September 8th, 2009
7:45 am

Bobby has done well (understating the obvious!) but his achilles heel has always been his handling of the bullpen. His bullpen has always been a series of one inning appearances. That wears out a bullpen by August. It is far more stressful to throw a reliever an inning a day for three days in a row than 3 innings then 2 days off. His formula for pulling a pitcher after one inning wears out the pen. Look at Chris Medlen. Very effective this season. Last week pitched well first day. Got hammered next two days.

the evil rich

September 8th, 2009
7:47 am

Off year, more like off decade….Come on, continuing to hit/play slumping (and oh, so tired) Chipper? Norton as a critical pinch-hitter? the WRONG batting order/lineup that continues to leave the Braves with two-out opportunity after two out opportunity? Terry Pendleton?

ENOUGH!!!!

Nativebird

September 8th, 2009
7:48 am

Shock! Appalled! Aghast! How DARE you! Thou hast committed thy worst sin thou could have ever even think of committing in said town of the ever-lasting-dependence-upon-the-mediocre-who-delivered-the-one-splinter-of-1995-excellence; Thou hast cast ASPERSION upon the Great Enabler of Mediocrity! Surely his patrons will radiate mighty revenge upon thy brave but honest servant of the painful truth! Be prepared my son!

lawton

September 8th, 2009
8:05 am

going into next year:
1.braves dont have a true leadoff man. mclouth is ok, but not a STOLEN BASE guy that teams fear. thats the FIRST problem. they dont manufacture runs.
2.braves dont have that big bopper in the outfield. sheffield was there in free agency, but for some reason, the braves have this thang…………
3. the braves dont play sound defense. use to be a time where you could count on the braves solid defense behind the pitching.
4. chipper shouldve been traded couple seasons ago to give more flexibility in their manuevers. they couldve BEEN had another starting pitcher for chipper, then be in a position to bolster the lineup this past off season. his errors and injuries do more to hurt the team than his bat.
5. the farm system aint what it used to be with the trading away of everybody, but its getting better.

Phil

September 8th, 2009
8:06 am

Hell has just been frozen over, Bradley criticizes Cox….

Mark Bradley

September 8th, 2009
8:12 am

Why is Cox the best manager I’ve ever seen? Start with 14 consecutive first-place finishes.

Mac

September 8th, 2009
8:12 am

All true. I’m a huge Bobby Cox fan, but I do hope he will retire after this season.

Mac

September 8th, 2009
8:14 am

Heh, heh. Milton Dawg wants a 28-year-old manager. No thanks.

leland

September 8th, 2009
8:15 am

Dear Mr. MB–did you get today’s CYSC? It’s real hard, but I got it. If you need any help, let me know. (Look at the bottom of the picture.) Your pal, Leland

Phil

September 8th, 2009
8:16 am

Marv Levy went to 4 sraight Super Bowls, probably more impressive than Cox winning 14 division titles. Division titles are are the only the first step, you want to get to the World Series or the Super Bowl. Is Marv Levy considered one of the greatest NFL coaches of all time? Don’t think so. Championships is what counts, not Division titles.