1. He has nothing to prove. He’s a Hall of Famer. He has won 15 division titles, five pennants and a World Series. He has done it all, and all he’s seeking to do now is repeat after himself. Retire next month and nobody — well, almost nobody — will hold Greg Norton against him.
2. He’s 68 years old. He has money, a large family and the farm in Adairsville. Five years ago he told me what a older friend once told him: “Don’t wait too long to retire, Bobby, because then you can’t do nothin’.” There are a lot of somethings Cox hasn’t yet done. Like go to the Kentucky Derby. Or the Indy 500. Or do anything that happens between February and October and doesn’t involve getting to the ballpark at 11 a.m. for a night game.
3. He’s not quite the manager he once was. This is hard for me to say. As you know, I hold the man in the highest esteem. But this should have been a better team. (Not a great team, but a better one.) The 2009 Braves have outscored opponents by 74 runs and won 79 games. The 2009 Marlins have outscored opponents by seven runs and have won 80.
4. He’s getting even more stubborn, which is never good. Let’s return to what Cox said about pitching to Ryan Howard after Friday’s game (in which Howard hit two more home runs): “We’ve got a good plan. We just make mistakes.” If you can’t execute the plan, wad it up and toss it in yonder ashcan. And just walk the doggone guy.
5. Put simply, it’s time. He has managed the Braves since June 22, 1990. He has been managing this team nearly as long as Tommy Hanson has been alive. It has become too easy to play for him, too easy to be an Atlanta Brave. As this franchise moves into its new era — the Hanson-Heyward-Freeman-Escobar era — it wouldn’t be the worst thing to have a new voice in the dugout. It might actually be the best thing.
And now, because you asked: Here are my 5 top choices to succeed Cox as Braves manager.