Live from the ballpark, pondering life without Cox and Chipper

It’s a reflex: Something happens with the Braves, you ask the man in charge. So I sought out Bobby Cox on Wednesday afternoon, and I said: “If Chipper does quit, what do you do for a third baseman next year?”

Cox smiled. Then he said: “Not my problem.”

And that’s when it hit. For all the changes undergone by this organization these past two decades, nothing has or could prepare us for what’s surely coming next spring. We’ve seen the Braves without Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux; without John Smoltz and David Justice; without Terry Pendleton at third base and without Andruw Jones in center field … and we’ve heard them without Skip Caray and Pete Van Wieren … but we’ve never encountered anything like what’s apparently at hand.

No Bobby Cox in the dugout. No Chipper Jones batting third. No remaining touchstones to the era of baseball that made us care about the Braves in the first place.

Cox has announced his retirement. Chipper stands to announce his any day now. (After Wednesday’s game he said: “In good time.”) Yes, there’s symmetry there. As general manager, Cox drafted Jones No. 1 overall in June 1990, and since arriving in the big leagues to stay in September 1993 the great switch-hitter has known only one manager. And we on the periphery have come to regard them as a package deal.

We’re about to see the package unwrapped. We’re about to see the Braves work with two fewer numbers at their disposal. (Surely Nos. 6 and 10 will be retired along with their distinguished wearers.) We’re about to see the final holdovers from the run of excellence severed from the team they made great.

Think of it this way: Cox won division titles over 14 consecutive completed seasons managing the Braves, and if you credit Chipper as being part of the improbable 1993 NL West championship team — he was a September call-up — he was part of 12 first-place finishes. Only two other members of the 2010 club have been part of even one Atlanta division title: Tim Hudson and Brian McCann, each of whom arrived in 2005.

How would it feel, McCann was asked, to become the senior Brave among everyday players? Said McCann, who’s all of 26: “Until something happens [with Chipper], I don’t think that’s something I want to comment on.”

And what is there to say? We all knew the day was coming when the Braves would be without Cox and even without Chipper, but that won’t mean the day itself won’t hit us like a two-by-four upside the ol’ noggin.

Which loss would be harder to take?

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Back to the original premise of today’s exercise: What might the Braves do for a third baseman? I asked the ascendant Troy Glaus if relocation to first base is a permanent career move. He said no. “In my heart I’ll always be a third baseman. Actually, I’ll always be a shortstop, but we know that’s not going to happen. I could play third.”

For the Braves? In 2011? “Maybe,” Glaus said.

We’ll have plenty of time to bat this around these next few months. (Glaus, as we know, is working on a one-year contract and might be slugging his way out of the Braves’ price range.) But the question itself gives us pause: We’ve never had to ask what the Braves would do for a third baseman because we’ve come to expect Chipper to be standing on the left side of the infield, same as we expect to see Cox at the near end of the dugout.

Next year we might not see either. No Chipper at the hot corner. No Cox grousing about balls and strikes. No “Crazy Train” when the No. 3 spot comes up. No Cox with his awful nicknames.

No Bobby Cox and  no Chipper Jones. And what, Bill Acree was asked, would that mean?

Said Acree, the Braves’ director of travel/equipment manager and a team employee since 1966: “The world would come to an end.”

And it might. It just might.

With that, we’ll open the phone lines. (Which have been open all along, but bear with me.) I’ll be here to chat during tonight’s Braves-Rays games, and I’ll let you know if anyone retires. Unless I’m the retiree. In which case I’ll just close the computer and walk away.

228 comments Add your comment

DF

June 16th, 2010
5:35 pm

JJ

June 16th, 2010
5:35 pm

chip1960

June 16th, 2010
5:36 pm

JohnSmith

June 16th, 2010
5:39 pm

The sky has fallen. There it goes, there it goes…

JJ

June 16th, 2010
5:39 pm

oh, close. closest ever!

Chipper and Bobby will be sorely missed.

Bobby for GM next year and Chipper as Hitting Coach (Oh, God, we’d be rid of Pendleton there)

BOBBY BOTTLESERVICE

June 16th, 2010
5:40 pm

IF you haven’t heard you can catch me on the youtube doing my thing! ED hArdy ! TYpe in BOBBY BOTTLESERVICE

AMG

June 16th, 2010
5:43 pm

It has taken me 10 years to realize how good we had it as Braves fans in the 90’s. I don’t think we will see that ever again. We may have a good year or two, but an entire decade? That many Hall of Fame players? Broadcasters? Television station to broadcast games all over the country?

Wow!!

Dawg and a brave

June 16th, 2010
5:43 pm

Man the braves need to do something with kk! It is starting to look like everyone of his starts can be marked as a loss for the braves! Hopefully they will try to trade him for SOME POWER IN THE BATTER’S BOX!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Jamaaliver

June 16th, 2010
5:45 pm

Tis indeed the end of an era. But I think the loss of Glavine and then Maddux earlier this decade stung more. And seeing Mazzone and Smoltz leave as well, this season will and SHOULD be the final act in a great chapter of Atlanta sports history.

Dave in Buford

June 16th, 2010
5:48 pm

Like most things, we aren’t going to be truly appreciative of what we had until it is gone.

Hedley Lamarr

June 16th, 2010
5:50 pm

You didn’t give us the choice of ‘Neither’

Navigator

June 16th, 2010
5:55 pm

I have a different perspective, I don’t appreciate the Braves until they are gone.

Stl Falcon

June 16th, 2010
5:57 pm

All the great names that i have heard about through baseball cards and from my father and grandfather were always associated with a team. Mantle and the Yankees, Williams and the Red Sox, etc. They dont make them like that anymore- Chipper’s legacy is written in ATL blue.

Navigator

June 16th, 2010
5:57 pm

Kawakami has no trade value, and soon the Braves will have come to terms with their mistake and release him.

Gumby

June 16th, 2010
6:02 pm

As far as Atlanta baseball it is a changing of the guard for sure. No Bobby, no Chipper. I’m not even going to start on stuff like losing other members of those past winning teams, losing Ted Turner, losing our flagship station TBS, Skip and Pete. Good gosh I miss the old days and Bobby and Chipper are still here.
Now on to what will remain. These OTHER guys we have aren’t something to forget about. Prado, Heyward, Huddy, McCann, Glaus, Hanson, Hinske, JJ, Omar, Diaz, Yunnel, Brooks, Venters, Lowe, (maybe Wags),O’Flarety, Moylan, Ross,etc. I am sure I have left out some but these are the guys playing everyday and playing pretty darn good.

Mark Bradley

June 16th, 2010
6:02 pm

Kudos, DF. In a heated race, I might add.

Pedro Cerano

June 16th, 2010
6:06 pm

It’s amazing how easily we forget the Chipper in Left Field days. It took him from being one of the top 3 third basemen in the game to somewhere between 15 and 20 among big league outfielders. I thought it would ruin his legacy but luckily his move back to 3rd worked great.

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bruce

June 16th, 2010
6:09 pm

good story thanks…. I’m still hoping Bobby will change his mind.

Luke M

June 16th, 2010
6:09 pm

How are Cox’s nicknames awful? It’s a baseball tradition to just throw “-ey” at the end of every one’s last name. He’s far from the only person in baseball to use these nicknames.

I’ll miss the constant banter from Cox from the dugout.

“C’mon Esky!”

David, from Equatorial Guinea

June 16th, 2010
6:16 pm

This is my second time in the blog; I am working with an American Multinational in West-Central Africa (pay is great!). From here, there’s either a 5 or 6 hour difference with EST, depending on the time of the year. Its rough to follow the games when they start at 7:10 PM (EST) and its either 12:10 or 1:10 AM here. I have a regular, 8 to 5 job, but I am hanging on.

I am curious about something: Lets say that our beloved Braves win the National League and go to the World Series this year (I believe, otherwise I would not be sleep deprived). At the end of it all, Bobby Cox retires, as planned. With that scenario in mind, I pose a question: Who’s the National League’s All Star team’s manager? Bobby would be gone. Would Bobby be allowed to come back to manage in the All Star game, even if he’s already retired?

Just curious. Go Braves!!

RobertNAtl

June 16th, 2010
6:17 pm

Coxy was great with the nicknames, that’s for sure.

Mark Bradley

June 16th, 2010
6:17 pm

That’s a great question, David. I’m embarrassed to say I don’t know the answer. But I’ll try to get one.

RobertNAtl

June 16th, 2010
6:18 pm

@David: Per the rules, in that case, Mark Bradley would be the NL manager.

Luke M

June 16th, 2010
6:18 pm

As for life after Chipper, I’d be in favor of moving the kid Salcedo to the hot corner once he fills out a bit. He’s a few years away of course, but long term I’d love to see him at third.

Fat ladies in the cheap seats

June 16th, 2010
6:24 pm

Man…first the Fat Boys break up. Now this?

Why doesn’t Chipper take a breath and try out the American League next year? Just concentrate on one thing: hitting four times a night. He could do it. He could help someone, or at least try.

He’s proven his loyalty to us already. His legacy is intact. So go. Leave. Get out of here. Now run, Forrest, run!

doc

June 16th, 2010
6:26 pm

mark, better yet is the question of whether managers have to wait five years as players do to enter the hall. what a day ti would be if that happens and they are inducted at he same time.

as an aside when is smoltz eligible, is it when he plays his last game or actually declares he is retired which a i guess he hasnt done. could there be three on the same day?

Chop Chop

June 16th, 2010
6:29 pm

Glad to see Bobby making that comment about Chipper’s status. It shows that the decision has been taken to heart.

gbear1

June 16th, 2010
6:33 pm

Great story. It is a shame that some people can not recognize greatness.

Pedro Cerano

June 16th, 2010
6:34 pm

The only precedent I can think of as far as the All Star Game goes is ‘03 when Dusty Baker Managed the NL as the Cubs skipper even though he was with the Giants in 02. So the honor is bestowed upon the Manager and NOT the team so I’m sure Bobby would certainly be allowed to.

Mark Bradley

June 16th, 2010
6:34 pm

Thanks, gbear1.

Harry and The Hendersons

June 16th, 2010
6:37 pm

Go on Chipper! Get out of here! Leave! Go back to your home! Go back to the woods!

David, from Equatorial Guinea

June 16th, 2010
6:40 pm

Pedro Cerano, Thanks for the answer. Bottom line: It would be fun to see Bobby again, for one last hurrah, post-retirement.

Willy

June 16th, 2010
6:46 pm

I’m ready for a new coach, I can’t ignore that since the Braves have had an average team payroll they’ve had average teams.

Swamp Fox

June 16th, 2010
6:50 pm

Notice how after you picked Spain to win the World Cup they promptly lost to the Swiss who they hadn’t lost to ever in 18 previous meetings?

Good to see the Bradley curse is alive and well.

Mark Bradley

June 16th, 2010
6:50 pm

Lineups tonight: Jaso, 2B; Crawford, LF; Longoria, 3B; Pena, 1B; Zobrist, RF; Upton, CF; Rodriguez, 2B; Bartlett, C; Davis, P.

Braves: Prado, Heyward, Chipper, McCann, Troy G., Hinske, Escobar, Cabrera, Hanson.

Mark Bradley

June 16th, 2010
6:51 pm

I thought about that during the Swiss victory, Swamp Fox. But I don’t believe I’m alone in favoring the Spaniards.

Patrick

June 16th, 2010
6:53 pm

Great Article on Chipper and Bobby Mark!

Mark Bradley

June 16th, 2010
6:53 pm

Matt Ryan to throw out the first pitch. If he hurts his soupbone in so doing, Arthur M. Blank will buy the Braves and disband the team.

Mark Bradley

June 16th, 2010
6:53 pm

Thanks, Patrick.

Mark Bradley

June 16th, 2010
6:55 pm

Matty Ice and Huddy are playing catch

Mark Bradley

June 16th, 2010
6:57 pm

Ryan’s first pitch is wide. But he gets it to the plate on the fly.

Swamp Fox

June 16th, 2010
6:58 pm

Anybody seen Sonny Clusters recently. Was going to DQ later tonight and was curious what the Blizzard of the month was

Elmo

June 16th, 2010
7:00 pm

It will be better Mark.

william

June 16th, 2010
7:09 pm

Life without Chipper and Bobby will be like life without any great manager or player….it goes on. No one thinks about the past in baseball much. Its about whats coming at you right now. Hopefully everybody enjoyed these two through the past seasons…..and guess what they still have this year right? So forget the “pondering life without……” and lets kick butt this year.

gobraves

June 16th, 2010
7:10 pm

i hope tommy is on tonight!!!!!! we need to even the series

Mark Bradley

June 16th, 2010
7:11 pm

John Jaso flies to right to start the proceedings.

DawgDad

June 16th, 2010
7:14 pm

At this point Cox retiring is a far bigger deal than Chipper retiring. Interesting, a Hall of Fame player actually overshadowed by his manager! I wonder if this has ever happened before.

A baseball team lives on; players and managers come and go, regardless of who they are or how great they were. What is relevant for 2011 is who is ultimately on the 2011 roster, not who is playing for the team today. The really great organizations manage the transitions well. Think about it; we all hope the team WITHOUT Chipper and Cox is ultimately BETTER than it has been the past two years. It’s a cycle of life thing, nothing to fret about, and our hopes for a better future do not demean Cox’s and Chipper’s past accomplishments.

Mark Bradley

June 16th, 2010
7:14 pm

Nothing doing for the Rays.

Slick

June 16th, 2010
7:20 pm

“Not my problem.”

Man, Bradley, that resonates more than any other words in this piece. 6 is really gone? 10 is really gone? Wow.