Live from the ballyard: For Bobby Cox, the end really is nigh

He announced his plans to retire more than a year ago, and he and I have talked about it a half-dozen times since. But it didn’t really hit me until after the third game in Philadelphia last week, when the Philly and national writers stopped to shake his hand as they were leaving. Bobby Cox really is going away.

Love him or lampoon him, he has become part of our lives. He has managed the Braves since June 22, 1990, and we pause here to note that Georgia’s football coach on that distant date was Ray Goff, that Georgia’s basketball coach was Hugh Durham and that Juan Antonio Samaranch had not yet announced that the 1996 Summer Olympics were coming to “the city of Atlanta.”

Twenty years in the same job. Fourteen first-place finishes. One World Series title. (And only one, as his critics constantly remind us.) That’s a Hall of Fame resume, but  sometimes I wonder if anyone around here can cut through the blather to see it.

It has become locally convenient to credit Bobby Cox for none of the games the Braves win while debiting him for every single loss. Anyone could have managed Glavine and Maddux and Smoltz, goes the line of thinking, except that no team in the history of sports has ever managed itself. (The Cubs had Mark Prior and Kerry Wood a few years ago — how’d those prized young arms turn out?)

And now we hear that Cox is culpable for his final club’s September slide, which again makes me wonder if I’m seeing the same doings as everyone else. With Chipper Jones hurt and Troy Glaus used up and Jair Jurrjens and Kris Medlen hurt and essentially an empty chair playing center field, does this look like a first-place team?

It isn’t Cox who has dragged the Braves down, I submit, but Cox who propped them up — 99 days in first place — so long. A lesser manager wouldn’t have kept this team buoyant after a poor April, but this manager kept believing in guys and tinkering with his lineup until something finally worked, and suddenly it was Memorial Day and the Braves were in first place.

We can and will quibble over his in-game decisions. That’s part of baseball. (As the famous baseball man Rocky Bridges had it: “There are three things the average American male thinks he can do better than anyone else: Build a fire, run a hotel and manage a big-league baseball club.”) I wouldn’t suggest that Cox never errs when it comes to tactics. Every manager does.

But I would suggest a team of such modest means that has conjured up 24 victories in its final at-bat has overcome both credulity and its modest means. I would suggest that these Braves rose so high for so long — and could well make the playoffs even now — because they were managed by a true believer. Who else would have stuck with Glaus into May?

Maybe Cox shouldn’t have bunted with Martin Prado against the Nationals last month. (He got mad at me for asking.) Maybe he should have redone his rotation to match Philly’s Big Three last week. (Although a long post by Eric Seidman on the pay site Baseball Prospectus examined the decision after the fact and reached no conclusion.) Maybe he should have given up on Rick Ankiel sooner. (But didn’t Ankiel drive in both runs in Washington on Sunday?)

OK, enough. The point here isn’t to try to persuade any of the bashers. If the space that awaits Cox in Cooperstown isn’t evidence enough for those folks, nothing will be. Today’s intent is to say that we soon we will be taking our last look at the greatest manager we’ll ever see. And if you’re too busy griping to give him his due, you have my condolences.

With that, I’ll open the floor for questions, comments and the usual Cox counterarguments. It’s overcast at Turner Field at the moment, but I wouldn’t take that as an omen. I have a positive feeling about the Braves this week, and I’ll be obliged if you join me in keeping the good vibrations happenin’, as it were.

1,048 comments Add your comment

Farnsworth

September 27th, 2010
5:34 pm

I will miss him.

Mark Bradley

September 27th, 2010
5:35 pm

Me, too, Farnsy.

Master of the Obvious

September 27th, 2010
5:38 pm

This is the longest death march since Baatan.

If you are a .500 team over the last 2 months of the season, can’t hit above .200 as a team, have a pitching staff in shambles and lose multiple “must win” series to the worst teams in the league, you DO NOT belong in the playoffs.

like sewer water, Braves seeking their own level.

A.J.

September 27th, 2010
5:40 pm

My childhood was spent watching him manage my favorite baseball team, and with him retiring it marks an end to my child hood,so to speak. I will truly miss him. Bobby Cox, you sir are the Man!!

Sonny Clusters

September 27th, 2010
5:41 pm

We shed a little tear when we read that. The part about the empty chair playing center field was pretty good. What will become of Chino Cadahia when Bobby is gone?

Sonny Clusters

September 27th, 2010
5:44 pm

It is raining where we are and we bet it will be raining where you are pretty soon. We hope Bobby will have time to use his rainy night lineup. Is that rain coming from the left or the right?

Sonny Clusters

September 27th, 2010
5:45 pm

Bringing up nose picking after a nice article like that is something we regret doing but the really smart baseball managers are scratchers, not pickers.

JRW7

September 27th, 2010
5:46 pm

BOBBY you are still my favorite MLB manager, thanks for the memories, best of luck, and may GOD bless you.

Wade Blasingame

September 27th, 2010
5:48 pm

It just ain’t gonna seem the same in 2011. Thanks Bobby for all you have done.

Sonny Clusters

September 27th, 2010
5:49 pm

Who’s laughing now? “A lot of these guys have never been to the playoffs,” … “I can tell them how much fun it is. All the games are totally different than a regular season game. I can’t wait to get back there.” – Jeff Francoeur

Jeff’s going to get a ring.

Milt Famey

September 27th, 2010
5:53 pm

What are three things that most men think they could do better than any other man? Build a campfire, make love and manage a major league baseball team. I laugh every time I read these criticisms of a future HOF manager by the everyday fan. It’s funny because every baseball professional heaps praise on Bobby Cox.
I think he’s done a heckuva job this year given our injuries and unusual slumps (which are of course TP’s fault according to Joe Fan)

Herschel Talker

September 27th, 2010
5:55 pm

MB:

There you go again. “does this look like a first-place team?”

But just last week during the Philly series you said that “the best two teams in the NL are playing.” So you tout your rose-colored glasses stance, and then when they collapse, you absolve Bobby of all blame by saying it’s not a first place team. This disgusts me.

HT

Milt Famey

September 27th, 2010
5:59 pm

MB, What’s the weather down there? We don’t need Hanson to get interrupted and lose his start after a couple of innings. Maybe a total rainout would be better with Hanson pitching Tues and Sun, huh?

SR

September 27th, 2010
6:00 pm

Never been a Cox hater though one could always argue (correctly) that he plays a slumping or over the hill player for far too long. Now Wren on the other hand, that’s a different story…..

NCBravesFan

September 27th, 2010
6:02 pm

Herschel: last week at the beginning of their series, did the Braves & Phils have the two best records in the NL?

Do the Braves currently look like a first place team to you?

bascogcjs

September 27th, 2010
6:02 pm

I can’t believe Nate’s playing LF tonight.
If I were a Marlin, I would stretch every base hit to lf
an extra base.

Blue Fox

September 27th, 2010
6:03 pm

Mark, I agree, the Braves have reached this point in the season with “smoke & mirrors” instead of raw talent (compare the line-up with the Phillies), and Cox the meister has had one of his best seasons as manager with manipulating them.

PJ

September 27th, 2010
6:03 pm

Another worthless article from someone who never gets it right.

Mark Bradley

September 27th, 2010
6:04 pm

It’s very dark, Milt Famey. And the grounds crew just put the tarp back on the field

bascogcjs

September 27th, 2010
6:05 pm

Poor Diaz, a career .300 hitter, and he gets to play about one and a
half games a week.

Sir Stealth

September 27th, 2010
6:05 pm

Mark, the problem with a lot of this description is that you are crediting the anonymous people who comment on your internet blog as the pulse of Atlanta and Braves fans. I appreciate all of the added online content and understand that reporting has to adjust to cater to this audience, but no article about Bobby Cox’s legacy or appreciation among fans should be soiled by the skewed segment of “fans” who comment on this site. I personally don’t know and wouldn’t respect anyone who doesn’t appreciate just how great of a manager Bobby has always been, and I know a lot of Braves fans. The “Thanks Bobby” movement and the random tokens of appreciation such as the Bobby Cox cornfield display are much more representative of what Braves fans and real Atlantans think of Bobby. I would hate for your “mixed feelings” evaluation to actually creep into legitimacy because you got that notion from reading your own blog comments.

Steve

September 27th, 2010
6:05 pm

Great article. I remember when Ted Turner was in the dugout. Bobby Cox deserves all the credit in the world. There will never be a manager that has fourteen first place finishes. To those who criticize Bobby Cox for not winning more title, anything can happen in a seven game series. If the Braves don’t make the playoffs this year, it won’t be due to Bobby Cox, but to Frank Wren’s poor personnel decisions.

NCBravesFan

September 27th, 2010
6:06 pm

I like Bobby and appreciate his many contributions to the Braves organization and the city of Atlanta. It will be sad watching this era come to an end, but I do think it is time for a new voice and fresh perspective at the top.

Phillies, Class of the NL

September 27th, 2010
6:07 pm

MB,

If you wanted to write for a real sports city like Philadelphia you would be welcomed with open arms – I enjoy reading your stuff.

Herschel Talker – you are an IDIOT. The Braves had the second best record in the NL when MB wrote that. What do you not understand? Put down the moonshine.

Phillies, Class of the NL

September 27th, 2010
6:08 pm

Hershcel Talker, your stupidity annoys me, it truly does.

Mark Bradley

September 27th, 2010
6:09 pm

Raining as we speak

Not Disappointed!

September 27th, 2010
6:11 pm

Mark, you are really bring this to a close. Wow, I really don’t believe it. Kind of sad. Good reporting friend.

Danny Weed

September 27th, 2010
6:11 pm

So Bobby gets none of the credit for when the Braves win and all of the blame for when they lose. The man wouldn’t have it any other way and that’s why he’ll be missed by every player that ever played for him and every fan that’s ever rooted for or against his team.

Bob Horner hates rain

September 27th, 2010
6:17 pm

been raining in Douglasville for 90 minutes….

UGA ALL THE WAY

September 27th, 2010
6:22 pm

Bobby is and will ALWAYS be one of the GREATS. He will be missed!!!! Honestly Mark, whom do you think will take over after Bobby, im hoping Gonzalez but who knows really?

UGA ALL THE WAY

September 27th, 2010
6:23 pm

nicely put D. Weed

JC Bravo

September 27th, 2010
6:23 pm

Nigh? This is America, 2010.

J-Man

September 27th, 2010
6:23 pm

I will miss Cox, This season is over, we just ran out of bullets in the war. This team has no heart and cannot rise up for Cox against the Nationals. We would have to go 5-1 in order to get in and I just don’t see it. I wish you could have wrote a retraction for that 8 reasons article, because it seems the team came unhinged after that. Disappointment is in the air and I’m sad.

norman

September 27th, 2010
6:23 pm

Bradley- Give me three names that you think will be in the running for the next Braves manager.

Q3, Griffin, GA

September 27th, 2010
6:23 pm

Bobby Cox….a class act in good times and bad. You are right…his likes are rare and we will not soon see the quality manager this gentleman represents. Hopefully we will see him work his magic in as the NL Wild Card. Thanks for a great run Bobby.

Brent

September 27th, 2010
6:25 pm

Anyone who doesn’t believe Bobby Cox is a great manager simply knows nothing about baseball. There should be no debate here. Great piece Mark, just please don’t encourage the Bobby bashers.

JC Bravo

September 27th, 2010
6:26 pm

Nigh? What is this, 1600 England?

Bob Horner

September 27th, 2010
6:27 pm

Very nice column MB…good stuff..what I won’t be able to believe is seeing Bobby next year wearing a suit instead of the Braves unie..now THAT will be weird…the Braves are keeping him on payroll for 5yrs in a consultant capacity so I assume he’ll get some TV time wearing a suit..??? Go Braves..!!!!

http://radar.weather.gov/ridge/radar.php?rid=FFC&product=N0R&overlay=11111111&loop=yes

the Braves will paly ball but not at 7:10pm….

Mark Bradley

September 27th, 2010
6:29 pm

Fredi Gonzalez. Fredi Gonzalez. Also Fredi Gonzalez

UGA ALL THE WAY

September 27th, 2010
6:31 pm

ha, could not agree with you more Mark, but with all this talk going around that they are not persuing Gonzalez enough, im afraid he may go to the cubs or maybe mets?

BDK

September 27th, 2010
6:31 pm

Anyone who discredits What Bobby Cox has done for this franchise must have forgotten the 70’s and 80’s years of futility.I have enjoyed this ride. I just don’t like the way it is ending. It’s not time to head into the tunnel. Let’s hope we see some turner field magic so Bobby can get one last chance in the playoffs.

Bob Horner's opinion on next yrs mgr

September 27th, 2010
6:34 pm

ummm…I think they go with Terry Pendelton…he was the MVP for the Braves back in 1991..(I think?..I don’t google I use my lame brain) he’s paid his dues as the hitting coach…he’s a Brave..and I think the guys would bust their tails for him…and also the mgr that got fired by the Marlins would work too..he’s a Latino American and a good “baseball guy” I think the players would respond well to him also….

AMERICA'S TEAM and STILL IS

September 27th, 2010
6:36 pm

here’s the Braves winning the world series, what a great memory

http://www.youtube.com/v/W0DvWtLVqos?fs=1&hl=en_US

Sonny Clusters

September 27th, 2010
6:37 pm

What’s the lineup?

Ghost of Gil Garrido

September 27th, 2010
6:41 pm

Mark: your article is spot on. Except that it assumes that the knuckleheads who spend all their time commenting on Bobby at an ajc blog – - a bunch of chattering monkeys living in their mom’s basement – - is any true measure of real Braves fans. (And, yeah, I guess I’m now one of those knuckleheads.) Real Braves fans know that only Bobby could have got this team this far. Through the years, he’s done it with big payrolls and small payrolls, with washed up vets and untried rooks, with All-Stars and no-names.

I like this bunch of Braves and hope they have enough in the tank for one last push. At any rate, it’s been a great ride. Thanks, Bobby.

UGA ALL THE WAY

September 27th, 2010
6:41 pm

I would have to disagree with T.P. as manager. Sorry to say but i’d really rather him leave truthfully. I don’t want to see him destroy our team as manager as much as he has destroyed our team @ hitting. As Mark put it: GONZALEZ,GONZALEZ,GONZALEZ!

Sonny Clusters

September 27th, 2010
6:46 pm

We was reading where both McLouth and Ankiel are in tonight’s lineup. Guess which one is batting higher in the lineup . . .

alaska Dawg

September 27th, 2010
6:49 pm

Great post Mark. I have to say that you are objective and you always shoot from the hip. Anyone who says Bobby is not a Hall of Famer is quite frankly an idiot. Go Braves and dare I say it Go Dawgs!

collegeballfan

September 27th, 2010
6:50 pm

Name me another manager that could lose the heart of his team, Chipper Jones, and two starting pitchers, Medlen and Jurrgens, and take 2 of three from Philly last week?

Bobby Cox excelled at one very hard chore, managing people. The players play the game, not the managers. The managers manage the people on the team. And Cox is one of the great managers in the long history of the game.

The Braves never had a chance at the Division crown this season. The reason? With apologies of Ernest Thayer as I borrow his lines:

“But Flynn preceded Casey, as did also Jimmy Blake,
And the former was a hoodoo, while the latter was a cake;”

That is the Braves this year, to many hoodoos and one to many cakes.
If you must blame someone, blame the owner’s wallet. But do not blame Cox. He did a wonderful job with what he had.

The run by Cox, first as General Manager, and then as Manager, will not be seen in this city ever again.

And we will always have Skip’s call ringing in our ears: “Braves win!,
Braves win!, Braves win!, Braves win!, Braves win!”

Thanks for the many memories Bobby.

Fed Up With Wren (Again)

September 27th, 2010
6:51 pm

My name says it all. Bobby has done a phenomenal job this year getting the team this far. The offensive pieces are just not there (thanks once again, Frank). Holding out hope that the Braves will find a spark and score some runs in the final six games to get to the promised land.

Great blog today, Mark. Thanks, Bobby, for all the great memories, wins, playoff appearances, and last but not least, a World Series win!