A ‘great ride’ ends for Bobby and his Braves, and we applaud

We'll never see his likes again. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

We'll never see his likes again. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

The great manager said it after Game 3: “We’re not the best team in baseball, OK?” But you know what these Braves were?

Pound for pound, they were the most entertaining aggregation we’ve seen around here. And you know what the great manager also called this band of Braves? “The hardest-working team I’ve ever had.”

It ended for both parties Monday, for Bobby Cox and his final ballclub. It ended because these diminished Braves weren’t good enough to deliver big hits or field their positions in the crucible of October. It ended not because they didn’t give it the ol’ professional try after the abject disappointment of Sunday’s Game 3. On the contrary, it ended because a true professional pitcher talked the departing manager into letting him go a batter too far.

Seventh inning, one out. Working with a one-run lead, Derek Lowe walked Aubrey Huff, then yielded a swinging-bunt single to Buster Posey. It was just the second hit the Giants had mustered, a point Lowe surely made to Cox when the manager paid a visit. Indeed, Lowe had begun lobbying when Cox was still on the infield grass. After a short dialogue, the manager patted his pitcher on the flank and let him stay.

And Lowe walked Pat Burrell on five pitches to load the bases.

That was it for Lowe, and that one final walk was enough to lose the game. Such was this team’s margin for error. Speaking of which …

Alex Gonzalez threw high to second on Juan Uribe’s RBI grounder, enabling the bases to stay loaded with the game tied. And then, after Jonny Venters struck out Aaron Rowand, the No. 8 hitter Cody Ross — considered a target of interest for the Braves back in July — drove the go-ahead single into left field.

Being the Braves, they tried to give us a finish, as Ernie Johnson Sr. would say. Rick Ankiel walked with one out in the ninth. Then Eric Hinske, who was very nearly the hero of Game 3, walked. The winning run was aboard. But Omar Infante struck out, and it was down to Melky Cabrera, which tells us something about this season and this roster. Cabrera grounded to Juan Uribe at third, and this fighting club was finally finished.

And then something wonderful happened. Even as the Giants were celebrating at the center of Turner Field, the crowd started chanting, “Bobby! Bobby!” And the great manager, his heart surely breaking, emerged from the dugout to tip his cap and acknowledge the cheers, and then you looked back at the happy Giants and you saw them …

Standing and applauding Bobby Cox.

Said Chipper Jones, who has seen many things: “That was classy.”

People on the outside don’t understand the reverence in which this manager was held in this game. His critics see him as the guy who only won one World Series, but there can be different levels of success — yes, even in professional sports. And Bobby Cox’s last act was his greatest.

He took a team that lost Chipper Jones, Martin Prado, Kris Medlen and Jair Jurrjens along the way and led the National League East for 99 improbable days. He squeezed 91 victories and a wild card out of one of the weakest rosters ever to grace a postseason diamond. And he made the Giants work like crazy to win three games by one skinny run apiece. If you don’t think that’s managing … well, I don’t know what to tell you.

But his team knew, and the winning team in this Division Series knew, too. These Braves weren’t the best team in baseball or even, in terms of aggregate talent, the 12th-best, but they got to October and they gave it a go, and they gave us 26 wins in the final at-bat along the way.

Afterward Cox addressed his final team, or he tried. Said Chipper: “There wasn’t a dry eye in the place. Out of all the teams he’s had, he’s got a soft spot for this club.”

And what did Cox actually say? “Maybe 10 words. He couldn’t get it out. He started to break down.”

Before the game, I was talking with Reid Johnson, a fan from Smyrna, and he called this whole season “a great ride.” And that’s what it was, from Jason Heyward’s Opening Day home run to the final out of Game 4. It was a great ride, a wild ride, a sentimental journey with the best manager we’ll ever see. That it ended Monday night changes nothing. It was, and will forever be, a season to remember and cherish.

Thanks, guys. Thanks, Bobby. Go in peace.

785 comments Add your comment

zack

October 11th, 2010
11:02 pm

will miss ya bobby

Sir Stealth

October 11th, 2010
11:02 pm

Thanks Bobby: Greatest Manager of all time

zack

October 11th, 2010
11:02 pm

bilbo

October 11th, 2010
11:03 pm

GT2010

October 11th, 2010
11:03 pm

THANK YOU BOBBY!!

Gary

October 11th, 2010
11:03 pm

Thank you Bobby!!!!

RichieRich86

October 11th, 2010
11:04 pm

BOBBY DON’T GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! This can’t be it for the Greatest Manager Of All time!!! I LOVE YOU BOBBY!!!!!

rob

October 11th, 2010
11:04 pm

farewell bob

reality check

October 11th, 2010
11:04 pm

Goodbye Bobby Cox…Don’t look back!

Brandy

October 11th, 2010
11:04 pm

Thanks for teaching me to love the game Bobby! You also taught me that you need to support your players (or in my case students). I hope you know how much you were loved in Atlanta, and will truely be missed:)

Mitchell

October 11th, 2010
11:04 pm

Sir Stealth

October 11th, 2010
11:02 pm

Thanks Bobby: Greatest Manager of all time

Whoa. That’s a stretch.

Marie

October 11th, 2010
11:04 pm

Congrats Bobby! You will be missed!

nolerick

October 11th, 2010
11:07 pm

Greatest Braves manager!

extremus

October 11th, 2010
11:07 pm

Congratulations on a terrific career, Bobby Cox. Thanks for a lot of wonderful memories.

San Francisco Dawg

October 11th, 2010
11:07 pm

As a Giant fan I always feared playing against the Braves because of Bobby Cox…one of the greatest ever to manage…he got the most from his players and they loved playing for him…

Texas

October 11th, 2010
11:07 pm

Thanks Bobby!!!!

tim

October 11th, 2010
11:07 pm

I already miss Bobby. Thanks for taking us all on one last magical ride. Enjoy your retirement, and see you around the old ballyard.

Raleigh

October 11th, 2010
11:07 pm

Well said Mark! Godspeed Bobby! Thanks for the memories! This team was my favorite too.

Matt G.

October 11th, 2010
11:07 pm

Well said, Mr. Bradley. Reading you all season has been an absolute treat.

Hopefully we’ll be able to move past the bitter emotions of the moment and remember what a great ride this was.

JJ

October 11th, 2010
11:08 pm

Thirteenth.

Thanks for all the memories, Bobby.

Fredi Gonzalez – come on down!!!!

MuchRespectBobby

October 11th, 2010
11:08 pm

Thanks Bobby for a great run in Atlanta. It was a tough loss and hate to see an Atlanta hero go. You helped make baseball into the game that millions of people love to watch. Here’s to hoping you have a great retirement and occasionally make it back to the Ted to cheer on the Braves. Much respect and love!

Venice Jim

October 11th, 2010
11:09 pm

Well said, Mark…

bravesfanCT

October 11th, 2010
11:09 pm

Thanks Bobby for a wonderful career. At least our beat up team got him back to the postseason one last time. Would have liked to see what this team could do at full strength, but that will have to wait until next season. I, for one, will never forget the class shown by the Giants following the game.

Baseball Girl

October 11th, 2010
11:09 pm

Thank you BOBBY for two+ decades of memories. This is the greatest sport in the world, and it is better because of you.

Here Comes Bream

October 11th, 2010
11:09 pm

So long Bobby Cox, its been a great run. You are definitely one of the all time best and Atlanta thanks you for everything. I was 11 years old when you took the team from worse to first and 30 years old watching you manage your last game ever. Thanks for everything!

schlag

October 11th, 2010
11:09 pm

Bradley, do you think Bobby wins Manager of the Year?

Reid Adair

October 11th, 2010
11:10 pm

These guys probably worked harder for Bobby than any team in his Braves’ history. Frank Wren gave Cox a disaster of a roster for his final year, and they scrapped to make the playoffs and even won a game.

The haters will say good riddance and other nonsense, but then they’ll get to see how Wren screws the organization again.

God Bless You, Bobby Cox. You’ll be missed.

LakeDawg

October 11th, 2010
11:11 pm

Sorry Bobby, I won’t miss you.

J Clay

October 11th, 2010
11:11 pm

Too bad it had to end prematurely…They should have won this series….

Joe Cobb

October 11th, 2010
11:11 pm

Thanks Bobby.

You mademe appreciate baseball.

1 out of 15 ........

October 11th, 2010
11:11 pm

That’s right people … “The Greatest Manager of All Time” was 1 out of 15 in winning the big prize. And the scariest part was 14 of them were IN-A-ROW!! And you mental midgets call him the greatest of all time??? That’s that’s rich! And so many of you are saying #15 was “the best manager of all time’s” BEST managing effort yet????? Wow, how come they won’t be hoisting the coveted trophy in 2010?

steve brown

October 11th, 2010
11:11 pm

The irony is that Cox is flawed and his mishandling of Conrad the past few days soiled a Hollywood storybook ending but did shine a light on why we only have 1 World Series Championship in all these years. Conrad is owed an apology.

PO'd

October 11th, 2010
11:11 pm

Whatever, Bradley. He had a great career, but he was handed more talent than most managers dream of for the better part of two decades, and he underachieved when it came time for the games that count. I’m sorry you don’t like facts and the truth, but Bobby is overrated.

florida falcon

October 11th, 2010
11:12 pm

It was a good run, he fought the good fight. Thanks for the many great years. The Braves golden era is officially over. A run that started in 1991, goes quietly into history in 2010. Someday we will all look back and reminise about Cox, the pitching stalwarts, guys name Blauser, Lemke, Gant, The crime dog etc…… The announcers Skip, The professor, many others. Superstation TBS and true Atlanta fans. I have a tear as I type this. God speed to you all.

urban redneck

October 11th, 2010
11:12 pm

Congrats Bobby! Thanks for all you have given up for this team.

And hats off to the Giants too. That was the classiest thing I have ever seen in baseball. Speaks loads about their team and Bobby.

Thanks for making it interesting. It’s been fun.

Larvell Blanks

October 11th, 2010
11:12 pm

Mark, you’re not even going to mention Alex Gonzalez loafing on the error by Renteria, not running down the line, and thus absolutely killing any chance for a rally in the eighth? I thought we got rid of Escobar because of this stuff. Thanks, Alex, for costing us this series.

sjs1959

October 11th, 2010
11:12 pm

Next stop for Bobby Cox is Cooperstown.

coach smith

October 11th, 2010
11:13 pm

This team played with MORE HEART than any Braves team I’ve ever seen! If they had had Chipper, Prado, Wagner, Jurjens, Medlen, Saito, O’Flarhety, THIS SERIES WOULD NOT HAVE BEEN CLOSE!

These Braves and us Braves fans should hold our heads high for the effort they put forward all the while understanding that the future is sooooooo bright (8 rookies in the 25 man postseason roster)!

I am 30 years old so Bobby Cox has been the manager for the better part of my life, I will miss him but the CHOP must go on

Go Braves! Go Bobby! Thank you guys!!!!!

Packer Ed

October 11th, 2010
11:13 pm

Bobby, hope you have a nice and wonderful retirement. May we please announce Fredi Gonzalez as our new manager tomorrow? Frank Wren, get some more money in your checkbook for next year!

Jinxo1964

October 11th, 2010
11:14 pm

Thanks for a great season and a great 2-plus decades, Bobby!! Your respect for the game is beyond comparison.

Bryan

October 11th, 2010
11:14 pm

Bobby…thanks for everything you have brought to this city! You taught us all how to believe, how to never give in, how to fight, how to never give up…I can go on and on. You are truly a class act and will be missed greatly! Enjoy the good life and God Bless You!

fromminustoplus

October 11th, 2010
11:14 pm

Goodbye Bobby Cox!!! You overstayed your welcome, plus you were a sorry manager. You should take sorry washed up Chipper Jones and a few others with you so we can rebuild. Now we can watch real teams play real baseball.

Larry

October 11th, 2010
11:14 pm

The irony of it all…T

The manager who so often sacrificed the best interest of the team to stay loyal to a player loses the last game of his career doing the same darn stubborn thing. He’s consistent to the bitter end…I’ll give him that!

I have officially changed his record in the last game of the postseason from “1-14″ to “1-15.”

MitchC

October 11th, 2010
11:14 pm

Mark, that was a very eloquently written article by a very talented writer. Thank you. I know we havent always agreed about the Braves.. but.

You are right about everything you said. Considering all the injuries, it’s amazing the Braves even made it to postseason.

The last day of the baseball season is always difficult for me. This year.. it’s surreal. Bobby isnt the Braves manager anymore. He’s been the Braves manager for half my life. I’m 40 years old.

He built this team from the doormat into a winner, and then, even when they stepped back a bit, he always kept them competitive.

Even though he wont be on the field next year,. Bobby is a Brave forever.

Goodbye, Bobby, have a great retirement. You deserve it, and one day, you deserve a place in the Hall of Fame.

birdie

October 11th, 2010
11:14 pm

THANKS FOR THE MEMORIES, BOBBY. YOU ARE A TRUE HERO AND AN ALL AROUND GREAT GUY. WE WILL MISS SEEING YOU IN THE DUGOUT AT “THE TED”.

Jeff

October 11th, 2010
11:15 pm

As I watched the final out of tonight’s game, it was surreal… seeing Cox turn and trudge back to the clubhouse one final time, it finally hit me… for the first time since I was a sophomore in college, there will be a different manager for the Braves when they take the field next spring. The game had a disappointing ending, but this Braves TEAM and this Braves SEASON were one of the most memorable I’ve ever had.

Yeah, the 1997 team or the 2003 team went to the playoffs, but I can’t tell you a dang thing about those years… heck, I’m not even sure who some of our players were during those seasons. But I will remember this season for a long time to come, from Conrad’s walk-off grand slam to beat the Reds to Troy Glaus’ flaming hot streak in June to Chipper’s agonizing injury in Houston to Huddy’s gritty starts in the dog days of August to seeing Medlen and Venters become solid pitchers before our eyes to seeing Heyward blossom into a true major league star to Wagner lighting it up during the stretch run to the playoff-clinching win last Sunday to Ankiel’s moon shot in San Francisco…. guys, whether you like Bobby Cox or the Braves or not, this year was a HELLUVA ride.

Congrats Bobby on a great career… we will miss you dearly in Atlanta. And thanks, Mark Bradley, for a poignant and well-written tribute tonight… very well said.

Good luck next year, Braves, and Godspeed Bobby… we will miss you!!!

bill

October 11th, 2010
11:15 pm

Bobby leaves a hard act to follow. Thanks for 25 years.

coach smith

October 11th, 2010
11:15 pm

“And on this winning night (in our hearts anyway) so long everybody”

Okay

October 11th, 2010
11:15 pm

Thank You Bobby! We shoulda won this series and I have no doubt we would’ve won it with a healthy Chipper, Prado, JJ and Medlen. The Phillies will make short work of the Giants and will unfortunately win the WS in the end. A few more pieces here and there and we can challenge the Phillies next year. Just don’t make Terry Pendleton manager!

Thank You Bobby Cox and thank you 2010 Atlanta Braves!

GO FALCONS!!

P. Bull Terrier

October 11th, 2010
11:16 pm

Classy move by the Giants to take a moment to give Bobby Cox a well deserved round of applause in the middle of their celebration. That, as much as anything, shows how much respect Bobby has earned around the league. We’re going to miss him more than we realize.