Monday was a long day for me, and the conclusion a sad one.
A lot of things I did not understand, how a group of young guys with enough talent to be on a major league teamwith a chance at the World Series in sight possibly fail to show up at the division series play with anything other than whole heart among them.
What I did see was a mighty man, one not so big in stature but in respect not only from his players and team fans but the other team as well. I couldn’t help but think of the might Casey. When the last bat was over, ending the Braves’ season and a chance at the title, among the celebration was a moment of sadness — for Braves Manager Bobby Cox.
The San Francisco Giants showed class when they halted celebration of their division win, to tip their hats, salute, cheer and clap for Cox. Even with smiles on their faces to be on the field with such a giant as Cox, there was a sadness there as well. Cox was much like the might Casey, and that final out in the ninth inning was much for Cox what that last strike was for the mighty Casey. It signaled the end of his career calling the shots from the dugout, the end of his years duking it out with umps, making those last minute shake-ups in line-up which sometimes paid off, and sometimes, like this past weekend, didn’t.
Thus, Turner Field was a bit like Mudville Monday night. Even amongst the celebration, there was little Joy in Atlanta as an era came to an end. But, like for Casey at the end, the stadium buzzed, with chants for one more glimpse of Cox, one more chance to show him how beloved he is to the family that is major league baseball.
Instead of railing at the injustice of it, Cox did what he often did — what felt right to him in the moment. At the urging of his guys, he climbed from the dugout to the field and took his final bow. One met with standing ovation. A short one. Then, he retired to the clubhouse and as a manager.
In press conferences and interviews afterward, Cox made a point to credit his players and staff for his excellent years and many credits. He noted the players for what they did achieve, not what they did wrong. A few in MLB he even called by name, quite an honor coming from the seasoned pro.
He expressed love for Giants manager Bruce Bochy, calling him “one of the best guys in baseball. If we couldn’t win, I’m glad he did.”
Derek Lowe, Braves pitcher, was another Cox mentioned by name. My bet is that if Cox has him on his radar and put him out there, you’d do well to keep an eye on this guy. Cox knows a winner and a true talent when he sees it. If Cox thinks Lowe’s got some good years ahead, I’d trust him.
Nary a player, past or present, could be found to offer an unkind word about Cox. Instead all of baseball, both Braves and from other teams through the years, praise Cox and his steadfast dedication and manner in which he conducted himself on and off the field.
As has been said of the “house that Babe built,” some would argue the Atlanta Braves and their untenable records over the past 25 years are the house that Bobby built. He wasn’t named NL Manager of the Year four times for nothing.
When Cox took over the Braves for good in 1990, they hadn't been to the World Series since 1957-58 when they were still housed in Milwaukee. They made the NLCS in 1969 and '82, but never the series.
In 1991, the Braves led by Cox went to the NLCS every full season from 1991-1999 (the strike shortened the season in 1994). They won five pennants and in 1995 bested the Cleveland Indians in six games to win the World Series. From 1991 to 2005, the Braves won their division title a record 14 years in a row. Counting his few years with the Blue Jays, his teams made it to the post season 16 times.
Like the mighty Casey, Cox swung that final game, knowing the chances on winning the division, with such a young team were slim. But, play to the end he did, and when it was over, it was over. He had a good run, finishing out as few managers had the chance, in the post season.
Although no longer managing, Cox’s contract stipulates that he still has a few years with the Braves organization. Let’s hope his “consulting” is as hands on and upfront as his team managerial skills. Maybe he can work out some of the kinks from the top.
Regardless, I tip my hat to the Giants for the win. They were the better team Monday night. But, I still don’t think they’re the best out there. In the NL I’m rooting for the boys in red.
That said, I was thrilled to learn now-part owner Nolan Ryan is getting a return on his investment in the Rangers. Go Texas! I’d like to see the old war horse work his magic from that side of the club house so the team lives up to its’ legendary location and meets all those Texas sized expectations.
Until then, unless these folks really step it up and inspire me, I’ll catch ya in this column again in the spring when Atlanta reports for training.
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