Tuesday, October 12, 2010

So Long, Bobby Cox

In a world of free agency and ever-changing rosters, there aren't a lot of guys who become career employees of a pro sports organization.

That's why so much is being made of Bobby Cox' retirement. The Giants send him off as a loser, beating the Braves in Atlanta to close out their National League Division Series in a fourth consecutive one-run game.

Cox played the series a few cards short of a full deck. The injury-decimated Braves were their own worst enemies, playing shoddy defense and failing repeatedly at key moments. A youthful bullpen that entered the postseason with sterling numbers became pretty ordinary when push came to shove.

The Braves were overmatched and still forced the Giants into a nail-biter of a series. But it must be pointed out that Cox essentially deserted his team in Game 2, getting ejected early in the game, and then let fiery pitcher Derek Lowe talk him into staying in Game 4 one batter too long: Lowe walked Pat Burrell to load the bases during the Giants' game-winning rally.

Cox leaves with the 4th-highest managerial win total in history (he'll probably drop to 5th if Joe Torre sticks around for two or three more years). But he also leaves with a dubious record: nobody's ever been tossed out of more games.

I've never really understood the yin-yang aspect of Cox. Players love him. Journalists have always found him accessible and accommodating. His sportsmanlike gesture after the last out of his career was touching: he stepped out of the Braves dugout and made a point of saluting the celebrating Giants, who returned the favor.

Yet this is a guy who managed to get tossed from 158 games during his career and who often started dropping F-bombs on umpires after ball/strike calls in meaningless game situations. My son and I used to marvel at how heated Cox would get so early in a game, and I sometimes think the boy picked up a bit of a potty-mouth just by watching Cox curse.

The Braves produced some great teams and players under Cox' watch. Let's hope his legacy of longevity (nearly 30 years as manager or GM of the Braves) and success outlasts the memory of all those heave-hos from the umps.

No comments: