33. How long will Bobby Cox stay as manager?

As Bill Shanks continues to look at the top questions facing the Braves, he examines the future of Manager Bobby Cox. How long will the future Hall of Famer remain as the Braves' skipper.

For so many people Bobby Cox is the only manager they've ever known with the Braves. He has become an institution, a man synonymous with the team he loves so much.

But the fact is Cox will turn 65 years old next May, and just like with anything in society, people wonder when a man that age will take a step back and do something else or simply retire.

It's a shame, really, since Cox remains at the top of his profession. Age should not be a reason for someone who is one of the best at what they do to consider stepping aside, but that seems to be life in general.

Cox himself said last week after he won the National League's Manager of the Year award that he was taking his future one year at a time, and that while he had thought about retirement, he didn't see any reason why it should be anytime soon.

And why should he think about it right now? People that turn 65 don't melt away immediately. Heck we had a President who was 69 when he took office back in 1981, and he did a pretty good job for eight years. There's no reason Cox should step aside right now.

What in the heck would he do? He's been at this managing stuff since the early-70s. Managing is in this man's blood. He would probably be like Bear Bryant, and drop dead a month after he retired. Bobby Cox is all baseball; it is his life.

Cox will probably stay around for at least three or four more seasons as manager. I don't see him leaving after next season or the next. These young players that came up in 2005 rejuvenated him, and he'd be foolish not to want to stick around and see what kind of team he's going to have as these kids mature.

But it is not illogical to speculate on who might replace Cox when he does finally decide to hang up his spikes. There are two candidates on his coaching staff that are obvious.

Terry Pendleton is probably the easiest choice. He's been on Cox's staff for four years now, and as a former Brave, he'll probably have the upper hand. Pendleton interviewed with the Phillies last year and with the Devil Rays this fall for their opening, so there's a chance someone will come and hire him away before Cox retires. But if Pendleton is still around, he'll probably be the top candidate.

And third base coach Fredi Gonzalez will also be a candidate, but like Pendleton, it might be unlikely that he won't be hired away before then. Gonzalez interviewed for two openings this winter, and will remain one of the top managerial prospects in the game.

One name to keep in mind is Brian Snitker, who will manage the Richmond Braves in 2006. Snitker has been in the organization since 1977 as a player, coach, or minor league manager. He's got over 1000 wins as a skipper in the system, and he's the most respected manager in the organization. The Braves think highly of Snitker, and particularly if Pendleton and Gonzalez leave for other jobs in a few years, Snitker could have the upper hand on the Atlanta job.

But for now, there is no discussion. Cox is the manager, and there's little reason for him to step down anytime soon. He loves his job, and he's good at it. That's hard to walk away from. Just put yourself in his shoes and ask the question, "Why would I leave?"

You probably wouldn't want to either.

Bill Shanks is the author of Scout's Honor: The Bravest Way To Build A Winning Team, a look inside the Braves‘ traditional front office philosophies. Email Bill at thebravesshow@email.com.

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