He's just suffered through his worst season as manager since 1990, but Bobby Cox does not seem like a man ready to call it quits. In fact, the longtime Braves' Manager looks ready to continue his career for several more years.
A 79-83 record is not what Cox expected in 2006, but for the first time in fifteen years his team finished under .500. Considering all the injuries, it's quite amazing the team was even that close to .500. A 6-21 month of June doomed the team, but instead Cox was able to keep his club mathematically in the race into mid-September.
The Atlanta Braves averaged 95.4 wins between 1991 and 2005, including two seasons shortened by the strike in 1994 and 1995. Take away those two abbreviated seasons, and the Braves averaged 97.9 wins during that span. It was the most remarkable stretch of baseball since the Yankees averaged 97 wins between 1947 and 1958, when they won 8 World Series titles and 10 pennants.
It's funny, really. Bobby Cox turns 66 next May, and people are wondering how long he'll continue. It's a natural question, since he's the second oldest manager in the game (behind Yankees' Manager Joe Torre, who'll turn 67 next July). But it certainly does not seem like Cox has slowed down any, and if anything not making the playoffs seems to have rejuvenated him.
The Braves made a few coaching changes at the end of the season, replacing Pat Corrales (who is 65) and Bobby Dews (who is 67). Now the oldest member of the coaching staff is Brian Snitker, who at 51 takes over as the third base coach. Chino Cadahia, at 47 years old, is the new bench coach, and 38-year-old Eddie Perez is the new bullpen coach.
Injecting some youth on the coaching staff will only help Cox, especially as the Braves move into a new era with Jeff Francoeur and Brian McCann now the core of the franchise. Snitker, Cadahia, and Perez have been in the minor leagues around the young talent, so that will only help Cox deal with players that could be his grandchildren.
The players absolutely love Bobby Cox. They honor Cox's success with tremendous respect. Late in the year when it was clear the team was not going to the playoffs, the players continued to play hard and try to win, and they all said it was because of Bobby Cox. They knew he wasn't giving up on them, so they were not giving up either.
When you have a manager like this, where the players just revere their boss, you will always have a team that is fairly close. By now, General Manager John Schuerholz knows what kind of players play well for Cox, so there's not going to be too many bad apples that infiltrate this roster. These players love the environment, and respect and love their manager, which is always conducive to winning. The alternative is usually destructive in a clubhouse.
Even though the Braves are getting ready to change hands, from Time Warner to Liberty Media, all indications point to Cox staying in his position. The Liberty folks understand how successful this franchise has been, and Cox is one of the main reasons. It's in their best interest to keep the productive management team in place.
Cox has 2171 career victories, fifth best all time. He'll pass Sparky Anderson (2194) next year and will be fourth on the list, right behind Cardinals' skipper Tony LaRussa (2297). So this future Hall of Famer has earned the right to make the call on when to retire.
Sure, if the Braves have a few more sub-.500 seasons, he might be urged to do it a few years earlier than planned. But chances are the team will bounce back next season, and Cox will once again have a team in contention for a playoff spot. He seems more determined than ever to get this team back on top, and he probably won't slow down until he accomplishes that goal.
Bill Shanks is the author of Scout's Honor: The Bravest Way To Build A Winning Team, a look inside the Braves‘ traditional scouting and player development philosophies. He can also be heard regularly on the Braves Radio Network. Email Bill at email@example.com.
34. How long will Bobby Cox continue?
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