Moving On: Closing The Book On Bobby Cox

Written by Jonathan on October 17, 2010 – 3:41 pm

So I took a hiatus of about a week and tried not to think too much about the fact that Bobby Cox’s career as a manager in Atlanta is over.  It’s tough to fathom, but it’s a fact and it’s time to move on to the Fredi Gonzalez era.  Before we do that though, it’s only fair to give Cox’s career at the helm of the Braves one last look and throw out his final stat lines.

Total (Braves)
Seasons: 29 (25)
Games: 4508 (3860)
Wins: 2504 (2149)
Losses: 2001 (1709)
Ejections: 158 (3 Postseason)

League Pennants: 5
World Series Championships: 1
League Manager of the Year: 4

So where do we go from here without Bobby?  Your guess is as good as mine.  A lot of people will agree that a new look for the team and a new perspective from the helm is a good thing after awhile.  Fredi won’t be a huge change from having Bobby out there, but there will be some Jumping castles for sale changes here and there that’ll be good for the team.

The time for dwelling on the past is over.  We’ll be breaking down the 2010 season over the next few weeks and then it’s time to get ready for 2011.

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Braves Announce Fredi Gonzalez As Manager

Written by Colin on October 13, 2010 – 2:17 pm

Immediately following Bobby Cox’s farewell press conference today as manager, the Braves announced Fredi Gonzalez as their new manager.

Fredi Gonzalez was most recently manager of the Florida Marlins until being fired halfway through the season this year. In the past months, he’s turned down several managerial interview opportunities. Gonzalez is no stranger to the way the Braves run their ballclub as a former third base coach for the Braves under Bobby Cox.

Joining Gonzalez on the new coaching staff are Brian Snitker (third base) and Roger McDowell (pitching). Terry Pendleton will stay on the staff as first base coach. Eddie Perez (bullpen) will be returning as well. Carlos Tosca (who was with Fredi in Florida) will be the bench coach. Chino Cadahia and Glenn Hubbard have not been offered jobs within the organization. The organization continues to interview candidates for hitting coach.

While it’s sad that the season is over and tough to not think about Cox on the bench next year, I’m glad that Fredi has the gig. He understands the way the Braves’ organization is operated and what makes Atlanta different. He’s not afraid to call out players who aren’t working as hard as they need to be and though he’s not the perfect in-game strategician, nobody is going to be out of reach of the naysayers.

Bobby’s legacy will always be Jumping castles for sale in tact in Atlanta. He has been around seemingly forever and is certainly all I know of Atlanta Braves managers. Fredi has absolutely historically massive shoes to fill, without a doubt. While never the best at in-game strategy, Bobby was beyond loyal to his players. His positive approach and fatherly advice endeared him to his players and to Braves fans across the country. We’ll never forget Bobby’s contribution to his players, the organization, the city of Atlanta, the game of baseball, and to each of our lives. And hell folks, let’s not remember that he’s still around as a consultant for the next five years.

That said: I, for one, welcome our new Fredi overlord.

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Playoff Baseball Comes To Atlanta!!!

Written by Jonathan on October 3, 2010 – 8:28 pm

And the best scenario possible going into the day has happened, folks.  The Braves won, the Padres lost……and the Braves are back in the playoffs!

The Braves will take on the Giants starting Thursday and be in Atlanta for Game 3 on Sunday and Game 4, if we somehow don’t sweep the Giants, on Monday.

Bobby’s not walking off the field for the last time yet!  Today has been a long time coming and the Braves are making one last run for an amazing manager.

Bobby Cox Not Done Yet

Bobby Cox walks off the field after a win to keep the Braves alive on October 3rd, 2010. Photo - Jonathan Torrell

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It All Comes Down To This For Bobby And The Braves

Written by Jonathan on October 3, 2010 – 10:23 am

This isn’t the ideal spot where we, as Braves fans, wanted to be going into the last game of the season.  However, I’ve said all along that it was entirely possible that the result of this season could come down to the final homestand and, in fact, game number 162.

Now I’m not even going to write about the events of the last two games that have landed the Braves in this position because, for one, I was there for all of them and don’t want to think about it any more and, secondly, I’ve read about it endlessly on every website in the world.  But nevertheless, here we are in pretty much a must-win situation.  Let me break down the possibilities for the Braves based on their results today and the Padres results today.

If Atlanta Wins and San Diego Wins there is a three-team tiebreaker for the first time ever.  The Padres and Giants tie for the lead in the NL West and have the same record as the Braves do.  The Padres and Giants will play a one-game playoff to determine the winner of the NL West on Monday.  The loser travels to Atlanta to play a one-game playoff to decide the Wild Card winner on Tuesday.

If Atlanta Wins and San Diego Loses then Atlanta wins the Wild Card and San Diego is eliminated from playoff contention by the Giants.

If Atlanta Loses and San Diego Loses then the Padres come to Atlanta on Monday for a one-game playoff to determine the NL Wild Card winner.

If Atlanta Loses and San Diego Wins then San Diego wins the NL West (tiebreaker head-to-head with San Francisco) and the Giants win the NL Wild Card.  The Braves are eliminated from playoff contention.

So there are the 4 scenarios based on the outcome of two critical games today.  The Braves play first, so once the game is over, all we can do is sit and watch and hope for the best.  If the Braves win, we live to fight at least one more day, so that should be the only task at hand.  In 3 of the 4 possible scenarios, the Braves have another shot, but it’s going to require getting the offense going.

I’m glad we have Hudson on the mound today, even though the prospect of him pitching on three days rest two times in a row is a little scary.  The Phillies are getting their starters ready for the playoffs and pitching Hamels and Oswalt today…..scary, but not impossible.

This is, in fact, the last regular season game in a surely Hall of Fame career for Bobby Cox.  Come on, Braves! It all comes down to this.  Do it for yourselves, do it for the fans, and most importantly….DO IT FOR BOBBY!

Bobby Cox - Tribute Ceremony

Bobby Cox acknowledges the crowd on 10/2 at the Bobby Cox tribute ceremony. Photo - Jonathan Torrell.

We’ll have more pictures from the ceremony up in the next couple of days.  First things first, let’s get our beloved manager to the playoffs.

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Jonny Venters and Bobby Cox Suspended

Written by Jonathan on July 19, 2010 – 6:42 pm

Major League Baseball has decided to issue suspensions to Braves reliever Jonny Venters as well as manager Bobby Cox for “throwing at” Prince Fielder in Saturday night’s game against the Brewers.  Venters has been suspended for four games, Cox for one, in addition to an undisclosed fine handed to Venters.

The official statement made by Bob Watson states that Venters is being suspended for “throwing two consecutive pitches at Prince Fielder” and the Cox is being suspended for “the intentional actions of Venters after a warning had been issued to the pitcher following the first intentional pitch thrown at Fielder”.  Both Venters and Cox, as expected, denied that the pitches were intentional.

There has been lots of speculation as to whether or not the beaning was intentional and as to what the provocation may have been, but as far as I’m concerned, let them play baseball.  Everything will work out, everything will be square and let’s move on with the season.  These suspensions seem a bit of a double-standard to me (Glaus was hit in Sunday’s game after a warning had been issued and no ejection was issued) and I would be saying this if it were the other way around as well.  Let them play baseball!  No one got hurt, no one was fighting.  This is just ridiculous.

Cox is expected to serve his one game suspension on Tuesday against the Padres.  It has not yet been decided if Venters will appeal the suspsension.

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Over Bobby Cox’s Tenure, Bench Production Coincides With Winning

Written by Ben on July 10, 2010 – 6:10 pm

This year, the Braves are in first place despite getting as close to no offensive production from their shortstop and center field positions. Their right fielder, while productive for the first two months, has been a weak spot since the beginning June when Jason Heyward first injured his thumb. To top it off, the right-handed portion of their left field platoon has been injured for a majority of the season. Most teams would be buried if two talents like Nate McLouth and Yunel Escobar flopped in the first half, but not a Bobby Cox team.
With the Braves being hurt by injuries and poor play at many different positions, it is surprising that this offense can still be as potent as it is. The key components to keeping the offense productive have been Omar Infante, Eric Hinske, Brooks Conrad, David Ross, and to an extent, Melky Cabrera.
Hinske has moved into the left-handed role in the left field platoon, and although he has slumped lately, has produced well. The flexibility of both Infante and Cabrera has also helped in covering up the problems the Braves have faced in the outfield.
Cabrera’s best suited for a fourth outfielder and not every day play. Since being removed every day play in left field against righties and in center field against lefties, Cabrera has seen his production increase. After having an awful May, Cabrera has been at least league average in on base abilities since, which is all you can really ask for from a fourth outfielder.
Infante has played everywhere in the field and his play so far this month has made up for Heyward’s absence from the top of the lineup. Infante has had either two hits or two RBI in each of the Braves wins this month.
Last night, both shined in the victory and even went back-to-back to give the Braves the lead. As surprising as that is, it isn’t surprising that the Braves bench has been key in the first half of the season.
In the past, Cox has gotten Lonnie Smith, Brian Hunter, Deion Sanders, Charlie O’Brien, Tony Graffanino, Gerald Williams, Eddie Perez, Randall Simon, Wes Helms, Matt Franco, Julio Franco, Mark DeRosa, Eli Marrero, Wilson Betemit, Charles Thomas, and Ryan Langerhans to all provide offensive value from the bench during the Braves run of 14 straight division titles. Those players never had much more production after, if any, in other places aside from DeRosa and, to a marginal extent, Tony Graffanino. These players weren’t the reasons for the Braves success, but their production gave them a great boost, for sure.
The ability to have flexible players who can fill in and produce when called upon gives a team the ability to adapt when poor play or injuries do occur. Baseball is a random sport, some players have off years when they are expected to perform well and the reasons vary from player to player. This has happened this season and it has happened in the past. While the 90′s Braves avoided the injury bug for the most part, there were cases when players were called upon and they performed even better than expected.
One thing Bobby Cox has always been able to do is get the most out of his fringe starters and bench players. I’ve stated this on numerous occasions in the past and even before this season. Eric Hinske, Matt Diaz, Ross, Infante, Cabrera, and Conrad make for a very productive group that are far from black holes when put into the lineup. Each has a niche whether it is plate patience, defensive flexibility, power, or the ability to hit a pitcher with a certain handedness well.
While it is easy to criticize some of Bobby Cox’s in-game management decisions and bullpen decisions, as I most definitely have done, he puts his backups in positions to succeed. Infante’s career OPS+ is 87, but with the Braves it is right at 100 over 773 plate appearances. In 234 plate appearances over the past two seasons, David Ross has an OPS+ of 124 and has 21 extra base hits. Matt Diaz was nothing until he came to the Braves, and now he has a 111 OPS+ over 1368 PA’s.
The bench management is the most overlooked part of Bobby Cox’s game. The Braves won because of pitching in the 90′s, but what they also got were great performances from unexpected players. Cox knows how to utilize them the correct way and get more out them than any other manager. When looking back on Bobby’s career, there is probably nothing he did better than manage his bench players and fringe starters. Regardless of who he had on the bench, he made sure that they were ready to play and ready to produce, which has helped get the Braves to October in the past and certainly looks like it will help them get there once again this year.

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Chipper Jones Announces He Won’t Announce Anything

Written by Colin on June 17, 2010 – 11:28 pm

Chipper Jones held a brief press conference in front of his locker before tonight’s game, saying he wanted to “put the cork back” in the discussion about his possible retirement after the 2010 season. He won’t address retirement again until the offseason. He wants the focus to be on Bobby Cox and the first place Atlanta Braves.

Let me translate: Chipper’s a class act and wants Bobby to get the credit he’s due. He doesn’t want it to be a “Bobby and Chipper are both leaving, win it for them” line the rest of the season. He wants to win it for Bobby. And yes, Chipper is going to retire if he doesn’t bat .300+ the rest of the season. In all likelihood, this is his last year on the field wearing #10.

Chipper was young and inexperienced when he came to Atlanta. Some have accused him of being arrogant over the years, or fragile. Nobody can ever doubt his love for this team and this city though – this move should cement him as one of the most loyal and selfless players in the free agent era. Chipper’s not worried about the hype surrounding his retirement; he wants Bobby to be the focus. As it should be, frankly. Bobby’s an absolute legend retiring – there will never be another Bobby Cox.

And in all honesty, there is not likely to be another Chipper. Here’s to Larry.

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Bobby Cox Coaching Elsewhere in 2011??

Written by Colin on June 6, 2010 – 10:45 am

In a new video on the Braves’ Resurgence, Tom Verducci was asked if Bobby Cox would stay in Atlanta coaching if the Braves won the NL East. Verducci said no, that Bobby was done for sure with Atlanta but might be coaching somewhere else – used the term “has a lot a baseball left in him.” The interviewer then said “It sure would be weird to see Bobby in a jersey not belonging to Atlanta.”

What the f***, SI?!?

Let me help you out, SI. The Braves are resurgent, yes. Yes, it is due to Prado/Heyward at the top of the lineup. Good job on calling the obvious. But Bobby Cox elsewhere in 2011?!?!?! You should go into the business of smelling what you’re smoking, because other teams would LOVE to buy some.

Bobby will have none of it. He will retire from coaching in 2011. Bobby already set expectations with the wife and he’s smart enough not to break that promise. What I CAN see him doing is farm system development, scouting, or some sort of back office work. Bobby is not only not new to this, he’s damn good at it. You have to remember: he was GM of the Braves before he was manager, putting together the farm system that has been absolutely clutch throughout the years and has produced Chipper, Andruw, Furcal, Giles, McCann, LaRoche, Marquis, Javy Lopez, and some dude by the name of Smoltz, if you’re familiar with him. Bobby will undoubtedly have a role in player development or some gig where he gets to go do whatever he wants. Player development is what Bobby’s really good at.

The ONLY coaching position I could possibly see him taking in 2011 (and yes, I do see him fulfilling his commitment to his wife and retiring) is coaching a Braves farm club. For Bobby it’s not about the money, it’s about doing what he loves in with people he loves. Bobby isn’t Tom Glavine – another team can’t steal his loyalty with a few $$$ thrown around. The Braves are Bobby’s organization from the ground up. Always have been.

And damnit, despite some of the strategic moves he makes being completely different than what I’d do, I’m going to miss the hell out of him.

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BravesBlast 2009 Christmas Wish List

Written by Jonathan on December 24, 2009 – 8:42 pm

Well it’s that time of the year.  The BravesBlast crew is putting together our Christmas wish list for this offseason and 2010.  While 2009 provided a lot of highlights and improvements over the year before, there are still a lot of improvements and changes needed.  So we’ll take a minute from the normal Christmas desires for Playstations and electronics and power tools to talk about one of the things we miss the most this time of year.

5.  Add another setup man. The bullpen for the Braves is going to look a little different come 2010.  Gone are the days of Soriano and Gonzo splitting time in the 8th and 9th innings.  If all goes as planned, the 2010 season will see a lot of Takashi Saito working the 8th and Billy Wagner working closing duty.  If Wagner can come back successfully from his Tommy John surgery and return to his dominant closer form, the Braves will be a lot better off than they have been.  What we’d like to see however is one more quality setup man to help bridge the gap to the 8th/9th duo.  Bobby’s known for utilizing the bullpen a good bit (no thanks to the lack of quality starting pitching we saw before the 2009 season), but it can never hurt to have quality relievers to bail out your starters if need be.

4.  More offensive threats. It’s not a big secret that the Braves lack a big-name offensive threat since the departure of Mark Teixeira.  Let’s put some numbers behind it.  Last season, the Braves hit 149 home runs, ranking 22nd out of the 30 teams in the majors.  First place?  244.  And while the Braves may have the 5th best team batting average in the National League, they have only the 10th best slugging percentage; that equates to the 22nd ranked slugging percentage in all of baseball.  Offense isn’t just hitting however.  The Braves often lack the ability to be aggressive on the base path.  2009 saw all of 58 stolen bases for the Braves; next to last in baseball.  Having a little more power in the lineup however would open up a lot more opportunities for the team.

3.  Solidify the outfield. I’ve had issues with the outfield for the Braves for awhile now.  I still agree with the decision to move Francoeur just not necessarily what we got in exchange.  I’m happy to have McLouth around until we can bring up some of our prospects (which, by the way, we have a very stout outfield in the making if we can keep out prospects around).  I’m still not thrilled about the addition of Melky Cabrera, but I’m happy with some of the other pieces we got out of that trade.  So what’s the answer?  I say try to track down another power-hitting outfielder that can help with that previous item on my wish list.

2.  Find the next Bobby Cox. I know it’s not on the mind much yet, but this is Bobby’s last season managing the Braves and, while the focus needs to be on the season at hand, the future is important as well.  So the question is, who is the best option to fill the shoes of one of the most revered managers in the game?  To be honest, my answer to that question right now is that I just don’t know.  In the end, it needs to be someone that can maintain a positive clubhouse attitude……and get thrown out of games as well as Bobby (though that may just be a personal preference).

1.  Going all the way for Bobby. With it having been decided that 2010 is Bobby’s last year at the helm of the Braves, it’s only right that we send him out with the best season possible.  The ideal situation obviously is to get out there and take it all the way, but let’s start by focusing on what needs to happen in Atlanta.  We need playoff baseball back.  After so many years of getting used to having a few guaranteed October games, things have cooled off a little.  Let’s get Bobby back to the playoffs one last time!

So there you have it.  That’s what we’re looking for out of the organization as Christmas presents to us and the rest of the Braves family.  What’s on your wish list for the Braves?

Happy Holidays Everyone!

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It Wasn’t A Lack Of Power…..

Written by Kent on July 22, 2009 – 7:32 am

….it was the “Axis Of Feeble”

If you’re one of the many fans or national sports media types who still aren’t taking the Braves seriously, there is something you need to know… You are mistaken.

You observe that the Braves have little more thunder in their lineup than they had through the first 3 months of the season, and you see no reason why they’re offensive woes won’t extend into the figurative “second half”. The trouble is… your premise is flawed.

You think the Braves have failed to score runs consistently for most of the year because they have lacked “impact power”. But the truth is that a lack of power was not the primary source of their offensive impotency in the first half. The REAL problem was having not one, not two, but THREE near-automatic outs in the lineup.

You can score plenty of runs without a single 30-homerun hitter. Just ask the ’98 Yankees. If you don’t have 2 or 3 huge bats in the middle of the order, that’s just fine, but you need to have a well balanced lineup full of quality hitters. The problem was… the Braves didn’t have either. There were three “Shaq”-sized holes in their lineup.

For the first 2-3 months of the season Jordan Schafer, Kelly Johnson, and Jeff Francoeur formed an axis-of-feeble. Like a black hole, they sucked the life out of this Atlanta offense. This underachieving trio killed rally after rally, and prevented many others from ever being sparked in the first place. It even managed to turn two of the league’s best starters, Jair Jurrjens and Javier Vazquez, into losing pitchers for a time.

While Atlanta now has more homerun power than many think, and will likely top their first half homerun total by a wide margin, the Braves don’t have multiple mashers in the middle of their lineup. That means that, to some extent, walks, singles, and doubles have to come together in combination in order to score sufficiently and reliably. But when you have THREE members of your lineup who are virtually guaranteed to pull the plug on any potentially productive inning… how can you ever score runs consistently?

You can’t. And they didn’t.

But the Braves plugged one of those holes when they replaced Schafer with all-star Center Fielder, Nate McLouth, in June. And now, in July, they have plugged the other two holes as well. Martin Prado ripped the starting second-base job out of Kelly Johnson’s hands with his recent all-star caliber play. Then, Frank Wren and Co. replaced the floundering Francoeur with the capable right-field platoon of Matt Diaz and Ryan Church (for whom the Braves dealt “Frenchy” to the Mets).

Atlanta’s offense isn’t likely to be among the game’s very best from now until the end of the season. However, I believe this Braves lineup will surprise the naysayers in the second half. Their detractors have failed to recognize the TRUE problem. Therefore, they have yet to notice that it has been fixed. But they will be forced to take note if the Braves continue to climb the ladder in key offensive categories. Atlanta recently jumped from 11th to 8th (out of 16 teams) in the National League in runs scored, and now has the 4th best team batting average in the NL. In my view, smart money says they’ll finish higher than 8th in runs scored by season’s end.

Every single position in the Braves batting order is likely to hit for a solid average, and is capable of delivering 15 homeruns or better. Three positions can deliver 25 or more homeruns. And six of the eight positions are manned by players capable of thumping 40 doubles in a season.

Frank Wren and Bobby Cox now have the lineup they envisioned at the start of spring. There are no 30 homerun bombers… but solid hitters with pop throughout the lineup, 1-8. And more often than not, that will be enough to win behind this Atlanta pitching.

The axis-of-feeble is gone, and better days are ahead.

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Bobby Cox: 2000 Wins In Atlanta

Written by Jonathan on June 9, 2009 – 6:00 am

A walk-off single from David Ross in the bottom of the 15th inning of last night’s game marked the 2000th time in his managerial career that Bobby Cox has entered the locker room victorious.  Having spent 24 of his 28-year career as a manager in the Braves organization, Bobby finds himself fourth on the all-time list for wins by a manager with a single franchise.  He trails only Connie Mack, John McGraw and Walter Alston, who only leads Bobby by 40 games.

A quick congrats to Bobby Cox on reaching this milestone and we look forward to seeing some more wins out of him as he wraps up a great career here in Atlanta.  When he finally walks away from Turner Field and the Braves (which will likely be on his own schedule), he will be remembered as one of the all-time greats for this franchis and in Major League Baseball.

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Bobby Cox Will Never Be Fired

Written by Colin on April 23, 2009 – 2:21 pm

Let’s clear this up – I was having a conversation on Twitter about the Braves and their lack of performance when someone mentioned that – just maybe – if the Braves couldn’t perform with a well-tooled team that maybe it’s time to talk about Bobby Cox.

Say what?!

There aren’t many untouchables in the world of baseball – but Bobby Cox damn well better be one of them. He not just led the Braves to 14 straight division titles, he was GM before he was the Braves’ manager and made many of the moves to build the team he’d later lead to pennant titles. The man is a legend. He’s the originator of the Bobby Cox Waddle – on his way to more ejections than any other manager in the history of the game. He’s solely responsible for the atmosphere in the Braves’ clubhouse that is legendary amongst major leaguers. He’s Bobby Cox.

Bring it on. Tell me how we only won one World Series in 14 years of consecutive division championships. Tell me how we routinely underperform in the postseason. Talk to me about whatever you want. I don’t give a flying crap. Bobby Cox will never ever ever be fired.

Bobby Cox is the reason I love the game of baseball. I grew up watching Bobby and the Braves. He’s the only face left that’s been with the Braves I know through the thick and the thin – and it should stay that way as long as he wants to be here in Atlanta, smoking a stogie and watching over the team he has crafted over the last two decades.

He’s a living legend. He’s said he’ll retire when he’s ready. That may only be another year or two.  Take your kids to the ballpark. Get seats near the dugout. Point Bobby out to them. Listen to him cheer on his players from the dugout, waiting to go out and get tossed instead of an integral player. Land his autograph. He’s a living legend. There haven’t been that many people in baseball like Bobby. He will leave when he’s ready to go spend time with his family on his farm outside the city.

Once he retires, then we’ll talk about his replacement. Not before then.

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