Bobby Cox started managing the Atlanta Braves when he was 37 years old. He’s 69 now and in his last and maybe most rewarding season. Cox’s first few seasons were not at all representative of what was to come. The Braves were 266 – 323 in his first stint, but he paved the way for Joe Torre to come in and succeed with Atlanta, winning the division in 1982 and finishing second in 1983 and 1984. . From 1982 – 1985, Cox managed the Blue Jays, taking Toronto to his first playoffs in his final season with 99 wins. Always with a keen eye for talent, Cox left the dugout for the front office and rejoined the Braves as general manager. One must wonder if he had any idea of the run that was to come next. Cox acquired Tom Glavine, Steve Avery, David Justice, Chipper Jones and Ron Gant as GM before firing then manager Russ Nixon to take over that role.
Atlanta won the next 14 consecutive National League East titles, an unparalleled run by any team in modern American sports. The easy-going (save for when he would flip a switch and argue with umpires to back and inspire his players) and likable former Yankee minor leaguer not only had an eye for talent, he knew how to get the most of that. Front office personnel and coaches long thought to be the keys to the Braves’ success came and went, but the Braves kept winning (and those coaches’ and front office members’ teams have not had the same success). He was Bill Belichick before Bill Belichick. And now, in the season that Cox had previously acknowledged would be his last, he took a roster with a unique blend of youth and experience, not to mention plenty of injury issues, and won his first ever Wild Card – on the last day of the season. It’s not an easy playoff path in front of the team, but I would expect that most fans of the game over the last 20 years would have no problem seeing Bobby Cox leave the game on top.
Atlanta Braves manager Bobby Cox joined Buck Belue on WCNN in Atlanta to discuss what the Braves need to do to win against the Giants, an exciting final week to the season, familiarity with the Giants, opening game starter Derek Lowe’s performance down the stretch in the regular season, whether he considers the Braves underdogs and making final playoff roster decisions.
On what the Braves need to do to win their NLDS series:
“We need to pitch good, just like the Giants. Both teams will need to pitch good. Both teams have good starting pitching. Timely hitting. It’s not going to be an explosive series, at least I don’t think. It will be tightly fought. We don’t want to make any miscues either.”
On the final weekend of the season:
“It came down to the last ballgame, almost the last out. It was a one run game and “Wags” (Billy Wagner) struck out the last batter. He struck out four of four actually. He threw a great ninth inning. Billy had a great year for us and we are looking forward to a great playoffs out of him. You would love to be in three or four games earlier, but if it’s going to come down the last game, it couldn’t have been a more exciting game.”
On if they have any familiarity with the Giants:
“A little bit. We opened up out there. Their opening day was with us and that was the first part of April and then we saw them later on. We’ve had scouts watching them. We have our own reports. We have video, all of that. We’ll have a good idea of what we are doing on the mound pitching to them, but you still have to execute the pitches, make the pitches. It’s their ballpark. It’s a little different than ours. There’s a zag here and jig there. The outfield is a little different. Ours is pretty conventional. It’s still a baseball park. The mound is 60 feet away, the bases 90 and it’s still the game of baseball.”
On Derek Lowe down the stretch:
“The last three weeks, he’s been lights out, five weeks. He’s just been dynamite. He’s always pitched well against them. He’s our guy. He was our opening day starter two years in a row. And he’s our guy to start the playoffs.”
On if it is good to have several good players to choose from for the playoff roster:
“It is. We have a lot of choices. It will be hard to get the final one together. We’ll do it. We’ll travel the other guys. We want them to be a part of it. We’ll put our best team forward.”
On if he considers the Braves the underdog against the Giants:
“I don’t know. Everybody says we are. That’s for sure. There’s no doubt about it. We did win the season series. That gives us a feeling that you can beat them.”