TGIM – Bobby Cox

I planned to write this post a week ago, in a longer and more eloquent fashion. The Braves had just pulled out a victory and a playoff berth. However, life and laziness got in the way, and I find myself writing it at a time when Cox’s days as a Major League umpire are now officially over.

Bobby Cox is one of the greatest and most successful managers in MLB history, with most of that career spent with my hometown Atlanta Braves. When we had the worst-to-first season in 1991 (ending in what I still think is the best World Series of my lifetime, even though we lost), baseball became something more for me. It was the long sport. The one that took 162 games and seemingly nine months of the year to play out. It got my team, and its skipper, into my heart for the long haul. I talk about the Hawks more because basketball is my favorite sport to watch, but my heart rises and falls with the Braves because I’ve invested so much time watching and following the sport.

Tonight his career came to an end. He’s retiring as manager of the Atlanta Braves at the young age of 69. His final accomplishment was taking a broke down and beleaguered team to the postseason against all odds. It came down to the final game of the regular season, but Cox and the Braves willed out one more win. Tonight’s loss in Game 4 of the NLDS against the Giants spelled the end. Many were hoping, in our hearts if not in our heads, that Cox would take this team to an improbably World Series berth and end his final game a winner, but it wasn’t to be. No one can call him a loser, tonight or any other night.

Bobby Cox is kind of like a member of my family. Though I’ve never met the guy (unlike Sid Bream, he doesn’t do signings at local computer stores), he’s been a part of my life for more than twenty years. I cried when he reached 2,000 victories. I was happy and I couldn’t help it. I nearly did the same tonight when he tipped his cap to the Turner Field faithful for the final time.

Some will remember his wins, or deride him for failing to win more than one World Series with the Braves. Others will remember the record he’s not that fond of; the MLB record 158 times he was ejected from the game. Some will say that’s because he liked to argue, but that’s not the case. Bobby Cox was a defender. He defended his team. He defended his players. No one I’ve ever seen loves the game of baseball or the men who played it for him more than Bobby Cox. Players from across baseball talked about wanting to play for Bobby Cox. Coaches who came here or moved on spoke of him with an uncanny reverence.

I’m running out of words that I feel actually say what I feel about Bobby Cox. He’s my manager, and he’ll be missed for a very, very long time. No one, regardless of their success, will ever truly replace him in my heart or that Braves clubhouse. He’s the best.

Thank you, Bobby.

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Say It Ain’t So, Smoltzy

I woke up late, sick, and got just about the last sports news I ever expected to see.  Especially at this juncture in the MLB’s free agent season.

John Smoltz is leaving the Braves, the only team he’s pitched for in 21 seasons, to join the Boston Red Sox.  The initial report I read thanks to a gmail clip was that Smoltz was “on the verge” of signing.  But the AJC confirms it all official like here.

I’m shocked, quite frankly.  But for a rapidly deteriorating ball club and given the way this off-season has gone, I guess I shouldn’t be.  John Smoltz is the Atlanta Braves.  He’s never been quite as prolific as Maddux or Glavine, and he never made the waves that some other high-profile stars do.  But he was the work horse and the heart.  A multiple time surgery recipient and one-time Cy Young.  A starter and a closer.  And now, we can add ex-Brave to that list.

I’m pretty much speechless over this.  Frank Wren has proved himself to be no John Schuerholz, and I just want my team back.  So long, Smoltzy.  You’re a legend and a class act, and I miss you already.

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As you can see from the above, I’ll definitely be talking some sports up here.  I’m a big ATL sports fans (Hawks, Braves, Falcons), and a general buff.  Feel free to skip if it’s not your thing.