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The time has come, Bobby

It pains me to say this, but Cox must resign

Posted: Monday October 10, 2005 12:41PM; Updated: Monday October 10, 2005 1:23PM
Bobby Cox
It's hard to imagine anyone else manning the Braves' dugout, but it's time for a change.
Brian Bahr/Getty Images
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Early yesterday evening, after the Atlanta Braves were eliminated from the playoffs on a walkoff home run from the former star of Life Goes On in bottom of what felt like the 273rd inning, I knew it was time.

I just wonder if Bobby Cox realizes it.

It's now been a decade since the Braves won their last World Series. For most baseball teams, winning one World Series per decade would be great, a little shot in the arm every few years. Of course, most teams don't make the playoffs 14 straight times. Fourteen straight times! You figure eventually the law of averages would kick in, that Braves would accidentally win a Series. But nope.

To get there this year, they put us through hell. Have you ever watched an 18-inning baseball game? I caught an early morning flight yesterday, landed in Manhattan around noon, hopped in a cab and got home a few minutes before the first pitch. I then sat and watched six straight hours of baseball. The first two-and-a-half were fine. Then the eighth and ninth innings happened. Then nothing happened from the 10th through the top of the 18th. And then Chris Burke (OK, so it wasn't this Chris Burke) ended our season. By the time it ended, my legs were atrophied and my heart was broken.

Now, with most teams that come this close with so many young players, you'd have to think they'll be back, that we're just seeing the beginning of great things to come. You'd think those in charge would see that this is a team on the brink, and they'd make the necessary moves to improve -- maybe picking up an ace set-up man and one more quality starter.

But we're talking about the Braves here, so you'd be thinking wrong. They don't have unlimited funds, so if the money isn't going to change, something else has to.

Which is why it's time for Bobby Cox to resign.

I don't say that lightly. I like Bobby Cox. He's the ninth winningest manager of all time, and second among active managers only to Tony La Russa and his neck cape. As I've written before, Cox is so steady and sound, he's like a rock. A rock that we've all been staring at for way too long.

I knew the Braves were going to lose the Astros series about half an hour before Game 1 on Wednesday. It was was the afternoon game, and I knew I'd have to listen to it from my desk, over the Internet. I tuned in and clicked around found the starting line-ups and found out that the Braves' starting left fielder was...Brian Jordan? The 38-year-old Brian Jordan? The Brian Jordan who had a grand total of 24 at-bats since July 1?

Cox's reasoning was that B.J. hits righty, and with Houston starting a lefty (Andy Pettitte), Cox flipped around in his little managerial guide and decided he needed a righty. He also liked that Jordan had playoff experience, which is about all he had going for him.

Jordan made a great catch in the second inning. He also finished the game 0-for-3 and grounded into a rally killing double play.

The moment I saw Brian Jordan's name in the line-up, I knew the Braves were done. Cox was pulling yet another postseason blunder, valuing resume over promise, his most consistent playoff sin. And we won't even go into his knack for bringing in the wrong pitcher from the bullpen at precisely the right time.

What it boils down to is this: If you were running a marathon, Bobby Cox would be the ideal coach. If you were running a sprint and hired Cox, you'd finish sixth.

If the Braves want to make that next step, want to inject life into the clubhouse, want to do anything other than remain static, they'll bump Bobby Cox upstairs. There are three guys already in the organization who could immediately take over (Fredi Gonzalez, Terry Pendleton and Leo Mazzone). Cox could move into the front office and take over player development or the farm system or whatever.

I'm guessing this won't happen, of course. Instead, the Braves will probably publicly sigh, talk about bad luck, spend a few million bucks in the offseason, come into next season as underdogs, win the division and lose in the first round of the playoffs.

Eventually, Cox is going to have to move on. The players love him and GM John Schuerholz never criticizes him. But something has got to happen. And if Bobby Cox really cares about this team and these players, he should fall on his sword and give them a chance to win a ring with someone else on the bench.

Maybe we Braves fans won't know what we had until it's gone. But at this point, I think a majority of us are willing to take that chance and find out.

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Lang Whitaker is the online editor at SLAM magazine and writes daily at http://www.SLAMonline.com.