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Thumbing His Way Back Home
THOMAS LAKE
July 26, 2010
Retirement is calling, and Bobby Cox has the Braves in first place (again). How has he managed to win so many games? Maybe by getting ejected so often
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July 26, 2010

Thumbing His Way Back Home

Retirement is calling, and Bobby Cox has the Braves in first place (again). How has he managed to win so many games? Maybe by getting ejected so often

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Would the five children of his first family say the same thing? One of them, the middle daughter, Connie Perkins, said her father came home whenever he could and took all five of them golfing and once agreed to serve as a show-and-tell exhibit for her third-grade class.

She wasn't sure why her mother, Mary, asked for the divorce—loneliness, maybe?—but she said when Mary died about four years ago, Bobby paid for the funeral.

Three of the five children live in California, but Connie and her sister Shelley moved near Atlanta decades ago to be closer to their father. They often bring their own families down to Florida to join him for spring training.

She was asked what she thought about her father's arrest. "I think the media blew it way out of proportion," she said. "He's never touched anybody that I know of, not me, not my siblings. He's not that type of person.

"He was always there when we needed him," she said, but then she added, "I think baseball is his love, before everything."

THE 70TH ejection was described thusly by John Smoltz on the SportSouth television network:

My favorite one's gotta be Cincinnati, when I got thrown out for no reason [by the third base umpire]. And then Bobby just came out to try and protect me from the umpire, and the umpire threw him out. And I can't repeat what was said out there, but he told me to go stand on the mound and I wasn't coming out of the game. And I stood there with my arms crossed, and unfortunately it didn't work. I had to come out of the game. I got thrown out. But it was a priceless moment.

THE 121ST ejection is a crucial piece of evidence for the Chipper Jones Momentum-Turn Hypothesis. On a rainy night in San Francisco, April 7, 2006, the Braves were down 6--4 to the Giants in the seventh inning when Cox came out to inform first base umpire Greg Gibson that the last strike was not, in fact, a strike. Gibson threw him out. In the same at bat Andruw Jones hit a two-run single to tie the game. The Braves scored eight times that inning and twice more in the eighth for a 14--6 win. It was Cox's first ejection in 91 games, which appears to be a personal record. The best the Braves ever performed after an ejection coincided with the end of Cox's longest drought. They may mean more when they happen less.

When searched at greater depth, the ocean of numbers confirms the Chipper Jones Momentum-Turn Hypothesis. Yes, Cox loses more often when he's thrown out. Yes, his teams have blown a few leads. But when we separate each game into two periods—before the ejection and after—and then average the team's performance in each period over 156 games, we can see the momentum turning.

On average, at the moment in the game when Cox is thrown out, his team is losing by a little more than a run. And on average, for the rest of the game, his team outplays the opponent by about a third of run. It's not always enough to turn a loss into a win. But it makes a difference. When the game has been tied at the point of his ejection, Cox's teams have gone on to win more than they've lost. And they have almost three times as many comeback wins post-ejection as blown leads. Manny Acta says the Braves never won because Cox was ejected. The ocean of numbers says otherwise.

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