The rap against Bobby Cox, the 25 year manager of the Atlanta Braves, has always been that he won only one World Series. Never mind the more than 2,500 wins, all the Division and National League titles, Cox has not been a big winner on the biggest stage in baseball – the World Serious.
Cox, who says he’ll hang it up at age 70 when this season ends, deserves to take a victory lap as one of the greatest managers the game has ever produced. The record speaks for itself: a .557 winning percentage over a lifetime in the dugout, five pennants, four times manager of the year (and in both leagues) and a classic, classic baseball guy. That winning percentage put Cox just behind the legendary John McGraw and Joe McCarthy at number three all-time in most games over .500. No one has ever had more first place finishes – 15. Talk about consistency and longevity. In the years Cox has managed in Atlanta, the Cubs and Red have each had 11 different managers. The Marlins and Astros ten each.
Here’s the great Braves lefthander Tom Glavine on Cox: “It’s very simple what he expects out of you. Show up on time, play the game right, wear you’re uniform the right way. And if you can’t do that then you’re going to have problems with anybody…Because things were so simple and so easy to follow, it lent itself to there not being a lot of drama.”
ESPN’s Jason Stark has written a great piece on Cox and this sentence stands out: “Cox…has set a record that might never be broken: We’ve never heard a single player rip him. Not one. Not ever.”
If a player has criticized Cox, says Brave president John Schuerholz, “I’ve never seen it. I’ve never heard it.”
That is the essence of why Cox has been such a star in the dugout – he’s a leader. You don’t see a Braves player failing to run out a pop fly or showing up wearing their uniform like some bum pulling down $5 million a year. Cox set standards, treated his guys like adults and expected them to behave accordingly. It also doesn’t hurt to have your manager enjoy an occasional Cohiba. Cox is a baseball throwback, but there is nothing out of style or old fashioned about leadership or style.
Get the plaque ready for Cooperstown. This guy is headed there and really deserves it.