by Charlie Miller
Today the Atlanta Braves will retire No. 6 in honor of long-time manager Bobby Cox.
With 2,504 wins, Cox is fourth all-time. Having won 503 more games than he lost ranks him third behind John McGraw, long-time manager of the Giants for 33 seasons, and Joe McCarthy, leader of the seven world champion Yankees squads.
Cox took a bad Braves team in the 1970s and turned a laughingstock team into a .500 team. He then turned a next-to-last Blue Jays team into a division winner in four seasons. And even more remarkable was the turnaround the Braves enjoyed going from last in 1990 to first in 1991. Led by Cox, Atlanta sustained first place from 1991-2005, save for the strike-shortened 1994 season. Cox won 15 division titles, 14 with the Braves, five pennants and a World Series.
So where does Cox stand in terms of all-time great managers? McGraw and McCarthy are probably 1-2. McGraw managed over a long period of time even as the game changed dramatically, coming out of the Dead Ball Era. McCarthy was blessed with great players, but he delivered World Series titles with regularity.
I’ll put Cox third. Even though Connie Mack won 3,731 games, he finished below .500. Among his contemporaries, Cox stands above Tony La Russa, Joe Torre, Sparky Anderson, Tommy Lasorda, Jim Leyland and Lou Piniella.
Cox won in Atlanta with a different closer every year it seemed, and only Cox could convince Smoltz to assume the closer’s role for the good of the team. Cox got the best from Deion Sanders and John Rocker. How many managers could pull that off? He won with speed (Otis Nixon) and power (Fred McGriff).
And players loved to play for Cox. He respected players, allowed them to play their games and understood how to put players in the best position to succeed.
Well-deserved recognition today, Mr. Cox.