Bobby Cox announced on Wednesday that he would step down as Manager of the Atlanta Braves after the 2010 season. The first -and really only- question that must be asked is about Cox's legacy.
Cox has been at the helm of the Braves for 20 years -from 1990 through the current season. He has the fourth most wins all-time (2,409) and is second among active managers, behind only Tony LaRussa (2,550).
Cox is a four-time Manager of the year and has led the Braves to 14 consecutive playoff appearances (1991-2005). Yet with all his credentials and accomplishments the surefire Hall of Fame Manager has lingering questions, especially in Atlanta, about his legacy.
The questions revolve, of course, around that pennant he only managed to win once, the World Series. The man at the helm of baseball's team of the 1990's, taking home five NL pennants during that span only managed to win the World Series once, in 1995.
People argue Cox's legacy from both sides. There exists the argument that says he led a consistent team that dominated the NL for over a decade. He likely coached four future Hall of Famer's for a bulk of their careers: Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, John Smoltz and Chipper Jones.
Cox did everything you could ask a manager to do, year in and year out, except win multiple World Series. The overriding question one must ask is about realistic expectation in this day of professional sports, with free-agency, pitch counts and massive player ego's.
Is it not more impressive to consistently win that to take home a fluky seven game series at the end of 162 game regular season plus two to three rounds of playoff series?
Yet the measuring stick we use for greatness is title's. Unfortunately for Cox his own successes actually work against him. He did have the best team in baseball multiple times during that 14 year stretch. But he only brought home on World Series Trophy.
How can a team that was so dominant, so talented and so well led only capture one World Series. How good a manager can Cox be if his team's only managed one World Series?
The answer is a deeply personal one for Braves fans. I grew up near Atlanta and rooted for the Braves my entire life. I loved Dale Murphy and remember going to games in Atlanta when the team was horrible. I was 12 when they made it to the World Series against the Twins and heartbroken when they lost that series.
I got used to that heartbreak over the next fourteen years. I was more relieved than anything else when they actually won in 1995, at last we had a World Series. The Braves went on to disappoint Braves fans repeatedly for the next decade, coming close a few more times but never getting another ring.
I view Cox as a great manager, whom I thank for the hope I had of winning every season and in some ways blame for the pain I felt at the end of them. I suspect that will be his legacy for most Braves fans, sadness and elation, triumph and failure.
Cox's legacy will not be a clear, defined success. Some will never forgive him for not winning more title's, perhaps even Cox himself. In the case of Cox's legacy his failures may illustrate his legacy of greatness more than anything ever could.
His teams' only won one World Series out of the five they played for in 14 consecutive seasons of playoff appearances, that's actually a pretty amazing legacy if you think about it.
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