If there’s a manager in major league baseball that can inspire a team to play above the negative energy that comes with losing a team leader, it’s Bobby Cox.
Since the season-ending injury to the Atlanta Braves’ sure-to-be Hall of Famer, Chipper Jones, the team has won six of their last eight games.
The long time Braves manager has his team playing tremendous baseball. They’re playing with a certain sense of motivation and swagger.
But don’t think for a second that Jones is pouting on the bench asking, “Why me?” He is surely giving his teammates any pointers and keen insight he may have on opposing teams and pitchers.
The Braves can’t replace Chipper Jones on the field. They can merely do their best to try to fill his shoes. And the effort is not going unnoticed.
The Braves, who lead all of baseball in walk-off wins, continue to get big hits in clutch situations, capping their most recent final-at-bat victory with a Jason Heyward RBI single.
Team batting average leader, Martin Prado, has returned from his DL stint without skipping a beat. Prado has a chance to capture the batting title at the end of the season.
The starting pitching staff continues to prove that they are one of the best rotations in baseball with a combined 3.53 ERA, including rookie Mike Minor.
Producing runs hasn’t seemed to be a problem as the Braves have outscored their opponents 43 to 17 in Jones’ absence. Their home record of 44-17 is the Major League best.
As if continuing to play consistent baseball isn’t enough, the remaining schedule is very favorable for the Braves. Of the 12 series they have left, only three of those teams have a record over .500.
Not enough can be said about the moves that GM Frank Wren has been making this season.
Newly acquired Brave Derrek Lee is sure to add some pop to the middle of an already solid Braves lineup. The former Cubbie favorite has been praised by former managers and players for his leadership, work ethic, and clubhouse traits, and will surely add a surge to a team looking to lock up the NL East.
Cox and the rest of the coaching staff have their work cut out for them if they want to find their way into yet another postseason, as the Philadelphia Phillies have been playing excellent baseball of late, trailing the Braves by only a couple of games.
Sure, the backbone of the Atlanta Braves might be broken, but the brain of the team hasn’t stopped the heart from beating.
Keep an eye on the NL East race. It’s going to be a doozy.