Not in a long time have I sweated out a weekend like the past one. Bobby Cox’s retirement took on a ceremonial quality of a papal nature, I’d guess, never having literally witnessed a pope in action. But it did, in fact, beat some of the Presidential inaugurations I’ve witnessed— by television, of course. All of a sudden, Atlanta became aware of baseball, which has suffered a sometime indifferent response this season. And for good reason, I might say.
Bobby Cox has put some of the strangest lineups on the field I have ever seen in Braves clothes. Jeff Schultz somehow came up with the number 109 in different combinations, though I don’t know where the number came from, but I don’t doubt his authenticity. The outfield has been a jumble of passing strangers, left field in particular.
If a lefthander was the opposing pitcher, you could bet Matt Diaz would be there. Matt devours lefthanded pitching like a ravenous jungle beast. I have to believe he would have matched the batting average of his replacements had he had his turn against righthanders. And centerfiel∂…..I mean, which one? What day? Centerfield has been a revolving door. Meanwhile, their best centerfielder plays in Kansas City. Gregor Blanco can cover ground, has hit a solid .270 in Kansas City since his trade, and the combined batting average of Braves centerfielders since his trade has been somewhere around .230. But, look who finished with the Wild Card flag in their corner, though they had to sweat it out.
At times you’d get so riled up you felt like walking in and demanding to make out the lineup for a day. But it’s just not easy to lose your temper with Bobby Cox. You understand why his players love him—along with a touch of fear. You never saw such a cast of old players and former coaches who filled those deck chairs in the field Saturday, all proud to have been Cox-men. From Larvell Blanks to Everett Stull, whoever they may have been. Then the present day cast goes out and blows one to a Phillies rookie. And once again Tommy Hanson pitches like a man from Cooperstown and his mates get him no runs.
Oh well, wait’ll next year, when Freddie Gonzales sits in Bobby’s chair.