Posts Tagged ‘Bobby Cox’

The Best World Series I Ever Saw: Atlanta

April 18, 2016
Fulton County Stadium, Atlanta

Fulton County Stadium, Atlanta

By 1991, the Atlanta Braves were largely irrelevant for 20 years. They’d made a playoff or two and lost quickly, and Hank Aaron had hit his 715th homer while in Braves uniform, but that was about it. Their owner, Ted Turner, may have been more well-known than the Braves. That changed in 1991, when they, like the Twins went from last place to a pennant.

Manager Bobby Cox was over from a stint as manager and general manager at Toronto (and he’s never really gotten proper credit for that). He led a team that went 92-70 and beat Pittsburgh for the National League pennant. They were second in the NL in runs, doubles, average, and OBP. They were third or fourth in slugging, OPS, hits, and homers. The staff was third in ERA, saves, and runs given up while being first in hits allowed (meaning they gave up the fewest hits in the league).

The staff was, in some ways, the heart of the team, although it was not yet the staff that dominated most of the 1990s (Greg Maddux wasn’t there). Steve Avery, Tom Glavine, and Charlie Leibrandt were all lefties and accounted for three-quarters of the main staff. Glavine had 20 wins, Avery 18, and Leibrandt had 15. Glavine’s ERA was 2.55 and easily led the starters. John Smoltz was the right-hander. He went 14-13 and had a starter high 3.80 ERA. Between them they started 141 games. Glavine led the team with 192 strikeouts and Avery’s ERA+ of 116 led the starters. Galvine, Avery, and Smoltz all produced WAR above 5 with Glavine leading the team at 9.3. All that got Glavine his first Cy Young Award. Juan Berenguer had a 2.24 ERA and 17 saves while Mike Stanton appeared in 74 games with an ERA of 2.88. By late in the season Dodgers reliever Alejandro Pena had taken over the closer role racking up 11 saves in 14 appearances with an ERA of 1.40.

Greg Olson did most of the catching. He was 30, hit .241 with no power, and allowed stolen bases at a rate above the league average. Mike Heath was his backup. He was 36, hit even worse, and wasn’t any better behind the plate. Playoff hero Francisco Cabrera got into 31 games, only a handful as catcher.

Six men shared outfield duty. David Justice, former Rookie of the Year, was in right field. He was third on the team with 21 home runs, hit .275, had 87 RBIs (good for second on the team) and managed all of 1.6 WAR. Otis Nixon and Ron Gant shared time in center. Nixon was fast, leading the team with 72 stolen bases and walked more than he struck out. Gant provided the power. He led the team with 32 home runs and 105 RBIs. His WAR was 1.4 while Nixon checked in at 2.2, Left field saw Lonnie Smith and Brian Hunter split duty. Smith wasn’t much of an outfielder (the called him “Skates” for a reason), but he could still hit going .275 for the season. Hunter was new. He played a lot at first and was another player in the lineup primarily for his bat. His 12 home runs were fourth on the team. Football Hall of Famer Deion Sanders got into 54 games for Atlanta, primarily in the outfield. He hit .191 and had 11 stolen bases.

The infield was stable at the corners and in flux up the middle. MVP Terry Pendleton, over from St. Louis, hit .319 with 22 home runs, 86 RBIs, and a 6.1 WAR, tops among non-pitchers. Sid Bream was across the diamond at first. He was notoriously slow (which is part of what makes his “dash” in the playoffs so famous), but could hit and fielded his position well. He had 11 home runs in 91 games (Hunter did most of the first base work in Bream’s absence.). Jeff Treadway, Rafael Belliard, Jeff Blauser, and Mark Lemke worked the middle of the diamond. Treadway hit .320, Blauser popped 11 home runs, neither Belliard nor Lemke hit .250, but both were good defensemen.

The Braves, like the Twins, were surprise winners. They had a nice mix of veterans and fairly new guys and a pitching staff that was rounding into form. With Glavine winning the Cy Young and Pendleton the MVP they were capable of winning the whole thing.

 

 

A Baker’s Dozen Random Thoughts on the Newest Hall of Fame Vote

January 8, 2014

Here, in no particular order, are some thoughts on the just completed Hall of Fame voting cycle.

1. Congratulations to Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, Frank Thomas, Tony LaRussa, Bobby Cox, and Joe Torre. It’s certainly a much more formidable list than last year (and remember I like Deacon White).

2. Sorry for Craig Biggio. The Hall is the only place in baseball that doesn’t round-up. As I mentioned in the post just below it’s happened before (see Nellie Fox) so there’s no need to cry “foul” about not letting Biggio into Cooperstown “hallowed halls.”

3. Hey, Dan LeBatard, how about letting me have your vote next year? I know something about baseball and I’m willing to listen to the people who read me before I fill out the ballot. BTW, readers,  I can be bribed cheap.

4. So 16 people didn’t think Maddux was Hall of Fame worthy. Son of a gun. Actually, I can see something of a reason for it. If I had a ballot this year I might seriously consider leaving off Maddux. Before you scream, read on. Let’s say I have 11 people I think should be in and I’m afraid that one of them (let’s call him Don Mattingly) might drop off the next ballot without my vote. I know Maddux is getting in easily (unless everybody thinks like I do), so why not add the 11th guy and leave off Maddux? Maddux gets in anyway, and I get a chance to help one of my guys stay around until I can convince the others that Mattingly deserves to be elected. I have no idea if any of the non-Maddux voters thought that way, but I hope they did, because about any other rationale is absolutely stupid. And of course it also shows how damaging the 10 vote limit is at times.

5. I understand the BBWAA website indicates that 50% of voters chose 10 names for enshrinement. That alone should tell us how truly stacked is this ballot.

6. I also understand there was one blank ballot. I have two things to say to that person. First, quit sending in a blank ballot. If there’s no one worth voting for, don’t vote. And second, “You dope.”

7. To the guy who won’t vote for anyone from the “steroid era,” which I note he didn’t define by date, see the second part of number six above.

8. To the Hall of Fame I have the following piece of advice. Dump the vote only for 10 rule. Yutz.

9. I note of the holdovers, only Mike Piazza and Biggio actually saw their percentages rise. That’s probably good for both. It’s also very bad for everyone else whose staying on the ballot next year. Barry Bonds actually polled less than 200 votes (198).

10. I’m a big opponent of letting the PED guys in the Hall, but I also favored the election of both LaRussa and Torre. Frankly, I failed to connect the two men to the PED issue. I shoulda paid more attention. That’s my mistake, no doubt about it.

11. I’m sorry Jack Morris is now off the ballot, but not sorry that Rafael Palmeiro is also gone.

12. I’m stunned Kenny Rogers only got one vote. I thought he might end up right about the 5% line. I’m also stunned that Mike Mussina didn’t do better.

13. Next year should be equally interesting with Randy Johnson almost certain to make it and with Pedro Martinez showing up for the first time. It will be interesting to see how Martinez does in light of his low win total (219), a number that still matters to most of the writers.

Thoughts on Enshrining 3 Managers

December 10, 2013
Baseball's newest Hall of Famers (from MLB.com)

Baseball’s newest Hall of Famers (from MLB.com)

So the Veteran’s Committee has put Bobby Cox, Tony LaRussa, and Joe Torre into the Hall of Fame. Although I stated earlier I wouldn’t vote for Cox myself, I have no problem with the three making it to Cooperstown (as if the Committee cares what I think). Here’s a few thoughts on the newest election.

Again, Marvin Miller failed to make the Hall of Fame. According to reports the three winners were unanimously elected and no other candidate received more than six votes (out of 18). I’m surprised that Miller got at most six votes. There were six players on the committee, but I have no idea if any or all of them voted for Miller. So Far I’m unable to find out exactly how many votes anyone other than the three managers received.

And it’s not at all strange that a player was not elected. I went back to 2000 (the entire 21st Century, depending on what you do with 2000) and looked at the Veteran’s Committee inductees. It’s an interesting group. First, I need to remind you that the Committee was, for a  while, not a yearly institution, so in some of those 15 years there was no Committee and thus no one had a chance of election. For the purposes of this comment, I’ve excluded the 17 Negro League players and executives elected in 2006 because they were elected by a separate committee set up specifically to enshrine Negro League members. Only four players have been elected. They are Bill Mazeroski, Ron Santo, Bid McPhee, and Deacon White. Two of the players span the 1960s, the other two play in the 1800s. On the other hand, the Committee has elected two Negro Leaguers (Turkey Stearnes and Hilton Smith), seven managers (including the three just chosen), and seven contributors (executives, commissioners, umpires, etc.). So recently, the Veteran’s Committee has been shorting players.

This is not necessarily a bad thing. It may mean that we’ve almost gotten to the end of those players who genuinely deserve Hall of Fame status. It may mean that the selection committee will continue to put up players and the election committee will continue to turn down almost all of them. I want to see what the various ballots look like over the next dozen or so years (remember there are 3 committees, so a dozen years would be four of each). If the same people keep making the list and keep failing election it should indicate that the various Veteran’s Committees have determined that the era for which they vote is devoid of quality candidates for enshrinement. Of course evolving lists and new stat methods can change this very much. The problem is that the pressure to elect someone, anyone, can be great. After all if you go five years without electing someone, then people begin to ask “why do we have a Veteran’s Committee?” This could lead to more marginal players elected or, more likely from what we’ve seen lately, more managers, umpires, owners, and executives making the trek to Cooperstown for enshrinement. Although I admit that the contributors have a major role in baseball and should be commemorated in Cooperstown, let’s not get carried away and start putting in everybody who ever umped a game or owned a team.

I also found out something about the Veteran’s Committee rules. According to MLB.com the members of the committee are restricted to voting for not more than five candidates (like the writers and the 10 candidate rule). As with the writers ballot this tends to depress the election results, which may not be bad, but I really wish they’d let the committee members vote for as many as they want. After all, they can vote for as few as they want, including no one.

So congratulations to Cox, LaRussa, and Torre. Now we wait for the Spink and Frick Awards and the big ballot writer’s selections. Those should be interesting, particularly the latter.

2014 Veteran’s Committee Results Announced

December 9, 2013

The 2014 Veteran’s Committee announced its results this morning. The following were elected to the Hall of Fame for the class of 2014:

Bobby Cox, Tony LaRussa, Joe Torre.

No players or executives were chosen. Commentary on my part to follow.

2014 Veteran’s Committee: the Managers

November 14, 2013
LaRussa as Cardinals manager

LaRussa as Cardinals manager

And now my look at the four managers on the newest Veteran’s Committee Ballot. Again, they are listed alphabetically.

Bobby Cox did something I’ll bet a bunch of you don’t know. He managed the Toronto Blue Jays to a division title. Cox is so tied to Atlanta that most people don’t know he spent part of his managerial career in Toronto. In the beginning he was less than successful. He managed Atlanta between 1978 and 1981, never finishing above fourth and producing one winning season (1980). He managed four years in Toronto finishing second in 1984, then breaking through to win the American League East in 1985. Up three games to one against Kansas City, the Blue Jays lost three in a row to end their season (and the Royals won the World Series).

He returned to Atlanta as general manager in 1986. The team wasn’t all that successful, but as general manager he picked up a number of players for the team that were instrumental for future Braves teams. In 1991 he appointed himself as Braves manager and remained until his retirement in 2010. His first team (in his second stint with Atlanta) went from last to first in the National League and squared off against Minnesota in one of the great World Series’ ever. They lost, but it was the beginning of a great run in the NL. Cox’s Braves made 15 playoff appearances, won five pennants, and the 1995 World Series. During his career he was four-time Manager of the Year, once in the AL and three times in the NL (one of only four to win the award in both leagues). His career winning percentage was .556.

Ton LaRussa is the third winningest manager ever behind only John McGraw (2nd) and Connie Mack. He is also one of the four managers to win Manager of the Year in both leagues (Jim Leyland and Lou Piniella are the others). He began his managerial career late in 1979 with the Chicago White Sox. He brought one AL Western Division title to Chicago in 1983. The ChiSox started slow in 1986 and he was canned.

Oakland picked him up for the last 45 games of the year and he stayed there through 1995. He won a division title, two pennants, and the 1989 World Series with Oakland. In 1996 he went to St. Louis where he immediately won a division title. By his retirement at the end of the 2011 World Series he had won five division titles, one pennant, and the 2006 and 2011 World Series. This gave him 14 playoff appearances, six pennants, and three world championships. He secured four Manager of the Year Awards and had a career winning percentage of .536. He was also known for being so obsessed with the “book” that he would change pitchers between pitches and slowed games to an absolute crawl. Because he continued to win, his system has become common.

Billy Martin is the oldest of the four managers and is also the only one not living. He played in the 1950s, primarily for the Yankees, then began managing in 1969 with the Minnesota Twins. He took them to a division title, but they lost to Baltimore in the first American League division playoffs. He got into a fight with one of his players and was fired. He picked up his next managing job in 1971 with Detroit. He picked up a division title in 1972. He was fired in 1973 for ordering his pitchers to learn the spit ball. Texas picked him up to complete the season. He stayed into 1975 when he was fired after a confrontation with the owner. He was picked up by the Yanks, his dream job. He spent four terms with the Yankees, winning a pennant in 1976. His team was drilled by the Cincinnati “Big Red Machine”, but won the 1977 World Series over the Dodgers. He clashed with Yankees owner George Steinbrenner (more on him in another post) and resigned in 1978. He was rehired for the last 55 games of 1979 then was dumped again after his infamous fight with a marshmallow salesman. He also spent time in 1983, 1985, and 1988 as New York manager. Between his 1979 and 1983 terms in New York, he managed Oakland to a 1981 split season division title. He died on Christmas Day 1989 in a truck accident. Over his career he won two pennants, one World Series and took his team to five playoff appearances. He ended with a .553 winning percentage. For most of his managerial career there was no Manager of the Year Award (it began in 1983). Over his career he was known to overwork his pitching staff and thus cut short the careers of several of his starters.

Joe Torre was probably the best player of the group, winning and MVP award in 1971. He began managing the Mets in early 1977 as player-manager. He remained in New York through 1981 finishing as high as fourth in the 1981 split season. He was picked up by Atlanta (replacing Bobby Cox) in 1982 and promptly won a division title. He lost the playoff and his team regressed each of the next two seasons. In the broadcast booth from 1983 through 1990, St. Louis picked him up late in the season. He stayed there until early 1995 when he was fired. In 1991 he got the Cardinals as high as second.

In 1996 he replaced Buck Showalter (who had just won a division title) as Yankees manager and won the World Series. He won consecutive World Series’ in 1998-2000, lost the Series in 2001 (and 2003),  picked up division titles in 2002 and 2004-2006, and won two Manger of the Year Awards. In 2008 he left New York, ending up in Los Angeles (and in a slew of TV commercials). He stayed three years winning two division titles. For his career he made 15 playoff appearances, won six pennants, and four World Series titles. His career winning percentage is .538. Torre was, by his own account, a miserable manager with the Mets, a “genius” at Atlanta, and lucky with the Yankees. The labels were applied when some reporter asked him why he was doing so well with the Yanks (proving Torre also has a good sense of humor). He was good enough as a player to be a borderline Hall of Famer, but he’s supposed to be considered here strictly on his managing career.

All of which brings me to the obvious question, “so what do I think?” Well, I have no problem with any of these managers being enshrined. Each has a valid case as a Hall of Fame candidate (I think Martin’s is weakest). But if I had a ballot, I’d vote for  two of these men only: LaRussa and Torre. Both were proven winners with multiple championships. LaRussa has the distinction of being third in wins among managers. For Cox and Martin I have two words: Danny Murtaugh. Murtaugh has as many championships as Cox and Martin combined, two. And another two words would be: Tom Kelly. He has twice as many wins as either Cox or Martin (as does Ralph Houk). Until the men with more championships get in, then I can’t see voting for either Cox or Martin. And let’s be honest about it, championships count. If they don’t you have to ask yourself where’s Charlie Grimm (1200 wins .547 winning percentage, but no World Series titles)?

Picking the Winners: Managers

November 12, 2010

The final of my thoughts on the next round of postseason MLB awards. I’ve said before that I have little idea how to evaluate managers, so this post is more in the nature of who I think should win rather than who I think will win. As to the latter, I have no idea.

NL-Bud Black. I think deep down inside that Dusty Baker will probably win this or maybe it will be Bobby Cox or yet again Bruce Bochy. All of them led their team in the playoffs and that’s generally rewarded. Baker took a team that wasn’t supposed to win and took down the favored Cardinals. For Cox it was his last season and he got the Braves to the wildcard. Sentiment alone might get him the award. Bochy took a team that didn’t hit a lot, but pitched well and won the division on the final day of the season (remember the voting is done before the playoffs begin so the writers don’t know Bochy’s team is going to win the World  Series). As I said, Bochy won on the last day of the season. He did it by beating the Padres, Bud Black’s team. The Padres were picked dead last in an already weak division. With good pitching, decent enough hitting to win close games, and a reasonably decent defense, the Padres took it to the last day. Baring that horrendous 10 game losing streak, they would have won the west. The manager of the Padres, Bud Black, gets my vote for the manager of the year. He had almost nothing to work with and came within an ace of knocking off the pitching rich Giants. He’d get my vote, but if pressed to pick who I think the writers will choose, I guess I’d go with Baker.

AL-Terry Francona. He has no chance, but you have to give him credit for the Red Sox successess this season. Do you know how many of the Red Sox first line everyday players played at least 130 or more games? Exactly four (Marco Scutero, Adrian Beltre, JD Drew, and David Ortiz). That means that half the team was out of the lineup for long periods of time and they still ended up 89-73. Only Drew started more than 50 games in the same outfield position (McDonald and Hall started 50, but not in the same position). A manager has to get some credit for keeping a team like that in contention until late in the season. Only Jon Lester and John Lackey started 30 or more games. Try winning with 60% of your starters getting into less than 30 games. Frankly, as I stated earlier, I don’t think Francona has a chance of winning, but he probably should. Francona is using mirrors and sitll winning. Not bad. And speaking of mirrors, the other guy I’d look at seriously is Buck Showalter. He was there a third of a season in Baltimore and that will surely hurt him. But he won with that team; something no one’s done for a long, long time. I keep asking myslef, “Did he really win with those guys?” Again, if pressed, I’d probably say the writers will pick Joe Maddon, but I wouldn’t. I’d also love to see Ron Gardenhire finally get the credit he deserves.

The Apotheosis of Bobby Cox

October 15, 2010

So we now say good-bye to Bobby Cox and watch him ride off into the sunset (or the cruise the announcers made such a fuss about). He’s certainly going to the Hall of Fame shortly, and that’s probably fair. He’s also been deified in the last several months. It’s as if baseball was putting up a Managerial Mount Rushmore and Cox was one of the four faces to go there. Maybe he should. Then again maybe he shouldn’t.

No knock on Cox, but I’m not sure how you quantify a great manager. You can’t just look at won-loss records, because Connie Mack ended up with a career losing record and I don’t know anybody who doesn’t think he belongs in Cooperstown. It can’t be titles because Tom Kelly and Danny Murtaugh aren’t Hall of Famers and they have the same number of titles as Tom LaSorda and Bucky Harris (2) and more than Whitey Herzog (1). Is it taking a bad team and winning with it? Nope, can’t be that either because Casey Stengel couldn’t make either Brooklyn or Boston (the Braves not the Red Sox) into competitive teams (not to mention what happened with the Mets) and everybody agrees he’s a Hall of Famer because of his Yankees years.  If it’s taking a bad team and making them contenders, then where’s Gene Mauch who had a habit of doing just that? And Cox? well, he’s got a lot of division championships, but only one World Series title, same as Herzog and less than Kelly or Murtaugh. I wonder if that makes him a lesser manager or not.

I’m very serious about this. I have no idea how you determine a great manager. I’m tempted to say that Stengel and Joe McCarthy were the greatest. They each won the World Series seven times, but how hard was it to write “Ruth” and “Gehrig” into McCarthy’s early lineup, then replace Ruth with “DiMaggio”? And it must have been tough as Stengel agonized about “did I do the right thing” when he wrote in “Mantle” or “Berra.” Great talent like that makes looking like a great manager easy. And as this post was started by referencing Cox, how tough was it to write in “Maddux”, “Glavine”, “Smoltz” three out of every five days? Geez, even I might win a few games with those three rosters.

So here’s a serious plea from me to you. Can we figure out how to determine agreat manager before we haphazardly anoint Saint Bobby of Cox? Frankly I think Cox deserves a seat at the great manager table but I don’t really know how we determine that.

My personal choice for the manager’s Mount Rushmore? Based on personal preference rather than true evaluation they would be (alphabetically) John McGraw, Joe McCarthy, Casey Stengel, and Harry Wright (with apologies to Connie Mack).