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Changing of the Guard

Photo by Daniel Kay

Photo by Daniel Kay

Well, the dreaded day is here. Bobby Cox has taken his leave and soon all we'll be left with is memories. We've had a year to get ready for it.

He'd made it known after last season that he would be walking off into the sunset, and by gum, he almost walked out with one last post-season flourish.

Retirement! That's his next duty, and I hope he's ready for it.

I can tell him this -- retirement is not what it's cracked up to be.

You're left in charge of nothing. Nobody is taking your orders any more.

Instead, you're the one. Changing light bulbs. Connecting the hose.

Watering the flowers and mowing the lawn.

Not only that, but he has acreage to preside over at his farm place up around Adairsville.

I'm probably over-simplifying this, for he will still have his place in the Braves' hierarchy as a "consultant," whatever a consultant does.

Nobody asked me, but I'd guess he'll do more consulting than retiring.

When he was a lot younger, the New York Yankees saw something more in him that led them to set him up for the career he found in managing.

He started off as a first base coach for one major league season, then Lee MacPhail saw leadership in him, and it started at the bottom rung, a farm club in Ft. Lauderdale.

Somebody has a lot of restructuring of the Braves roster to take care of, and I'd be mighty surprised if Frank Wren might not put Bobby's consultant talents to work early. And so might Bobby's successor, Fredi Gonzalez.

These two have a lot in common, familiarity with personnel, similar personalities -- though Fredi's smile doesn't come through as easily as Bobby's -- and an aversion for repugnant umpiring.

I'm already reading some negative supposition in the switch, though I don't take it seriously. A new hitting coach replacing Terry Pendleton?

True, these Braves ran low on offense, so it seemed--actually only five teams hit fewer home runs, but then only five teams had higher batting averages -- each night making out the lineup was like drawing straws. Blame Pendleton? I'm not so sure.

Defrock the pitching coach? I'd hardly say so. Pitching was the Braves' forte.

Only two teams had a better earned-run average. Oh, no, you don't go messing with the pitching, or the pitching coach. This was a team with pitching that was thrown into a mixer and stirred. At one time it seemed they were commuting from Lawrenceville. And in the closing days, they did indeed use a starter who had never before pitching in the major leagues -- Brandon Beachy, to remind you.

So we leave Fredi Gonzalez' staff to Fredi, and if he needs consultation, he can always consult with the Consultant.

Enjoy "retirement" Bobby. HA!