So late in the 2009 season Bobby Cox and the Braves ended all the drama. Cox will manage the Braves for one more season, before becoming a special consultant for the organization.
Cox has been so crucial in making this organization so successful over the past twenty years. He constructed the blueprint to transform the Braves into a pitching-first franchise back when he was general manager in the late 1980s.
And then when he assumed the manager’s job, in June of 1990, it put the wheels in motion for the Braves to start a historic run of success that next season.
Love him or hate him, respect has got to be there for Cox. It’s easy to scream when he takes a pitcher out early, or when he bunts when he doesn’t need to. But he’s been very successful as manager, and that can’t be ignored.
So with Cox being a lame duck, heading into his last year, it’s easy to wonder if the organization will really make another push to send Cox out a winner. What better way for Bobby to retire than with his second world championship?
The Braves improved 14 games from their 2008 record to last season. They went from a 72-90 record to 86-76. The core of the team will return, to be complimented by addition players brought in this winter.
Can the team make another 14-win jump and get close to 100 wins next season? And will the organization try to construct the best 25-man roster Cox has ever had to ensure that might happen?
The starting rotation has a chance to be the best in the game. Frank Wren, the general manager, has to use the excess in the rotation to improve the offense. That move could really go a long way in determining how dangerous the team may be next season.
The Braves have financial flexibility this winter to improve the team, and the goal will likely be to construct the deepest 25-man roster in years. Sure, the Braves may be tempted to blow the budget on one player. But they have a chance to have solid players at every positions, instead of having a band-aid on one or two positions, as was usually necessary when the payroll was more limited.
Atlanta had a 81-game stretch from late June into September that had them go 51-30. That’s half a season. So we saw the team has the potential to be that dangerous if the offense appropriately compliments the solid starting pitching.
Last season, in early June, the Braves brought up a special young pitcher named Tommy Hanson. This coming season, the special young talent will be Jason Heyward. His potential contribution could also help the Braves have a special season.
It’s a dicey situation, having a young player that you might have to wait on for a while. The Braves will have to decide this offseason if they need a player to hold the position warm until Heyward is ready, or if someone already on the roster (Matt Diaz or Jordan Schafer) can be there next season.
It will help to have Nate McLouth and Martin Prado in their positions from day one next season. Those two were pretty effective at the top of the lineup starting last June. Add another bat or two with them, and the lineup should be more productive.
The organization will know they are going to get an attendance boost from this being Cox’s last season. Fans are going to want to see Bobby before he retires. Therefore, it’s imperative the roster is built so it’s stronger than ever before.
If you want to use Cox’s pending retirement as an excuse to ‘go for it,’ that’s fine. Fans just want this team to get back to the playoffs, and if that’s what’s needed for the full commitment to be there, so be it.
Many in the Atlanta front office said privately last year that the 2010 season could be the year. They believed a monumental jump from a 72-win season was going to be tough, but that the second season after that disappointing year could be when the team would be ready to make a charge for a playoff appearance.
So this could be a special season. If the second half of the 2009 season (minus the last six games of the season) was any indication, the Braves could be really good in 2010. That could make Bobby Cox’s last season a special one.
Bill Shanks hosts The Bill Shanks Show on
WFSM Fox Sports 1670 in Macon, Georgia and The Braves Show Talk Show. Shanks writes a weekly baseball column for The Macon Telegraph and is the author of Scout's Honor: The Bravest Way To Build A Winning Team. You can email Bill at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/billshanks.