The Atlanta Braves are retiring Bobby Cox's number tonight. This is a slightly revised re-run of a post I did last September:
Bobby Cox was the manager of the Atlanta Braves, a position he held from 1990 to 2010 (after stints as manager and general manager with the Braves and another team). He’s won just a couple more than 2,500 games, fourteen Division Titles (in fifteen years, the missing year, baseball went on strike) and a World Series (making it to a few more). But those aren’t the important things.
Bobby is the ultimate manager. No one in baseball has a bad thing to say about him. He’s universally praised by executives, managers, coaches and players.
He’s been second-guessed by fans and reporters. He leaves players in too long. He goes with veterans too long. Great season record, playoffs not so much. All true to an extent.
He’s been thrown out of more than 150 games, a world record (he is said to have written a check for $10K at one point and sent it with a note to let him know when it ran out). You see, he’d rather pay the fine and spend a few innings in the clubhouse, keeping the arguing player, that he stepped in front of, in the game, to get a hit or make a catch.
He never says much of any significance to the press, and what he says is always positive about his players (even though he and everyone else knows he’s blowing smoke). They know he’s got their backs. (He mentioned to a reporter who was questioning a young player’s abysmal offense that the player had a swing like Stan Musial. The player started swinging like the legend.)
He doesn’t have many rules. Show up. Play hard. Don’t show off. Play for the team, not yourself. Break those rules enough and you’re gone, no matter how great your potential or your performance (See e.g., Kenny Lofton, Gary Sheffield, David Justice, most recently, Yunel Escobar). Follow those rules and you have a home for as long as your ability lasts (Chipper Jones, Greg Norton, Brian McCann, Javy Lopez, Eddie Perez – now a coach).
He treats players like adults and expects them to act that way. And they do. When was the last time you heard of a Braves player arrested or involved in a scandal? They’re very, very few and very, very far between. He gets the most out of his players, last year’s team, with injury after injury is a perfect example.
Any one out there that runs a company or teaches business? Bobby Cox would be the perfect case study for a course in how to manage people.