I realize that I’ve totally whiffed on the Bobby Cox story. It just fell through the cracks inasmuch as I was taken away from my computer yesterday afternoon and by the time I got to NBC this morning someone else had already hit it up. This being the Internet, it now kind of feels like old news. But you know how I feel by now. I’m happy that Bobby will be back. I’m also happy that there’s an actual end point so he doesn’t have a Torre-in-New York type of ending or die in the saddle or otherwise go out with something other than a standing ovation. I don’t believe that things like “Let’s win it for Bobby!” actually matter, but I’d still like to see the Braves win it for Bobby next year.
Other thoughts: I’d like to think that having a year to really think it over will cause the Braves to talk themselves out of Terry Pendleton as the next manager, but most people seem to think he’s the heir apparant. For my part, I think it would be a hell of a lot of fun to install Chipper Jones as a player-manager, but we don’t seem to do that sort of thing these days, do we? And to be honest, I have no reason to believe that Chipper would be better than Pendleton. Indeed, if I’m objective I have to admt that there are many reasons to think he’d be worse. I just happen to like the idea of player-managers and of not having Chipper just peter out like he seems to be doing now.
Maybe that’s what all of this about. Maybe all of my thinking on this kind of stuff — my thinking about Bobby, Chipper and before it Ernie Harwell and Skip Caray and Maddux and everyone else — is really about me feeling old. About the giants of my youth fading away. I don’t know that it had to do with the strike itself, but 1995 is really the first year I think of myself as being a genuine grownup baseball fan. I didn’t discover sabermetrics and stuff until a few years later, but by 1995 I truly started the process of becoming more objective about the game and less swayed by emotional appeals and fandom and all of that. I treat figures who were on the scene before 1995 differently than those who came after and pretty soon all of those pre-1995 guys will be gone. Very soon in terms of players, but eventually as managers and broadcasters too. Like the man sang: everyone I know goes away in the end.
So if it ends, I want it to end well. I want Bobby to go out with certainty and glory, and he seems like he will. I want Chipper to leave the game on his terms. Skip Caray dying when he did really hit me hard. Harwell leaving having attained old age and, more importantly, being possessed of a calm certainty and grace less so. I sometimes wish Maddux had left on top, but he was still useful and seemed to leave content from a sport that so often tells people they’re no longer wanted.
I want all of those pre-1995 guys to have nice little curtain calls and leave with smiles on their faces, not unlike stage players after a performance. Because to me they were performers in ways that more recent players never have been. I didn’t understand what made them tick when they burst on the scene so — unfair as it may be — I always held their accomplishments in a higher regard than I do for players I’ve seen come up and develop since then. Like they were magic in some strange way, even if I know better now.
Even Gary Sheffield.