Let the memorable journey begin
While we don’t know where this journey will lead, those of us (fans and media members) who follow the Braves on a daily basis are seemingly guaranteed to enter this offseason knowing that they have witnessed something special.
As Jason Heyward introduces himself to what appears to be a bright future, Bobby Cox prepares to say goodbye to a job and organization that he has loved since Ted Turner provided him his first stint as the Braves manager in 1978.
Hank Aaron will throw out the ceremonial first pitch before this afternoon’s Opening Day game at Turner Field. As the living legend stands on the mound and hears the cheers provided by a sold-out Turner Field, Heyward can dream of the day when he might be held in the same high esteem.
But even when you consider how great Aaron was and how great Heyward might prove to be, I still believe that 20 or 30 years from now you could still argue that Cox was the most influential man in the history of a Braves organization that dates back to 1876.
Those players who were part of the 1982 club that claimed the 1982 National League West crown appreciated Joe Torre’s leadership and recognized that the accomplishment was a product of the determination that Cox had displayed while serving as Atlanta’s manager the previous four years.
When Cox returned to serve as the general manager in 1986, the organization had once again positioned itself to be the laughingstock of Major League Baseball. But with the assistance of Paul Snyder and Bobby Dews, Cox changed the attitude and direction of an organization that still provides a blueprint that other organizations strive to follow.
As this season progresses, criticize Cox just like you have in the past. He certainly doesn’t want to be treated any different during what many of us are calling his farewell tour.
But when it’s time for Cox to say goodbye, the masses should recognize that no man has ever proven to be as loyal and beneficial to this organization and the city of Atlanta.
After leading the Blue Jays to the 1985 American League East title, Cox jumped at the opportunity to return to his home in Atlanta to complete what he had started from 1978-81.
This marks the start of the 25th season since Cox returned to serve as the Braves general manager and once again the city of Atlanta anticipates Opening Day with a sense of excitement and optimism.
It seems only fitting that this journey would allow Cox to experience at least one more run into the postseason. But even if he and his troops fall short of this goal, Braves fans will still have reason to look back on this year and realize they had the opportunity to follow the end of a historic run.
For the first time in recent years, I think the Braves truly have positioned themselves to be a playoff participant. In fact, I think they have what it takes to possibly overthrow the Phillies as NL East champs. But as we’ve been reminded over the past few years, you really never know what you will encounter over the course of the marathon known as a 162-game season.
BRAVES OPENING DAY LINEUP
Melky Cabrera 8
Martin Prado 4
Chipper Jones 5
Brian McCann 2
Troy Glaus 3
Yunel Escobar 6
Jason Heyward 9
Nate McLouth 8
Derek Lowe 1