Is this a team of destiny?
With Al Michaels’ voice providing some influence, many of us will always recognize the 1980 U.S. Men’s hockey team as a group of men who helped us “believe in miracles.”
As the Braves enter this postseason motivated to prolong Bobby Cox’s managerial career as long as possible, they have already give us further reason to wonder if we should “believe in destiny.”
Cox first guided the Braves to the playoffs in 1991 and now the last Atlanta team that he carries into the postseason is coming off a 91-win season.
Cox’s first and only trip to a big league ballpark during his schoolboy days came when he traveled from his rural hometown of Selma, Calif. to San Francisco and had the chance to to see Stan Musial and the Cardinals play the Giants at Seals Stadium.
Now a little more than 50 years later, Cox’s final postseason journey begins in San Francisco. Unfortunately with both Chipper Jones and Martin Prado sidelined, he carries a lineup that doesn’t posses the offensive firepower that Musial provided in the latter part of his career.
“I was mad because (Musial) didn’t take batting practice,” Cox said. “It was toward the end for him. No wind sprints, no nothing. First at-bat, he grabs two bats waves them a couple times in the on-deck circle, steps in the box and whack — a bullet.”
At 69 years-old, Cox is still sharp as a tack and obviously very vibrant as we witnessed again Sunday when he celebrated his club’s Wild Card berth with his players.
The Braves organization staged a first-class tribute Saturday afternoon and the fans that packed Turner Field this weekend showed an appreciation that proved that the oft-maligned Atlanta sports fans can display that same passion that exists in Philadelphia, Boston and New York.
But what I will forever remember about this weekend was the fact that Cox truly allowed himself the opportunity to enjoy a couple of fitting celebrations — the one staged Saturday to honor his career and the one staged Sunday after the Wild Card entry was clinched.
Cox’s primary focus remained on the games and the postseason race. But for 25 minutes before Saturday’s game, he allowed himself to wholeheartedly enjoy a fitting tribute. Then after suffering a demoralizing loss that bruised his club’s postseason hopes a few hours later, he took time to reminisce with some of his former players who had traveled to Atlanta to celebrate his career.
Getting a chance to see Cox smile like he did both on Saturday and Sunday was something special for those of us who have had the pleasure to spend countless afternoons and evenings with a man that we recognize as much more than somebody who has totaled the fourth-most managerial wins in Major League history.
Taking the Wild Card route for the first time, Cox will be taking his Major League-record 16th club to the postseason this week. He and Joe Torre entered the season tied with 15 appearances.
If this is truly it for Cox, he will go out unlike any other legendary manager in the game’s history. None of the other managers who rank among the top 30 on MLB’s all-time wins list have guided their final club to the postseason.
ROTATION PLANS: The Braves will work out a Turner Field this afternoon and then travel to San Francisco tonight. They will likely officially announce Derek Lowe as their Game 1 starter later this afternoon. Cox and his coaches spent a portion of Monday deliberating whether to use Tim Hudson or Tommy Hanson in Game 2.
Lowe went 5-0 with a 1.17 ERA in five September starts and is 5-1 with a 1.98 ERA in eight career starts at AT&T Park. This obviously enhanced his candidacy for the Game 1 start. But the Braves also seemed to want to put him in this position because they feel he is the best candidate to return on short rest.
With Jair Jurrjens’ status still uncertain, the Braves may work with a three-man rotation during this Division Series. Lowe would be on short rest if he comes back for Game 4, which would be held Monday at Turner Field.
Whoever starts Friday’s Game 2 (Hanson or Hudson) would be on regular rest for Game 5, which, if necessary, would be played Oct. 13 in San Francisco.
Jurrjens (sore right knee) and left-handed reliever Eric O’Flaherty (blurred vision and dizziness) may spend the next week in the club’s Instructional League in Orlando, preparing for the possibility to pitch in the NLCS.