- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 21, 2009

IT’S ABOUT TIME

After he dumped Bobby Cox as his manager in 1981, Atlanta Braves owner Ted Turner was asked about a potential replacement. The volatile, eccentric Turner replied, “It would be Bobby Cox if I hadn’t just fired him.”

In other words, Cox wasn’t the problem. The Braves were simply bad. But Turner had to do something, even if it was dumb.

Give the Nationals credit. It looks for now that reports of manager Manny Acta’s firing were greatly exaggerated, meaning club brass is not dumb. Not this time, anyway.

Nationals president Stan Kasten worked a long time for the Braves, and he knows their history. He knows Cox in 1978 inherited a club that had a worse record than two expansion teams. Turner himself managed the team for a game, drawing chuckles and the ire of the commissioner. The Braves won eight more games but still finished last and had the league’s lowest attendance. They were next-to-last in runs and fielding, last in team earned run average. They finished last again in 1979. Two years later, even after marked improvement, Cox was gone. His record was 266-323.

He spent four years in Toronto and won a division title with good players. Then he returned to Atlanta as general manager, traded for John Smoltz and rehired himself as manager during the 1990 season, when the Braves finished last again. Was he any smarter? Who knows? But by then, he had Tom Glavine, too.

As the roster continued to fill out, Atlanta went from worst to first. Greg Maddux arrived in 1993, and the Braves won 14 straight division championships. Say what you want about winning just one World Series; Cox is going to the Hall of Fame. And by the way, isn’t it interesting that as the Braves’ talent pool has dried up, Cox is winning fewer games?

Acta might not get to the Hall of Fame. First he needs to get to next week. But Kasten knows a manager who is dealing from a stacked deck can’t be judged on pure results. What he can be judged on is how he handles himself and his team, especially when every day someone asks if he’s going to get fired. Is the clubhouse together or fractious? Does the team compete?

The answers seem pretty clear.

HE SAID WHAT?

“Have to tell her to save the gas money. She’s going to be disappointed.” - Alex Rodriguez on his mother and 100 family members and friends not seeing him play for two games in Miami after he was benched for fatigue

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