What Is the Meaning of the 1978 Atlanta Braves? (card 4 of 25)
(continued from Dick Ruthven)
Bobby Cox was a manager of the Atlanta Braves for a little while in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Before that, he’d been a marginal major leaguer, briefly appearing in some games for the New York Yankees during a rare down time in the history of that franchise. It’s not clear from his short stint with the Braves back when I was a kid if he knew much about managing. The team had been pretty bad for a while, and he wasn’t able to do much to change that, losing 93 games his first season of 1978, when this card came out. He lost 94 games the following year. In 1980, he led the Braves to an 81-80 record, but the next year they dipped below .500 again and Cox was fired. This is what happens to managers. They come and go. My childhood connection to baseball ended during Cox’s doomed 1981 season, when I stopped buying cards, so I’m not sure whatever became of him. Probably he drifted back to the minors or into scouting or left the game altogether to get a job at his brother-in-law’s muffler shop.
Is there any job less stable than that of a major league manager? The great majority of major league managers, guys who come and go so quickly you barely remember they were ever here—like this hazy Bobby Cox character from my youth—makes me wonder about the extremely rare managers who find a way to not only endure but thrive. What is their secret? Everything in life is so tentative and fleeting, and in the major leagues this fundamental characteristic of the universe seems amplified and exacerbated, and yet there are these rare figures in the game who somehow find a way to put down deep, fruitful roots in the most volatile soil around.
Longevity as a manager, which is necessarily connected—given the unforgiving nature of the profession—to consistent excellence as a manager, has to be an important component in deciding on the best manager in baseball history. Maybe it’s the most important component. The tendency in the managerial profession is toward disappointment and disintegration. Who has been the best at transcending this tendency?