Another situation that bears watching is in Atlanta, where manager Bobby Cox has been hedging about whether he will be back. According to a major league source, the relationship between Cox and GM Frank Wren deteriorated during the spring to the point that Cox packed his bag and climbed into his car to drive home from spring training until dissuaded from doing so by one of his coaches.
Cox was unhappy at the way the John Smoltz issue had been handled, the source said, and because he had not been kept up to speed on other personnel decisions. The relationship appears to have been patched up, although the parting with Tom Glavine was another strained episode, and the expectation is that Cox will be back because he's excited that the Braves have another core of young talent developing. Stay tuned.
The headline at Rowland's Office was "Will Bobby be Smoltzed?" That's an accurate read on the situation.
My overall thinking here is that Frank Wren is trying to turn the Braves ship in a different direction. It's a similar direction to the one that existed under John Schuerholz, but one in which player loyalty is not valued over player performance as it usually was in the Schuerholz era (a new ideal that Cox may not share). Perhaps more accurately, the issue didn't come up that much in the previous administration since all the players the Braves were loyal to in that era were still high performers. Now that the effectiveness of the Smoltzes and Glavines have faded the organization is realizing it must turn away from some of those longstanding relationships to try and achieve new success with new players.
The same notion may begin to apply to our Hall of Fame manager. In an era of matchups and specialization a new type of manager is needed. The cache of Bobby Cox may also be a diluted one in this era. Back in the early 90's a manager who was loyal to his players above all else was somewhat of a novel thing, but most new-age managers have adopted some form of the Bobby Cox style.
As adventuresome as last off-season was, with the manager question, 6 starting pitchers, no first baseman, no closer, and no left fielder, this off-season is shaping up to be just as interesting.