As expected, Alex takes exception to my Braves.net column. (And JR did too, in the comments.) Alex actually says he didn’t read the column, so he could just let go with his emotions. He should have, because I address many of his points there. (He’s actually pretty familiar with my arguments, since we’ve argued about them before.) To summarize: Leibrandt was the best choice in 1991, since the Braves had no experienced relievers of any quality left; Jeff Reardon pitched quite well for the Braves in the regular season, and his playoff collapse could not have been anticipated; when he went to his closer in the eighth inning of Game Four in 1996, it backfired and he got a lot of abuse, but it’s exactly the same strategy Joe Torre has used and Mike Sciocia was praised for adopting after not doing in the Angels’ first game against the Yankees.
Where Alex sees rigidity, I see patience; patience is Bobby Cox’s greatest asset as a manager. And the thing is that in the long term the patient man will win out. Would any other manager have stuck with Kevin Millwood for so long if he had the number of options Bobby did? I thought that Kevin should move to the bullpen, and I know Alex agreed with me. But look what happened — because Bobby gave him a chance to straighten himself out. It’s not the best example because now he’s with the Dodgers, but Bobby was extraordinarily patient with Odalis Perez as well. I never thought Odalis would make it as a starter.
To address the further point that Bobby doesn’t give chances to young players, this is foolish and ignores the evidence. When Bobby has a young player with obvious talent, he’ll find a job for him. I compliled a long list of major leaguers who broke in under Bobby last season; it’s a very impressive list as well, and contains several players who will eventually make it into the Hall of Fame as well many all-stars.
However, Bobby will not risk using a young player he doesn’t think can handle a job; for instance, I think he’s certain Marcus Giles won’t be able to play second base in the major leagues. And I can’t say for certain that he’s wrong. And Bobby will prefer to go with a “proven veteran” who may be a bad player, but at least a bad player who will make routine plays, over the youngster who might be good or might screw up. I don’t agree with this decision, but on the other hand it’s the decision that almost every major league manager will make. I don’t think you can criticize Bobby for following the book.