ATLANTA — it was the ending Bobby Cox deserved.
Maybe that sounds wrong. Maybe that sounds harsh.
It’s not meant to.
if Cox had gone out with the championship that the Braves dreamed of, that would have been fine, too. But short of a championship, this was the perfect ending.
at home. in the playoffs. With thousands of fans chanting his name.
With the opposing team delaying a hard-won celebration to salute the manager they just beat.
when have you ever seen that before?
“That’s what any team would have done,” Giants closer Brian Wilson said.
Perhaps it is.
You couldn’t go anywhere in baseball the last few weeks without someone asking about Cox. You couldn’t go anywhere without hearing someone say they were pulling for Cox’s Braves to make it to the playoffs one final time.
and if there was an overriding theme to this series, more than the Tim Lincecum strikeouts and the Brooks Conrad errors, more than the offense so nonexistent that the Giants were able to score just 11 runs in four games and come out on top, it was the Braves manager whose career ended with Monday night’s 3-2 loss.
As much as this moment should belong to the Giants, a fun team full of great pitchers and various misfits that just won its first postseason series since the 2002 NLCS, it also had to belong to Cox, who in his 29th and final big-league season was taking a team to the playoffs for a record 16th time.
The Giants knew it. The Giants will forgive all of us if we spend some time here celebrating Cox as we also celebrate them. The Giants understood that this has to be about him as it is also about them.
and the Giants helped make it about him, with their classy if unplanned gesture at the end.
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They had rushed the field after Wilson retired Melky Cabrera for the final out. They were celebrating a whole lot more than the Yankees and Phillies celebrated their division series wins, and rightfully so.
But as the celebration went on, the Turner Field fans began chanting Cox’s name. he waited, allowing the Giants to have their moment on the field before emerging from the first-base dugout.
and then the Giants stopped. They stopped and applauded, right along with the Braves fans.
“I heard the crowd going crazy, and I knew they weren’t cheering for us,” said Cody Ross, whose sixth-inning home run and seventh-inning tie-breaking single had helped send Cox into retirement. “To me, he’s one of the best managers ever in baseball, and one of my favorite managers to play against.
“He’s going to be missed, and not just in Atlanta.”
down the hall, Cox was trying unsuccessfully to fight back tears. he said this was the same as any other season that ends unsuccessfully in October, but he knew it wasn’t.
“A grown man shouldn’t do this,” he said, his eyes tearing up. Then, as quickly as he could, he added, “But I can’t say enough about Derek Lowe. He’s going to be a 20-game winner next year, if they get him some runs.”
again, it was perfect. it was Cox, in the last postgame news conference he’d ever do, trying to turn the focus away from himself and onto his players. he was doing it in this case to avoid his emotions, but he was doing exactly what made him so respected and so revered.
he talked about how proud he was of this final team, the team he described a week earlier as the “hardest-working, hardest-trying team” he’d ever had.
As he spoke after Monday’s game, you could hear the yelling from the Giants clubhouse next door.
They had quickly — and rightly — turned their attention away from Cox and back onto what they had done. it really is remarkable that a team this offensively challenged has made it this far.
They made it because of guys like Ross, who the Marlins simply allowed to go away on a waiver claim that the Giants supposedly made in an effort to keep him from going to the division-rival Padres. They made it because of guys like Pat Burrell, who was released by the Rays and has said since that he knew he could have spent the rest of the season sitting home on his sofa.
“It’s just been an unbelievable ride,” Ross said.
No matter how he became a Giant in the first place, he soon became important. he played center field when Andres Torres was out after an appendectomy, and he became the regular right fielder in the playoffs when Jose Guillen hurt his neck.
he gave the Giants two RBI on Monday, two of their three runs. and with this team, three runs are often enough.
Three runs were enough Monday, enough because rookie starter Madison Bumgarner was so good, because setup man Santiago Casilla was good, enough because Wilson survived a pair of one-out walks in the ninth.
in this series, 11 runs were enough for the Giants, because their pitchers allowed the Braves to score only nine.
“You can’t have everything,” Wilson said. “You can’t have Murderer’s Row and Cy Young Awards.”
No one pointed out to him that with the Phillies lineup and with Roy Halladay heading their big Three starters, the Giants’ next opponent might have just that. someone did suggest that a matchup of the Giants pitchers and the Phillies, starting off with a Lincecum-Halladay matchup in Game 1 on Saturday night, should be interesting.
“It will be,” Wilson said. “It had better be.”
it won’t be like this series that just ended, one in which the Giants were the favorite, if not the sentimental pick. and it won’t end like this one, at least not exactly like this one.
No, if the Giants win this next one, it will be all about them.
That celebration won’t pause for anyone. not that the Giants minded at all pausing this one.
“He’s a legend in this sport,” Freddy Sanchez said. “We needed to show him the respect. first things first, respect Bobby Cox and what he’s done.
“We could enjoy ourselves later.”
go ahead, Giants, enjoy yourselves. You’ve already given Bobby Cox the sending off he deserved.