Gettin' Tossed: The Winning Recipe

Bobby Cox ejection i

Braves manager Bobby Cox gets ejected -- for the 130th time -- while disputing a call over a fair (or foul) ball. Dianne Pike/Flickr hide caption

toggle caption Dianne Pike/Flickr
Bobby Cox ejection

Braves manager Bobby Cox gets ejected -- for the 130th time -- while disputing a call over a fair (or foul) ball.

Dianne Pike/Flickr

I grew up an Atlanta Braves fan. This is peculiar, considering I grew up in New Jersey, where the Yankees reign supreme. But whenever the Bronx Bombers had a day off or a night game, my TV was tuned in to The Bravos (Thank you, Ted Turner — the Superstation was a good idea).

And if you've ever watched or been to a Braves game, there are a few reliable elements that make them authentic — the Joneses (Chipper and Andruw keeping up with, well, themselves) ... The rallying "hammer chop" that's required of all the fans in the stands ... And then there's the heat under general manager Bobby Cox's collar. Unfortunately, I haven't been to a game where he's been ejected. But from what I've read and seen on ESPN, it's quite a spectacle.

I got back into reading Sports Illustrated on a daily basis, and just as I was about to check the highlights from a Braves game last week — there it is — a breakdown of Cox's numerous ejections from ball games during his career.

Lou Pinella kicks bases. Bobby Knight throws chairs. Mr. Cox, well, his formula is unlike any other. For a man that appears to be a stoic, stern father figure, his temper might well be unmatched. How? Because Cox holds the record for the most ejections in a managing career — 156 . But he's also the fourth-winningest manager in major league history.

I won't waste too much time talking about how or why he's been ejected so many times (the article does a fine job at hitting the highs and lows). But a few notes on when to expect a blowup are worth mentioning:

... If you want to see the Braves manager explode, you would do well to check the schedule for an afternoon game on a Sunday in July, preferably in Miami ... This is not to say that Cox never gets angry at night in October; he does. No one else has been thrown out of two World Series games. But the numbers show a correlation. Heat has a way of lighting the fuse.

... Cox is most likely to be thrown out in the fifth or sixth inning, least likely in the second or ninth. He's been ejected twice in the 10th inning, three times in the 13th, and 15 times in the first. If these numbers add up to anything, it would have to be anger, sincere and uncalculated. No manager in his right mind goes out in the first or the 13th looking to get tossed.

OK, OK, so Bobby Cox gets thrown out of a lot of games. And at the strangest times. Big whoop. And yes, an ejection doesn't necessarily mean a win. But whether he plays the role of David versus the Goliath umps over bad calls at the plate, on the field, or merely for dissent, the stats don't lie:

On average, at the moment in the game when Cox is thrown out, his team is losing by a little more than a run. And on average, for the rest of the game, his team outplays the opponent by about a third of run. It's not always enough to turn a loss into a win. But it makes a difference. When the game has been tied at the point of his ejection, Cox's teams have gone on to win more than they've lost. And they have almost three times as many comeback wins post-ejection as blown leads. Manny Acta says the Braves never won because Cox was ejected. The ocean of numbers says otherwise.

Bobby Cox has built quite a reputation for channeling his anger, so to speak — with a World Series and a slew of Manager of the Year awards under his belt. But in May of 1995, a few months before the Braves won it all, the world soon knew that Cox's game-time temper didn't merely hang up to dry in the locker rooms after the lights went out every night. It followed him home to his wife:

... He had been drinking, and he spilled a drink on the carpet. She made a comment he didn't appreciate. The police report said she told an officer that her husband grabbed her by the hair and hit her in the face.

... There was a media firestorm when the news broke, but Cox and the Braves quickly contained it. He held a press conference the next day to deny hitting his wife. The battery charge disappeared when he agreed to take anger-management counseling.

Domestic abuse is a continuing problem in the MLB. And as of 2008, according to Deadspin, "only one MLB team has made domestic abuse awareness a priority - the Seattle Mariners."

So, in no way am I trying to say that causing a ruckus is the best strategy for results on and off the diamond. In the right, on-field instances and uncanny timing, though, it's propelled Bobby's boys to new heights over the years.

Although the abuse incident is still somewhat of an underlying controversy when you mention Bobby Cox, if there's one thing fellow ball players that respect him want you to remember, it's that:

... Bobby Cox will fight for his players, right or wrong, whether or not it makes tactical sense, in the first inning or the 13th, in a rain delay in Toronto or in the washroom at Shea Stadium, with water gushing from a shattered toilet.

I personally haven't seen Bobby Cox get tossed from a game. But now that I understand that the proof is in the (ejection) pudding, if anyone can explain to me what exactly the Chipper Jones Momentum-Turn Hypothesis is, I will be forever grateful.



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