Two worlds collide and the survivor will be somewhere in the middle.
Bobby Cox is in his 22nd year as manager of the Braves, 19 of those consecutive. He is a winner who knows that successful managers are the result of successful players.
He is not about to let a beneficial strategy pass by that will help those players be more successful.
This year, that chance has been by adopting a bit of the “money ball” concept by making on-base percentage the key to his offense.
“We got the best on-base percentage guys we’ve got at the top of the lineup,” he told the Atlanta Journal and Constitution. “[Martin] Prado and [Jason] Heyward in the top two spots, my on-base percentage is up around .400, it gives the rest of the lineup a lot of opportunities to hit with guys on base and hit with guys in scoring position.”
The Braves are first in the NL in OBP and lead the league in runs. They are first in the league in walks and 13th in slugging.
Get a lot of men on base and get as many in as possible is the theory and it’s working.
Sure, adopting that approach has been occurring out of necessity with the slugging numbers down. Still, many might find Cox to be the last manager in the game to turn to a concept foreign to his years of success with solid bats in the lineup.
Cox loves to manage games. He hates the DH to this day since he views the result as taking all the decision-making out of American League games. Some would say that’s old school.
That probably would be right, but he’s not too old to learn, or win.
Therein are the kudos for Cox, in his final year of managing. Adjust where necessary to win however it may be in contradiction to the past.
Now all we need is for the Braves and Toronto to meet in the World Series. Not likely, but possible.
The Jays have Cito Gaston at the helm and he has taken a completely different approach.
Gaston believes in a bats-ahoy offense.
“I want them to go to the plate ready to swing. I want them looking for fast balls and if they get one, go after it,” he says.
This is a divergent view from the current theory that the way to win games is take a lot of pitches, get the starter out of the game, and get to the middle bullpen, the underbelly of most teams.
Gaston wants the lead, not the pen.
His players now lead the majors in homers and are on a pace to best the Toronto mark for home runs in a year, and maybe even the MLB record.
Toronto’s OBP is 28th in the majors, but the Jays are sixth in the AL in runs and second in the majors in slugging.
The Jays are mash ball and mash some more. They swing from the top of their lineup to the bottom.
With the Yankees and Red Sox ahead of them in the division, they would need a big-time rush to make it to the postseason.
If they don’t make it, they will go down swinging, literally.
Cox and Gaston, two fine managers who again remind us there is no one way to a winning season.