NEW YORK — After 50 years in baseball, Bobby Cox figured the only way he would ever give up managing was to pick a specific time and announce it publicly.
So that’s what he did Wednesday, revealing his plans to retire as manager of the Atlanta Braves after next season.
Now comes the hard part: sticking to it.
“There is a little bit of relief once you come to grips with announcing it,” Cox said. “I’ve never lost the love to manage, period. But you have to make a decision. At my age, you have to make a decision. Somebody a little younger can start up.”
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The 68-year-old Cox, a four-time Manager of the Year, agreed to a one-year contract extension for 2010, the Braves announced before Wednesday night’s game against the New York Mets. He will start a five-year consulting agreement to advise the team in baseball operations after he steps down as manager.
During an illustrious career on the bench, Cox has guided Atlanta to 14 consecutive postseason appearances (1991-2005) and the 1995 World Series title.
“They asked me to come back, and I said I would do it for one more year, and we’ll announce the retirement along with it. It’s the only way I think I’m ever going to walk away from the game, is to go ahead and say I’m going to, and then I’ve got to,” Cox said. “There’s no turning back now — win, lose or draw. Whatever happens next year is going to be it.”
A cigar-smoking baseball lifer, Cox managed the Braves from 1978-81, switched to manage the Toronto Blue Jays from 1982-85, then returned to manage Atlanta in 1990. He led the Braves to five NL pennants and a record 14 straight division titles from 1991-2005.
“He’s one of the greatest — not only managers, but people,” Los Angeles Dodgers manager Joe Torre said in Washington.
Cox began Wednesday with 2,408 regular-season wins as a manager, fourth behind Connie Mack (3,731), John McGraw (2,763) and Tony La Russa (2,550). Cox and Joe McCarthy are the only managers with six 100-win regular seasons.
Braves general manager Frank Wren said he won’t start thinking about a successor for Cox until an appropriate time next season. Both men said Cox will have input.