I think that Bobby Cox is possibly the greatest manager of the last twenty years. That he has consistently been able to field a team that contends on a yearly basis for going on 14 years is staggering. And what he, pitching coach Leo Mazzone, and his staff have been able to do with a team that, by all rights should have done no better than .500 is incredible.
That said, I don't think Cox will ever get his due because of the cockeyed moves that he pulls in in-game situations during playoff games.
He calls for a suicide squeeze that doesn't work: i.e., Marcus Giles failed attempt-cum-rally-killing strikeout in the seventh with Rafael Furcal at third trailing 2-1.
He attempts to steal with the heart of his order up and trailing by one run: i.e., J.D. Drew caught stealing with Chipper Jones at bat, none out in the eighth, trailing 2-1.
He uses excessive pinch-runner inadvertently burning up his bench: using both Wilson Betemit and Nick Green to score just one run in the eighth.
He uses his fastest runner to bunt over the runner with a tie ballgame in the ninth: i.e. using Furcal, who you'll remember won the game with a homer, to bunt Smoltz to second with no out in the ninth. Smoltz never scores. What are the odds that Furcal will be doubled up? Aren't the odds better to let Furcal swing away and if the get the lead runner, he'll steal the base anyway?
Throw in the bad decision by Furcal to go home (and then stop and then go again) on a pitch that got away from the Raul Chavez a few pitches after the Giles K in the eighth, and you know why it took the Braves 12 hits to score their first two runs and it took Houston only four.
But the oddest was the bullpen phone incident. Cox claimed that Phil Garner was up to "shenanigans" claiming that the phone from the dugout to the bullpen wasn't functioning. He had to send an emissary (game three starter Brendon Backe) down to the bullpen to retrieve his closer Brad Lidge. Cox protested the game saying that Garner was just wasting time to allow Lidge to loosen up. The protest is now a moot point since the Braves won, but I just donít see any grounds for it anyway.
I don't know what Cox would have put in his official protest, but the announcers mentioned two things. First, that Garner came out of the dugout twice but did not replace his pitcher as the rule stipulates. Well, this is baseless since the rule states that he must visit the mound, and the second time he came out was to inform the home plate umpire that his dugout phone wasn't working. Second, he then proceeded to pull Roy Oswalt anyway. By the way, here's the rule to which they referred:
A professional league shall adopt the following rule pertaining to the visit of the manager or coach to the pitcher: (a) This rule limits the number of trips a manager or coach may make to any one pitcher in any one inning; (b) A second trip to the same pitcher in the same inning will cause this pitcher's automatic removal;
Next, there are the "shenanigans". Well, I donít think it was ever established one way or the other if the phone worked. But Lidge had been up and appeared ready. When the call was finally made to the pen, he came right in. That all seems consistent with Garner attempting to call in a ready pitcher and not being able to do so. However, there is nothing that I could find in the rules covering the operation of a bullpen or dugout phone. There are no ground rules pertaining to it since the Braves apparently have no ground rules.
As far as what an umpire should do with a situation not in the rules, well, they cover that too:
Each umpire has authority to rule on any point not specifically covered in these rules.
The umpire made a judgment call and believed Garner. Then he proceeded to continue with the game in the most expeditious manner possible (sending a scout to retrieve the next pitcher). I can't imagine what Cox would have protested. Maybe the fact that the Braves can't seem to get about 80% of capacity for their home playoff attendance. Whatever it was, now we'll never know.