Wait until next year! This season has ended but the Braves will be back. It won't be the same without Bobby Cox but the team will return for another go at a championship under the leadership of new manager, Fredi Gonzalez.
The change in managers will not be the only change. I am sure that the team roster will look different. Some of the coaches and players from this past season will be gone (not Chipper, please) and new ones will be added by trades or from the minor leagues (maybe another Jason Heyward or Tommy Hanson).
Next season's uniforms may change slightly--Lord knows they have added so many different jerseys, logo designs and colors already--but we will probably still recognize America's Team.
There are some things I hope do not change. The tone and style of the coaches and managers for one. Bobby Cox is known as a "player's manager" because of the way he has always supported his players. Many of his 161 ejections (including 3 in post-season) were because he intervened for a player in a dispute with an umpire. He always treated them with respect in public and in private. "He always has your back," said one player recently who was under scrutiny for his miscues. I hope that does not change.
The demeanor of the team is another aspect that I hope remains the same. Over the years the Braves players have not seen as "problems" or "trouble makers." You want guys on the team with passion for the game but some of the on-field and off-field antics and attitudes that are often witnessed in other places have not been a part of the Braves' DNA. This franchise has not had the kind of controversies that have surrounded many of the other major leaguers and teams. I hope that does not change.
The Braves have had a pretty good record since 1991, winning 14 Division Championships, 5 National League Championships, and one World Series. Fredi Gonzales has big shoes to fill but I hope he can keep the team on a winning track.
One other quality that I hope survives is the attitude that the players have demonstrated for each other when the chips were down. The most recent example of that was during the Division Chapsionship Series when Brooks Conrad was under fire for his defensive mistakes. I must admit that I was among those who were not happy with him after making eight errors in the last seven games including three errors to blow a playoff game.
Conrad said "I feel like I let everyone down ... I wish I could just dig a hole and go sleep in there."
His teammate, Matt Diaz said, "You just keep patting him on the back and let him know you want him out there, that he's part of the team."
Tim Hudson said, "We love him more now than we ever have, "It's one of those things, a little rough go. We're behind him... Your heart goes out for him."
A couple lockers away from Hudson, Chipper Jones said the same thing: "There is not a guy in here that wouldn't take Brooks Conrad in their foxhole any day. We love the guy to death." I hope that supportive attitude does not change.
Sounds like how the Church ought to act doesn't it?
[Taken with permission from "Monday Morning in North Georgia," 10/18/2010. North Georgia Conference of the United Methodist Church.]