ATLANTA — Despite Atlanta's worst season since 1990, longtime Braves manager Bobby Cox vowed Wednesday to return next season.
The 67-year-old Cox signed a one-year contract extension in May, but his team was ravaged by injuries — especially to the pitching staff — and went into a game against the Colorado Rockies with a 63-82 record, 181/2 games out of first in the NL East.
Cox said the Braves' record — good or bad — would not be a factor in his decision to step aside, whenever that might be.
"I'm not going to decide my retirement based on wins and losses, or anything like that," he said, sitting in a tiny room just off the Braves dugout at Turner Field. "I still love the game. It's fun. It's no fun to lose, but I look at it different than most people. The game is fun to me. Coming to the ballpark is fun. I enjoy being able to be a part of the game."
When Cox pointed out that he already had a contract for 2009, someone said the Braves would surely let him out of it if he had changed his mind. After all, he's been managing the team since 1990, and management has made it clear that he can stay in the dugout as long as he likes.
"I won't change my mind," he insisted.
Cox is the fourth-winningest manager in major league history and likely headed to Cooperstown after he does decide to retire. The Braves won a record 14 straight division titles from 1991-04 and captured the city's lone World Series championship in 1995.
But the team has fallen off dramatically since its last division title. This will be second losing season in three years for the Braves.
During spring training in 2007, Cox hinted that he might retire at the end of this season. But his outlook had changed when he reported to Florida this year, and he signed a contract extension less than two months after opening day.
"I would be shocked if Bobby wasn't back next year," pitcher Tom Glavine said.
Despite the team's record, Cox feels he's still got plenty to offer from the dugout.
"Everybody is used to winning around here," he said. "But I'm probably better now than I've ever been."