Episode 67— Chapter 76
May 2, 3 and 4
Miami Marlins at Atlanta
After the Sunday afternoon game with Arizona, the Braves arrived in Atlanta just before midnight. Flying eastbound always added several hours to the arrival time. Cobb walked into his condominium at 12:50 a.m. He was exhausted, but not from playing; the flight had fatigued him, exacerbated by his depressed and sullen mood.
The light on his condominium phone was blinking. Cobb smiled; it would be nice to hear a friendly voice. He hadn’t talked to Savannah in more than a week, and he missed her terribly. He accessed the message:
Hello Ty. I hope all is well. You’ll never guess where I am. I just landed in Japan… my first time here. I’ve been given an assignment to cover the World Master Games… I don’t expect you to know what that is—I’m not sure I do either. Anyway, I don’t expect to have a moment’s rest during the next couple of weeks, so I’ll try to reach you when I return.
It helped hearing the sweet cadence of her voice and it immediately brought back the vision of Savannah’s beauty and grace, but Cobb was disappointed that she was so far away. She was obviously very busy with her new assignment. He would try to reach her when she returned.
The pleasant feeling of hearing Savannah’s voice soon faded away and Cobb’s loneliness and depression returned. He felt as though he had let her down. She had been his biggest cheerleader, but now he was barely hanging on. He reflected on their last time together, when they had enjoyed lunch after his exciting debut in Atlanta. It now seemed so distant, so unreal. Then, he had been the toast of the town. Now, he had become a forgotten man. How quickly his fortunes had changed. He knew his days with the Braves were numbered.
Bolt insisted that Carpenter return Cobb to the starting lineup after his sitting spell, to see if he could produce any more fireworks. Cobb started the final two games of the Marlins’ series. His performance continued to suffer. In Tuesday’s game he was 0 for 5, although his ground out produced a run. In the Wednesday finale, he failed to reach base in four appearances and committed his third error of the season. The Braves lost both games and it was clear that baseball’s honeymoon with Cobb was nearing its end. Cobb’s batting average had plummeted to .241.
After five straight losses, Carpenter was in Bolt’s penthouse office on the Braves’ off day on May 5th, discussing the Braves’ recent wretched performance.
“It’s better for the club and for baseball, if he’s released outright,” Carpenter argued, citing not just his miserable play but the discord among veterans.
“It was sure one helluva project. If only he were Ty Cobb. I almost had myself believing we had a chance this year,” Bolt said wistfully.
“Boss, you played your hand. You got some great publicity, increased ticket sales and concessions…”
“Sure, that was part of it. Hell! A big part of it. But winning would have meant so much more.”
“Can I give him his walking papers?”
Bolt turned his chair around and gazed into the Atlanta skyline. “Carpenter, you understand hunches? Managers use them all the time on the playing field. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t. I play hunches in business, too. Most of the time, I’ve been lucky. Coupla’ times I’ve been burned.”
Bolt then turned a hundred and eighty degrees around and stared at Carpenter, “There’s a million reasons why everything you say is right. But, the first time I laid eyes on Cobb, there was something different about him. Maybe it was his energy, his passion for the game… unfortunately, he seems to have lost some of that during the last couple of weeks. I don’t know what’s happened, but I do want him to hang on a while longer. If he doesn’t show some progress soon, then he’ll be gone. I give you my word. You don’t need to play him every inning, but give him some playing time, so we can gauge whether he was just a one-time sensation whose star has sunk or if he can start figuring out how to hit major league pitching again.”
Carpenter bit his lip, trying his best to hide his disappointment. He knew he was on thin ice himself and if he were fired it was highly unlikely he’d ever get another managerial job with the Braves’ poor record during his tenure. He would give Cobb some playing time, if only to put the final nails in Cobb’s coffin. Once Cobb was gone, he’d wrest control of the troops and get them on the upward swing.
The sooner Cobb was gone, the better.