Stan Kasten, now president and CEO of the Los Angeles Dodgers, laid the groundwork for the Braves' dominant run with a series of sage personnel moves after joining the organization in 1986. His first big decision was resisting the advice (from whom precisely, he will not say) to fire scouting director Paul Snyder. That steadfastness paid dividends when Snyder drafted Chipper Jones, Glavine, Justice and numerous other players who would play pivotal roles in Atlanta's division title run. Kasten made another seminal decision in 1990 when he shifted Cox from the general manager's seat to the dugout and replaced him with Schuerholz, who had built an impressive track record in Kansas City and was widely perceived as unattainable.
Schuerholz gave the Braves credibility, a sense of direction and a long-term vision, not to mention a school teacher's vocabulary and a sense of sartorial elegance with his suspenders and color-coordinated socks. Kasten still remembers the incredulous feeling he shared with Cox in the fall of 1990, when Cox was in the hospital recovering from knee surgery and Kasten broke the news that the Braves had landed Schuerholz. "When we finally had all the right pieces in place, we just needed the guy to come in and make it all work,'' Kasten said. "John and I still laugh about it to this day. There were 100 candidates mentioned for who we were going to hire as GM, and his name never once saw the light of day. John and I went to the press conference announcing him, and no one had ever used his name. It never occurred to anyone that he would leave Kansas City.''
Pitching was the foundation for Atlanta's success, with the Big Three at the center of it all and Steve Avery, Denny Neagle, Kevin Millwood and Kent Mercker taking turns as trusty sidekicks. Maddux and Glavine generated lots of laughs in a classic "Chicks Dig the Long Ball'' video, and they bonded on the golf course and in friendly competitions. Maddux won 18 Gold Gloves, but Glavine wouldn't hesitate to point out that he won three more Silver Slugger Awards (four) than his fellow rotation-mates combined.
"When you're a starting pitcher, life can get pretty boring sometimes, because you pitch and then you sit around for four days,'' Glavine said. "But on those teams, it was always a little bit more fun. You knew when you were going to the ballpark and you weren't pitching, you were going to get a chance to watch somebody that was really good.''
Cox oversaw it all with a reliance on some bedrock principles. He once pulled Andruw Jones midgame for a lack of hustle, but 99.9 percent of the time he went to great lengths to provide cover for players and put a happy face on poor performances. Cox had few rules, but he steadfastly prohibited music in the clubhouse. Players were free to indulge their tastes while wearing headphones, but Cox didn't want them arguing over the merits of metal versus country versus rap when they should have been focusing on that night's game.
Cox also managed to inspire devotion from his players while maintaining the requisite distance as an authority figure. He never took part in those celebrated golf games with his star pitchers, and he rarely if ever dined with an Atlanta player.