As the Braves’ ownership situation nears resolution, there’s every chance that the duo of manager Bobby Cox and GM John Schuerholz might not finish the decade in Atlanta. Were the new paymasters to pick one or the other, the Atlanta Journal Constitution’s Mark Bradley says they should opt for the highly decorated, wife-battering skipper.

(Bobby, on the left, shown with Georgia Sec. Of State Cathy Cox, no relation. And no punches thrown!)

Largely because of creeping budgetary restraints, the quality of personnel Schuerholz has provided has vacillated in recent seasons. For a decade the Braves spent big and won with starting pitching, but in 2002 they were buoyed by a lockdown bullpen and in 2003 they were carried by an unusually robust offense. In 2004 they won without much of a team at all. Usually they™ve finished first because of veterans, but last year they finished first with a raft of rookies.

Two years ago Marty Brennaman, the Hall of Fame broadcaster for the Cincinnati Reds, hauled out the famous quote ” originally voiced by Frank Howard about Bear Bryant and repeated by Bum Phillips about Don Shula ” and applied it to Cox: œHe can take his™n and beat your™n. And that™s the point. Maybe one or two other GMs could have stitched together comparable rosters for the price Schuerholz has paid these last five years. No other manager could have won division titles with them.

Think about this: The last 15 times Bobby Cox has left spring training with a team and completed a season with it, that team has finished first. (This includes the 1985 Toronto Blue Jays.) Maybe 10 of those times he has had the most talent in his division, but at least five times he hasn™t. Didn™t matter. He won anyway. He might well win again with this bunch, which lacks a closer and a first baseman and a leadoff hitter. He has that effect.

Understand: This isn™t an attempt to drive a wedge between Cox and Schuerholz, who like and respect one another and who have always worked together ” invoking the Schuerholz word ” seamlessly. They™re both great at what they do, and they™ll both be missed hugely whenever they choose to leave. And admittedly the matter of which will be missed more is a close call. Close, but clear.

One is the best GM of his era. The other is the best manager ever. The Braves might get ridiculously lucky and find another John Schuerholz. They™ll never find another Bobby Cox.

This afternoon, the Braves are immersed in a doubleheader against Arizona ; in Game One, Luis Gonzalez has an RBI double off John Smoltz, giving the Snakes an early 1-0 advantage.

In the ping-tastic world of college baseball, the Austin Regional’s 2nd seed, North Carolina State is in serious danger of an early exit today at the hands of unheralded UT-Arlington,  the Mavericks leading 5-3 after 5 innings. 1B Robby Winn — currently rocking the Buster Bloodvessel look — homered off the Wolfpack’s Eryck McConnell in the bottom of the 2nd, narrowly missing the CSTB Urban Assault Vehicle.