Bobby Cox, a winner exits the dugout

As the face of the Atlanta Braves, his retirement will surely mark the end of an era for the franchise.

Whether or not his Atlanta Braves reach the play-offs, the manager Bobby Cox will spend his last regular-season game in the dugout on Sunday.

As much as Tom Glavine and Chipper Jones, Cox, 69, has been the face of the Braves for the past two decades and his retirement surely marks the end of an era for the franchise - and baseball.

Through results of Tuesday, Cox had won 2,501 games, No 4 on the all-time list. His teams have won 500-plus more games than they have lost, a feat shared by just two other managers in baseball history, John McGraw (from 1899 through 1932) and Joe McCarthy (1926/50). And Cox finished in first place an astonishing 15 times, more than any manager.

With Cox first building the team as its general manager, then directing it from the dugout, the Braves were the team of the 1990s.

From Fulton County Stadium to Turner Field, from last place to first, from Terry Pendleton to Jason Heyward, Cox has been the Braves' front man, having managed them for the past 20 years.

Cox brought stability and presence to the Braves. While they were led only by him, the rest of the National League, totalling 15 other teams, used 106 managers. He oversaw some great starting pitchers, herded some mediocre bullpens, worked through the eruption of scoring and its decline and mostly won. Again and again.

The only criticism of Cox's tenure is that he won just one World Series title, in 1995, against the Cleveland Indians.

Four other times, Cox got to the World Series and lost. Ten times, his teams dropped out after the Division Series or the National League Championship Series. But most baseball people maintain that post-season success is largely random, that the best teams do not always win and fluke performances can make improbable teams champions - and favourites also-rans. Cox need not apologise, however.

He was good enough in October to win 66 post-season games, second only to Joe Torre.

His retirement comes in a season of unique managerial turnover. This is the last season in the dugout for Lou Piniella, Cito Gaston, Joe Torre and potentially, at least, Tony La Russa. Piniella left the Chicago Cubs early to attend to his sick mother; the rest are going to be absent from the post-season as they leave the game. Cox, however, could still have one more chance at an elusive second World Series.

The Braves were ahead in the NL wild-card chase in the final week, with knowledge that their competitors for the spot, the San Francisco Giants and San Diego Padres, would be playing head-to-head on the final weekend, enduring losses for one club or another.

It would only be fitting that Cox go out a champion.