PHILADELPHIA -- Atlanta Braves manager Bobby Cox must && be getting used to this sort of thing. He has taken his team into the postseason each of the past three years and he has had to tip his cap to someone else on each occasion.
"We'll be back," he said. "We'll start preparing for next year right away. We're good enough to be around for a number of years."
The Braves won a grueling division race against the San $H Francisco
Giants, but they went down hard against the Phillies, who completed their improbable run at the National League pennant last night with a 6-3 victory at Veterans Stadium.
"The Phillies ballclub definitely is championship caliber," Cox said. "They played great."
The Braves played great throughout the second half of the season, but there is some question whether they will return in 1994 with the same club. There have been rumors of a cost-cutting campaign, but Cox gave no indication of that when someone asked him if the club would have a different look next year.
"I don't want it to look too different," he said.
Still, the Braves payroll has increased dramatically over the past year. The addition of Greg Maddux last winter and the trade that brought Fred McGriff over at midseason have put a strain on the budget, leaving room to wonder if the organization will unload one of its high-priced stars.
The Orioles would like to think so. Managing general partner Peter Angelos said last week that he would be interested in McGriff if the Braves are willing to trade him.
Nothing but best
Philadelphia manager Jim Fregosi said yesterday that he wasn't rooting for either team in the American League Championship Series, but the right team won.
"I said it about Atlanta and San Francisco and I'm saying it again," Fregosi said. "We hoped the best team would win. If we get there, we want to play the best team."
The Phillies became only the third team in NLCS history to win the pennant while being outscored by their opponent. The Braves outscored them, 33-23. The last time it happened was last year, when the Pittsburgh Pirates outscored the Braves, 35-34.
Phillies relief pitcher Larry Andersen was a member of the NL West champion Houston Astros in 1986 when Len Dykstra hit a game-winning home run for the New York Mets in Game 3 of the NLCS.
"I had a nightmare about that the other night," Andersen said. "I woke up hating him."
Now that they are teammates, Andersen is enjoying watching Dykstra drive opposing pitchers to distraction. "He's a nightmare," Andersen said. "It's not like he's a pesky little pain-in-the-rear flea. He can be the incredible hulk if he wants to."
Don't blame Giants
Braves catcher Damon Berryhill concedes that the down-to-the-wire race with the Giants was taxing, but said he doesn't think it took too much out of his team.
"It's not like we've played badly. We've lost a couple of one-run games that could have gone either way."
No surprise to Phils
Phillies outfielder Wes Chamberlain said that the Phillies thought they could win the division in spring training this year, even though they finished last in 1992.
"That's just the attitude we had," he said. "If you don't have a positive attitude, why even put on a uniform? You have to be positive. Some people might call it cocky. You have to be cocky. That's the attitude everyone came out with."