Manager Bruce Bochy of the Giants Doesn't Get the Credit He Deserves
It really is hard to gauge Bruce Bochy.
If you look at him statistically, he really is nothing special.
In his 14.5 seasons as a Major League manager, he has compiled 1,140 wins, 1,193 losses, and a .489 win-loss percentage.
He has only had five winning seasons total in his previous 14 years, and all of them came with the San Diego Padres.
Other than a magical run in 1998, where he went to the World Series while riding guys like Sterling Hitchcock, Bochy's teams have made a habit of exiting the playoffs early and easily.
His teams have been eliminated in the NLDS in three of their four postseason appearances, and two of those NLDS losses have been sweeps.
He has only won Manager of the Year once as well (in 1996). Granted, a lot of managers can't say they have that award in their lifetime, but this is an organization that used to have a manager that has won the award three times (Dusty Baker).
Safe to say, managing in that kind of shadow is going to make it tough for any manager to endear himself to the fans. It's almost as bad as when Jay Fiedler became the starting quarterback the year after Dan Marino retired.
Nonetheless, despite what the statistical numbers say about Bochy's win-loss record and relative lack of playoff success, he still has a glimmering reputation not just around the league, but around sports circles as well.
Despite only having five winning seasons with San Diego, he lasted 12 seasons with the team and probably would've stayed longer had the Giants not yanked him away with a better contract in 2007.
Radio personality Chris "Mad Dog" Russo, a self-proclaimed San Francisco Giants fan, said in his 2003 book, The Mad Dog 100: The Greatest Sports Arguments of All Time, that Bochy was one of the league's most underrated managers.
"He's not a big fanfare guy. He doesn't toot his own horn, but players love playing for him," Russo said in his book. "You never see players b******* and moaning about him. Trevor Hoffman stayed there, Tony Gwynn stayed there, Ryan Klesko signed a contract there. Padres are still a pesky team, and they never quit."
I can only imagine the feeling Russo had when the Giants decided to hire Bochy as the Giants manager in 2007. I'm sure it was a much different emotion than the one he exhibited on his radio show, Mike and the Mad Dog, after the Giants' playoff loss to the Florida Marlins in 2003.
In all honesty, Bochy is an old school kind of a manager. He doesn't have much of a personality, but he doesn't hang his guys out to dry in the media either.
Have Giants fans ever seen manager-player problems at all during Bochy's tenure in San Francisco? Have we ever heard about manager-media clashes in Bochy's two-and-a-half seasons as Giants skipper?
The answer is no, and that's something we can't exactly say about the two previous Giants managers.
It was well-documented that Barry Bonds and manager Dusty Baker had a feud in the clubhouse. Did Bonds and Bochy ever have any kind of spat, whatsoever?
Felipe Alou was criticized by media personalities everywhere for his reaction to a KNBR radio host's racially insensitive comments about Pedro Feliz on a radio show. (Granted, I agreed with Alou, but his reactions proved to be a distraction for the team.) When's the last time Bochy said something exciting to the media, let alone confrontational?
Bochy does what any good, level-headed manager does: He keeps his nose out of business other than baseball and does his best to keep his players happy.
That's what any great manager does.
The only reason he doesn't get too much credit from fans is because he doesn't win as much as you would like.
They don't get emotional, the players like playing for them, and for the most part, they keep it simple at their press conferences.
The only difference between the two is the teams Bochy inherited in comparison to Torre.
I am certain that if Bochy and Torre flip-flopped teams, it would be Bochy with the multiple championships rather than Torre.
Because, in reality, it is the players that win the games on the field.
As fans, we like to believe a fiery manager wins championships. We want to believe the guy who is calling the shots is the man ultimately responsible for the wins and losses.
However, that isn't the case, no matter how much we want to believe it.
Bochy and Torre are prime examples of it as well.
They're similar in so many ways, yet Torre, in 12 seasons with the Yankees, had 222 more wins than Bochy in his 12 seasons as Padres manager.
Is Torre really 222 wins better because of his managing skills? No. He's better because he had Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, and Mike Mussina.
Who did Bochy have? Sure, the Padres had Gwynn and Hoffman, but was there anyone else that was really any great?
Talent is why Torre was better in his 12 years in New York than Bochy in his 12 years in San Diego.
Talent is also why the Giants haven't won more than 71 games in Bochy's two seasons as Giants manager.
To be perfectly honest, Bochy entered a horrendous situation. In Bochy's first year, the Giants were old and concentrating more on Barry's home run record rather than winning.
In his second year, the team had no identity and not much hope. Many experts predicted the Giants last season to challenge the 1962 New York Mets' record of 120 losses.
However, not only did they not even come close to that record (they won 72 games, 32 more than the 1962 Mets), they didn't even finish in last place in the division.
That dubious honor belonged to Bochy's former team, the Padres.
Bochy is a good manager, and with some talent, team chemistry, and finally a front office plan, things are starting to pay off for him this season. Going into Wednesday's series finale with the Marlins, the Giants are 46-37, nine games over .500, and still a legitimate threat in the National League playoff hunt.
Is Bochy completely responsible for the turnaround?
Yet he hasn't hurt the Giants' chances either.
He's not providing any distractions like Lou Piniella in Chicago. He's not throwing players under the bus like Manny Acta in Washington.
Bochy is guilty of some questionable maneuvers, I can admit that. That being said, it is to be expected, not just from him, but any manager.
There is no manager in Major League Baseball that does everything perfectly.
Torre is known for overthrowing relievers. His most glittering example was his persistence in making Rivera throw an incredible number of two-inning saves.
Boston Red Sox Manager Terry Francona is known for being too loyal to his superstars. Even as David Ortiz was homerless and hovering under the Mendoza line, it took Francona a few months to move Ortiz down in the lineup.
Bochy has the same kinds of blemishes. He changes the lineup way too much. He gets too cute with hit and run plays. He has a scary amount of confidence in Brian Wilson as a closer.
However, I'm willing to put up with those faults because his positives as a clubhouse guy outweigh his negatives as an in-game manager.
It is unfair to blame Bochy for the losing seasons he had in his first two seasons as Giants manager. It wasn't Bochy who put together those awful teams. It wasn't Bochy who signed Barry Zito to a seven-year, $126 million contract.
Let's save that criticism for the guy who deserves it (GM Brian Sabean), not the guy who's been trying to make the best out of the hand he has been dealt.
I know a lot Giants fans don't like Bochy, and I'm sure, because of his easygoing style, he will not endear himself to a lot of fans anytime soon.
I'm sure those fans want somebody with fire or somebody with personality. Instead of Bochy, it's easy to imagine Giants fans are clamoring for a manager like the Cubs' Piniella or the White Sox's Ozzie Guillen because they're outspoken, successful guys.
That being said, look how Piniella quit on Tampa Bay. Look how Guillen kills team chemistry when he throws players under the bus every few weeks.
Do you really want that as a manager? Do you really want a guy leading a team that is nothing but a distraction when the times get tough?
I don't. I'll take the reserved type that is more known for his management of the clubhouse than his press conference blowups.
Because if Torre taught managers anything in his tenure with the Yankees, he showed that clubhouse management wins championships and staying away from the media bait produces constant success.
It seems fitting that Torre and Bochy are now managing the Dodgers and Giants, respectively. They're both good managers that are now managing competitive, rival teams.
It makes true diehard Giants and Dodgers fans think of the old days, when Charlie Dressen was managing the Brooklyn Dodgers and Leo Durocher was managing the New York Giants.
I think we all know how that one turned out in 1951.
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