Jon Heyman (the annoyingly important writer from SI) posted his mid-season awards article last week. Nothing remarkable in the article until he got to the manager of the year section. His top 3 NL managers are:
- Clint Hurdle, Pirates
- Kirk Gibson, Diamondbacks
- Tony LaRussa, Cardinals
Interesting, Jon. I can kind of understand Hurdle and Gibson as they are leading young teams that no one really expected to compete. Sportswriters always have a soft spot for those guys (see Bud Black last year). But his reasoning for LaRussa should be offensive to Giants fans. Tony gets the nod because of all the injuries the Cards have had to deal with?!?!
They certainly have had some major injuries, losing Wainwright for the year and Pujols and Holliday for different stretches. But come on! The Giants have had some kind of DL stint (including horrific, season ending injuries) at every position. Let me say that again: AT EVERY POSITION! (Posey C, Belt 1B, Sanchez 2B, Fontenot SS, Sandoval 3B, Burrell/Ross LF/RF, Torres CF, Sanchez/Zito SP, Casilla RP, Wilson CL). That’s ridiculous. Yet the Giants are three games ahead of the division (which includes Gibson’s D-Backs).
Here’s the real point I want to make : I have come to love Bruce Bochy. Easy to say after a World Championship and a 50 win first half, I know, but I was not happy when Bruce was hired. After the 2006 season I looked in to my Giants crystal ball and saw a future headed in a new direction: great pitchers and young talent. I thought the team would do well to hire a first-timer ready to prove himself. Someone youngish, motivated, and innovative. A Joe Maddon-type. Bruce Bochy seemed like none of those things.
Despite being a life-long Giants fan and watching many games against the Padres, I didn’t know a whole lot about Bochy. That seemed like a knock against him. He was boring. He had a mustache and big head. The best thing I could say about him was that my dad and I loved watching his expressions after yet another hapless Padres’ pitcher served up a gift to Barry Bonds that turned in to a 450 foot moon shot. Boch would always have a perfectly subtle look of complete exasperation all over his large face. Hilarious.
Other than that Bochy seemed like a super traditional, boring, baseball man who would play veterans and mismanage the bullpen and drive me crazy.
And in many ways, that’s true and also why I love the guy. Turns out he does err on the side of playing vets, and his lineup decisions are highly debatable. But, he doesn’t bunt, he doesn’t waste many outs, he is a genius at managing the game and the bullpen and pitchers.
Most of all, he is boring, steady, unflappable, and he doesn’t give a rip about what anyone else thinks. Sure he can get a little huffy every now and then (see his reaction to some of his All-Star Team choices), but for the most part Bochy does his thing, his way, and he doesn’t apologize for it.
It’s been the perfect leadership mix for a team that has Tim Lincecum, Brian Wilson, Sergio Romo, Pablo Sandoval, Barry Zito and Aubrey Huff in the same clubhouse with Cody Ross, Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner, and Jeremy Affeldt.
As I have taken on more leadership roles in other areas of my life, I find Bochy’s steadiness and inability to be ruffled more and more admirable all the time.
Again, I will eat my hat if Miguel Tejada is batting second tomorrow when the team gets back at it, but I have to admit I was completely wrong about Bruce Bochy. He’s the best manager the Giants have had in my lifetime and he’s one of my favorite characters in the Giants story over the last few years.