Bruce Almighty

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:

  1. Clint Hurdle, Pirates
  2. Kirk Gibson, Diamondbacks
  3. 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.



State of the Nation(als)

This has been a year of ups and downs for the good ole Nationals.  Yesterday obviously changed the course of their season and really stirred up this town.  If you haven’t heard yet, Jim Riggleman resigned abruptly after the team beat Seattle.  What makes this more interesting, is the team just got above 500 and they are on a tear (winning 11 of 12).  Let me argue the both sides of this decision.

First, let’s look at this from Rigg’s side.  During the course of his career, he has been a part of a lot of smaller contracts.  He has never signed the “big one” and probably wanted the opportunity.  He had just gotten his team above 500, and I’m guessing, thought now was a time to make a stand.    He has stated that he only wanted a conversation about his contract and Mike Rizzo (VP of something) wouldn’t give him a chat.  Super freaking duper.  Suck it up and coach, Riggs.  I don’t get this move at all. You signed the contract in the first place, now you need to coach under it.  If he would have performed all year-long, I’m sure he would have been signed to a longer deal.

Let’s now look at this from the National’s perspective.  Mike Rizzo doesn’t owe Riggleman a conversation about his contract mid-season.  Yes, Riggs was performing decently, but the Nationals are building something great… if not scary for the rest of the division.  Lets add some more color to that thought.  We all know about the massive contract for Jason Werth and the electric stuff of Stephen Strasburg.  The latter comes back at some point this year and Bryce Harper looms as a scary threat.  That brings us to this year’s draft where the Nationals had the #6, #23, and #34 picks in a very deep and strong draft.  All of this is to say that the Nationals are legitimately poised for something good.  They need and deserve the right manager.  Riggleman could have been that manager, but they needed to be sure.  I don’t fault them for not re-signing him mid-season, I actually applaud them.  Riggs blew it.

Some genius baseball monk stated before the season that the Nationals should be about 500 by midseason and then fall back.  They look like they should make his prediction true.  Let’s see how they perform under interim manager John Mclaren.


*editor’s note: the Nationals hired Davey Johnson to replace Riggleman today.