Lucky for me, or unlucky as many might say, I was able to witness Bruce Bochy’s time with the San Diego Padres first hand. To say he’s a creature of habit would be a severe understatement. We’re all aware of his love for everything old and rusty. We’re all aware that if you prefer to work the count *cough* Brandon Belt *cough* you fall out of favor quicker than a whore at mass. We’re all aware that even if you have the talent and impact potential of Buster Posey, the GM has to physically remove the current gritty, veteran catcher from the roster to get you any significant playing time. Some speculate that Bochy’s love of all thing veterans comes from the fact that his playing days were cut short by some young up and coming catcher named Benito Santiago – whether that’s true or not, we’ll never know…but it does make the mind tick into his wild ways.
Look, I’m not saying Bochy has had an easy time this year with the injuries, not in the least bit. I think he’s had the toughest job in baseball when you combine the injuries with the target on the back, not to mention a scrapheap lineup at times. And no, I’m not saying he didn’t push a ton of the correct buttons at the right time late last year – he most certainly did, credit given. But even a blind squirrel finds some nuts once in a great while.
Bruce Bochy is probably the nicest guy in professional sports. Seriously. I don’t know if I can think of a nicer guy. If not, he’s top five for sure. But smiles and handshakes don’t win games.
Take last night for example and his overloading of right handed batters to face a left handed pitcher. Listen, I’m all for match-ups. If a guy has a career line of 14 for 27 versus a pitcher, sure – throw him in the lineup, no matter his struggles. That’s fine. If a pitcher is holding a batter to a .124 career average in 30 at-bat’s – damn right throw him into the fire. But to take out Brandon Belt who actually works a count – to replace Fontenot who had two doubles the night before in favor of Miguel Tejada and/or Orlando Cabrera? Quite questionable, but that’s not even the worst part.
Why are you batting Miguel Tejada 5th? And why in the world is Orlando Cabrera batting 2nd? Two times last night Cody Ross lead off an inning with a hit, once a double. Neither time was he advanced by Cabrera, an essential attribute needed for a second place hitter. It’s not like OCab just had a bad night – we know what OCab is and isn’t. Yes, the blame can certainly be thrown on Cabrera as much as Bochy, but your job as a manager is to put your team in a position to succeed, putting Cabrera in the two hole is a clear disadvantage from the start.
In the past week, we’ve seen Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum visibly upset on the bench during the game with the continued failures of the offense. And in both instances, the pitchers have come to the media and blamed themselves for the losses, which to me, is beyond heartbreaking. They’re going to the mound, every night, knowing that if they don’t throw a nearly flawless game, they’re most likely going to lose. It’s absolutely absurd.
Say what you will about the Giants putrid offense, but they’re seventh in the NL when it comes to homeruns on the road. They’re fourth in doubles on the road. They’re a total of TWO RBI’s behind that juggernaut of a Phillies offense on the road. They’re fifth in runs scored on the road. Let’s not forget that these stats include missing guys like Pablo Sandoval and Freddy Sanchez for good portions of the season – that doesn’t even factor in the loss of Buster Posey. My point? The team can produce when they’re put in position to succeed. But when you’re throwing a hacking, unproductive hitter in your two hole because of some silly right handed saber-metric’s crap, who really should be batting no higher than seventh – a guy with an OBP% of .271 batting fifth who hasn’t had a good season in two plus years – how you’re setting up your team for success is beyond me.
Listen, I’m not blaming everything on Boch. He’s had his bright moments too and credit is given when it’s due. But losing is losing – if I’m going to lose, I’m going to do it with my best team on the field. And clearly, last night’s roster was anything but that.