Bruce Bochy will manage his final game in a San Francisco Giants uniform on Sunday afternoon.
After leading the San Francisco Giants on their greatest run since moving to the West Coast, Bruce Bochy leaves with a Hall of Fame resume and he did it without sacrificing relationships along the way.
We have finally reached the end of the 2019 MLB regular season, and it’s been a long and winding road.
Back in May, the team looked destined to be fighting the Detroit Tigers, Miami Marlins, and Baltimore Orioles for the first pick in the 2020 MLB draft. Then a surge through June and July brought them back into the playoff picture.
The season ends today and we now know San Francisco is not playoff-bound. They’ve been officially eliminated for a few weeks now, but somehow it doesn’t feel disappointing. The Giants managed to exceed most people’s expectations with surprise contributors along the way.
What could be more emblematic of Bruce Bochy’s tenure as manager?
As fans across the Bay Area brace themselves for the last game before Bochy retires, they will have one last chance to savor the greatest manager the San Francisco Giants will ever have.
Normally, I’m cautious asserting someone as an unparalleled great, but in Bochy’s case, it’s hard not to do just that.
In 2007, Bochy took over a team that had failed to win a World Series with Barry Bonds and then over-invested in older players trying to extend their championship window. It seemed obvious at that point that the Giants were not close to winning a title.
Then a deep farm system brought elite talent in the form of Matt Cain, Buster Posey, Tim Lincecum, and Madison Bumgarner, but it wasn’t just the youth. Career seasons from castaways like Santiago Casilla, Andres Torres, and Aubrey Huff were instrumental for the Giants to hoist the 2010 World Series trophy.
In 2012 the Giants did it again. And then again in 2014.
It’s so matter of fact now.
The San Francisco Giants won three World Series titles in five years and none of it was expected. Every World Series season the Giants entered as underdogs in their own division. Rarely did they enter a playoff series as the favorite, or with a more talented roster than their opponent, yet they walked away with three titles.
Bochy was the difference.
Managers have been valued less and less over the past 100 years in baseball. Early managers often owned their teams and also worked as the de facto general manager. Eventually, they ceded those duties. Now, the front office has more impact on in-game strategy than any time before.
However, a manager’s most important job happens behind the scenes. In practice, in warm-ups, on the team plane, wherever he can motivate his players just a bit more he’s there to do it. No one is better at that than Bochy.
Just go back to the 2010 roster and look at the numbers that guys like Aubrey Huff, Andres Torres, and Pat Burrell put up while playing elsewhere during the previous season. Now think about guys like Pablo Sandoval, Mike Yastrzemski, Donovan Solano, and even Kevin Pillar.
Bochy never cared about expectations. He cared about helping every player be the best version of themselves every single day. Ever since his first Opening Day as Giants manager in 2007, he’s done just that.
This afternoon, as the San Francisco Giants host the Los Angeles Dodgers to close out their season, they’ll surely be some tape on the video board that will make most fans misty. Some players might even follow suit before they leave it all on the field one final time for Bruce Bochy.