Former SF Giants manager Bruce Bochy has a new home after agreeing to a three-year contract to manage the Texas Rangers. The move was well-received by the baseball community, but it reopened a wound for many Giants fans as it felt like he was unfairly treated at the end of his tenure, so I thought I would offer my opinion on the subject.
Did the SF Giants front office push out longtime manager Bruce Bochy in 2019?
The short answer is no. The Giants front office did not force out a beloved Giants figure in Bochy. However, like anything where emotions are involved, there is nuance and complexity to this.
Before the first spring training game was even played in 2019, Bochy announced that he would retire when his contract expired at the end of that season. It was a move that shocked baseball because Bochy had so much success as the Giants' skipper.
When he made that announcement, it made a lot of sense. The Giants were very much in a transition phase as general manager Bobby Evans was fired at the end of the 2018 season while longtime Giants executive Brian Sabean was relegated to an advisory role.
The Giants wanted a new voice in the organization, so they hired Farhan Zaidi as the team president of baseball operations. Zaidi had a reputation as an analytically-driven executive coming from a Los Angeles Dodgers organization where many of the lineups and in-game decisions were heavily influenced by the front office.
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts certainly plays an important role in managing the clubhouse, but it is questionable as to how much latitude he has with in-game decision-making.
Bochy was entering his 25th consecutive year as manager. He spent the first 12 seasons with the San Diego Padres and the next 13 with the Giants. Bochy typically favored veterans when making the lineup and often acted on instinct with in-game decisions. That instinct developed over years of managing games and was often the difference between the Giants winning and losing some of their most important games in franchise history.
Zaidi's reputation was different than what Bochy was accustomed to and likely wanted a manager who better aligned with it. Bochy realized this as well.
Given his career accomplishments, the veteran manager could have pushed for a contract extension and he would have certainly been right to do so. However, that would have eventually been made public, which would have immediately burned a lot of fan equity if they choose not to extend Bochy.
Rather than make this about himself, Bochy decided to take the decision out of the front office's hands by retiring instead. The retirement tour was a little awkward because it felt like he was destined to manage again, so he probably will not get another one this time around. However, his final game as Giants manager was one hell of a trip down memory lane.
I also think the "retirement' gave him a mental break from managing. At the time, he had been a manager for 25 years beginning in 1995. Do you even remember what 1995 was like? Nintendo 64 was a year away from being released and Batman Forever was somehow the top-grossing film in the same year that Bochy's managerial career began.
So, I do not think Bochy was pushed out by the front office. I think of it like a game of chess where each player is trying to anticipate the other's next move. Zaidi had planned one move and Bochy took that move right out of his hands by way of the retirement.
This is one of those moves that I am happy I did not have to make. In my opinion, Bochy could have managed for another 150 years and I would have been perfectly fine with it. He has a special place in Giants history, so I understand that the wound from his leaving three years ago still stings. I am happy that he is getting a chance to manage again and think that his "retirement" was really a selfless move to save face for an organization that did not want it to appear as if he was being pushed out. He read the room and made the call on his own.