|The Cubs considered hiring Bruce Bochy, but instead went with Lou Piniella (a break for Bochy). (US Presswire)|
DETROIT -- People are just starting to grasp how great Bruce Bochy is. In that regard, he's a bit like his team.
Some of the Giants manager's PR gap is because he's spent his entire managing career on the West Coast, with the majority of it coming with the Padres, a team that doesn't have the resources to perennially contend. Also, San Diego doesn't have media to pump anyone up. (Does San Diego even have a newspaper anymore?)
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Another part is Bochy's personality. He isn't showy or even particularly quirky, at least not by old-time manager standards. His one unusual characteristic is said to be his large head (Wikipedia says he has a size 8, the largest in baseball) -- though unlike another Giants great, his came naturally. And apparently stores lots of brainpower.
Bochy can seem a bit taciturn, too. He has a pretty fair crusty-manager demeanor and the appropriate raspy voice for the part. But he isn't an all-time character on the level of Jim Leyland, his Tigers counterpart who came straight out of central casting.
Leyland presented a hilarious soliloquy at the World Series on why he isn't a grouchy old man, as some perceive (well, everyone perceives). He decided he is old, but not grouchy.
Personally, I'd agree. But he plays a grouchy old manager. And he plays it beautifully.
Bochy doesn't do soliloquies.
Bochy is more along the lines of solid. His best attributes are his work ethic, his calm, his patience. You know, things that don't play on TV or, frankly, in print.
"He is the steadiest hand you can imagine," is the way Giants managing partner Larry Baer summed up Bochy.
Bochy isn't as right for the part as Leyland. He has no sound bites.
He isn't always beloved on the internet either, as some of the young stat guys simply don't get his charms. Can't imagine that affects him.
"He always had the respect of all his players, the young guys and the veterans. He really knows how to run a clubhouse," Diamondbacks general manager Kevin Towers, who teamed with Bochy for a decade in San Diego, said by phone. "He also knew when to crack the whip. He has good instincts, a good feel.
"He's a fierce competitor. He fully expected to win every year, no matter what kind of team you gave him. You get him in a game of poker or golf, he wants to win. He has the chance to step on your neck, he will."
While Bochy can't match Leyland or some others for quotable quotes, Towers said Bochy would spend his whole winter working on a pre-spring speech. And Towers said, after hearing it, "Guys would want to run through a brick wall."
Bochy never was a favorite of the Moneyball crowd, even before he didn't immediately anoint Brandon Belt his first baseman and made him win the job. (Belt did win it, though he's still more promise than production.)
Back in 2006, Bochy was making a pretty good salary for San Diego (well more than a million dollars), and he could sense he wasn't necessarily part of the long-term plan after Sandy Alderson came in as Padres club president. In the Moneyball setup, the base of the power is in the GM's office. Bochy is more for an old-school setup. So Alderson properly let him interview for jobs elsewhere while he still had time to go on his Padres deal.
The Cubs considered Bochy, but they hired Lou Piniella instead. (That was probably a break for Bochy, as it turned out.) No matter, Giants GM Brian Sabean wisely swooped in to sign a manager from a division rival. The Padres didn't seem to mind at the time.
The Padres have a very good manager in Bud Black, who fit them better. But no matter who they had, no one would notice.
Folks are finally starting to get Bochy now. Not that he cares.
His real miracle was winning the 2010 World Series when a surprising Cody Ross carried their offense. That team had great pitching, but there's still no real reason to think it was the best team in baseball, or even close to it.
The 2012 Giants were a lot better than we thought -- a very good team, talented and deep enough to win. It's how they did it that adds to the Bochy legacy. They won six straight elimination games, which is crazy, and would get even more attention if the 2011-12 Cardinals didn't somehow win five straight elimination games of their own.
The other amazing thing about Bochy is how few mistakes he makes. It's hard to think of a decision of his that went awry.
Bochy's biggest call this month, which was to move two-time Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum to the bullpen, is obviously going to get the most attention. Lincecum was struggling with his confidence (he even pitched out of the stretch with no one on base in the NLCS), yet he became a monster in the 'pen.
Lincecum didn't complain at all. He just sucked up. And then he did his new job masterfully.
That's on Bochy, too. The Giants know not to question him now.
"I'm fortunate to have guys so unselfish," is the way Bochy put it.
I doubt that's it. But fine.
Bochy made no wrong calls in the World Series games, either. The World Series was short, of course, as the Giants won in a sweep. But there were still many decisions that could have gone wrong.
In Game 4, for instance, he picked Ryan Theriot as his surprise DH. A lot of folks raised their eyebrows at this one.
The Giants, being the National League entry, don't have an obvious DH. They have only backups. But Hector Sanchez, the expected pick, didn't look very good in Game 3. So Bochy switched.
Pitching coach Dave Righetti says Bochy's greatest attribute is his patience. But he's also willing to make a switch. He took Lincecum out of the rotation; he replaced Santiago Casilla with Sergio Romo as closer; and he went to his backup second baseman to DH in Game 4.
Theriot singled to start the winning rally in the 10th inning, then scored the winning run.
Bochy also kept Matt Cain in to pitch the seventh inning after he looked spent in the sixth, and Cain plowed through without any issue. It was the kid's 249th inning, and it was another beauty.
Bochy went to lefty Jeremy Affeldt to pitch to the heart of the Tigers order after that, and Affeldt, who'd suffered a thumb injury back in September and bounced back better than ever, whiffed four straight Tigers.
Like everyone else, Bochy must make mistakes. Just none in the four games of the World Series.
That makes two World Series wins out of three now for Bochy, who also made the World Series with the 1998 Padres, a team that had no chance. No manager could have made a difference against Joe Torre's perfect '98 Yankees team. Not even Bochy. (It was the same in Bochy's one World Series as a player, as his 1984 Padres were killed by that great Tigers team.)
Bochy now has a Hall of Fame résumé. But he may need help. He isn't the character Tommy Lasorda is. Or even Earl Weaver.
Bochy hasn't given Cooperstown a moment's thought. Why would he? He only became a candidate this week, when he had something else going on.
"I haven't," he said. "This is all I want ... to get to the World Series and win. That's all I think about."