SAN FRANCISCO (AP) He vowed to stick with his struggling leadoff man, and it worked. He let a rookie reliever challenge Bryce Harper and wasn’t daunted when the ball splashed into McCovey Cove. And he made the difficult decision to banish Tim Lincecum to the bullpen.
Bruce Bochy is clearly in charge of these Giants. Now, as he guides San Francisco into the World Series for the third time in five years, he could soon join some elite company.
He is trying to become just the 10th manager with three rings. Every manager in that group is in the Hall of Fame, a small club that includes recently enshrined Tony La Russa and Joe Torre, and old greats Casey Stengel and Connie Mack.
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Bochy insists he doesn’t dwell on his accomplishments.
”I’m not just trying to be the humble guy. I’m fortunate that I have a great club here, a gritty club with a lot of character that plays to win,” he said. ”They seem to thrive on these type of games. It’s all about makeup guys and ownership and giving us the resources to hopefully get here. They’ve given me the tools, and that’s how this works.”
Bochy knows Kansas City’s George Brett’s family, too, having earned his first managerial gig with brother Bobby Brett in 1989, when he managed the Class A Spokane Indians to the Northwest League title.
There’s a popular Bay Area phrase these days, ”Boch Genius.” He just shrugs it off.
The 59-year-old is determined not to jinx a good thing.
”It’s always those players on how they perform,” he said. ”It’s a gutty group. I don’t know what’s going to happen, but I will say that they will leave it all out on the field for you.”
Bochy was a backup catcher during his entire nine-year career, hardly the kind of player anyone would consider a Hall of Famer. Now making another run at a title, Bochy has established himself as one of the best in the business.
”I’m glad I’m playing for a guy like him, for sure,” said Travis Ishikawa, the journeyman who hit the pennant-winning three-run homer Thursday night. ”He just seems to have the right intuition with every move he makes.”
Through injuries, slumps in June and September and wacky playoff wins, Bochy has remained even-keeled. It’s something his players can appreciate, because it helps them stay poised.
Shortstop Brandon Crawford can’t recall Bochy raising his voice in a team meeting – the dugout is another matter. Hunter Pence points specifically to one Bochy pep talk early in the right fielder’s tenure with the Giants after the 2012 trade deadline ”that really changed who our team was.”
Before he arrived in San Francisco in 2007, Bochy was known for his postseason failures with the Padres. His San Diego team was swept in the 1998 World Series and eliminated in the minimum three games in the 2005 Division Series by St. Louis, then lost in four games to the Cardinals in the first round the next year. That `98 team was Bochy’s lone pennant in 12 seasons as Padres skipper before his move to Northern California.
”You’re always learning from your past experiences, whether it’s during the season or postseason. The one thing I think I’ve learned is it’s different, the postseason. It’s not the regular season,” Bochy said. ”You don’t have that margin of error to make up for these games. You lose a game in May, and you still have 100-plus games to make that up.”
Gregor Blanco has stayed in the leadoff spot and come around offensively in recent games as Bochy remained confident he could snap out of a funk. Reliever Hunter Strickland is still getting his chances despite the longballs by Harper.
”The manager allows them to do their thing, the manager allows them to let it rip,” said third-base coach Tim Flannery, who accompanied Bochy from San Diego. ”It’s just how he is. I sometimes scratch my head and say, `You know, I think his strength is his weakness,’ but it always turns out to be his strength. He’ll trust the guys. He’ll always put them in that position to do it again.”
Many of Bochy’s little moves – not to mention those he hasn’t made – have carried the Giants this far.
”We have a tremendous amount of confidence in Bochy,” Pence said. ”We know how invested he is, we understand he’s been through. It takes a lot of courage to make a lot of these decisions because you’re going to answer to everything you do through hindsight, which isn’t always necessarily fair. As a team, playing behind him, his guts and his heart and his determination leaks into us.”