Monday, July 17, 2017
It's weird water Bruce Bochy finds himself treading this season with the Giants, a franchise on the heels of unmatched success trapped in a season springing leaks.
As San Francisco opened a series against the Padres on Friday at Petco Park, the man almost assuredly on a bullet train to Cooperstown puzzled over why his team finds itself buried at the bottom of the National League West.
The former Padres manager, who's piled up the 15th most victories in a sport dating back to the 1870s, pondered how the core of a lineup that pinned down a third World Series in a five-season blitz translated to less victories than anyone not named the Phillies.
Turns out, as they say, baseball is funny that way.
"We've hit a bump in the road here. We've had a hiccup," Bochy, 62, told the San Diego Union-Tribune in his team's clubhouse Friday. "We've had those in the odd years between our championships, but not quite to this extent."
It's the extent -- grinding away with an offense that's 28th in baseball, second-worst in run differential, dead last in slugging percentage and aging quickly as the 23rd oldest and counting -- that has surprised those entrenched in the game.
The Giants still have boundless backstop Buster Posey, but also Brandon Belt, Hunter Pence, Brandon Crawford and Joe Panik.
They still have blue-chip stock Madison Bumgarner, who returned Saturday with a no-decision against San Diego -- dirt-bike avoidance willing. They invested in arms like Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija.
"It definitely feels different this year," Bochy said. "We've been riding quite a wave of success since, well, '09. So to be in this situation at the half is uncharted waters a bit.
"I don't think any of us saw the struggles we've had the first half. It goes to show you that every year is different. You have to take the bad with the good, unfortunately.
"In this game, we probably don't celebrate our success as much as we dwell on our losses."
Let's Dikembe Mutombo any stupid talk about Bochy forgetting how to manage, suddenly losing his wits in a game he has attacked so successfully from so many angles in so many situations.
Bochy is one of 10 managers since 1960 to take more than one team to the World Series. That list sat at just eight until Terry Francona and Joe Maddon joined the group a season ago.
Of the 14 managers with more career victories, 12 reside in the Hall of Fame. He's done it with veterans. He's plugged in rookies. He's massaged bullpens without flamethrowers. He's steadied the sagging. He's sparked the static.
The resume, unassailable.
Anyone who thinks Bochy doesn't have a bronze plaque in his future must have sprung a leak themselves.
"If they think that, they're crazy," said Padres television analyst Mark Sweeney, who played for Bochy in San Diego and San Francisco. "The world championships and taking a team from here that wasn't expected to do it.
"It's a no-brainer."
Ask Bochy if he's a Hall of Famer, in a season that's felt anything but, and he laughs.
"That's not something I think about," he said. "Those are questions for other people. I've been blessed to be put in this situation. ... I look at the Hall of Fame with guys like Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle and Johnny Bench and those guys."
Just then, iconic broadcaster Jon Miller walked into the visiting manager's office.
"And Jon Miller," added Bochy, a wry smile remaining at the ready.
Two years remain on Bochy's current deal. He underwent a procedure in April, the third consecutive season he's left the team because of a heart issue. Questions about the future swirl.
"It's good," he said. "I'm still doing the things I love. Fish. Travel. I'm all good there."
The competitive juices, he insisted, still course.
"Sometimes they force that decision [on staying in the game], as you know," Bochy said. "I really won't know until that [contract] year comes up and see how I feel mentally.
"But I'll tell you, this is what I love to do. If you said, 'Bruce, you've got to retire and do something. What would it be?' It would be, manage a baseball team. That's what I love."
No matter what the rest of 2017 holds, a fact remains firm: Bochy is simply one of the best of the modern era.
Outside of Dusty Baker, there's not another active manager within 250 wins. If there's more World Series confetti somewhere along Bochy's road, he'll pass Sparky Anderson and Tony LaRussa to match Joe Torre.
So he aims the nose south and grinds, like his team.
There's still a spark in those experienced eyes when you ask why he addressed a recent dust-up involving a pitcher with a quote about "pole vaulting over mouse turds."
"It came from a Marine who was a very close friend of a very close friend of mine. He brought it up to me," Bochy said. "Sometimes you sweat the small things and you don't need to, so that's why that line hit me."
Park the pole vaulting equipment in 2017. Bochy's just fine.
Sports on 07/17/2017
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