Yesterday, San Francisco Giants manager, Bruce Bochy — one of baseball’s true icons — announced that he plans on retiring after the 2019 season. His 1,926 wins are the most among active managers, and eleventh on the all time managerial wins list (every manager above him is in the Hall of Fame). In 1996, Bochy’s second year as a manager, brought home 91 wins for the San Diego Padres, and won manager of the year. Then, of course, you have his three World Championships with San Francisco in 2010, 2012, and 2014. When all is said and done, and the 2019 season is behind us all, Bochy will retire, and his next stop will be Cooperstown.
“In my mind, it’s time,” Bochy told reporters on Monday. “I’ve managed with my gut. I came up here in 2007 on my gut, and so it’s my gut feeling that it’s time. It’s been an unbelievable ride.”
And Bochy did manage with his gut. He belongs to a class of managers defined by their ability to make tough decisions based on something other than quantitative data and metrics. Certainly, Bochy made decisions based on numbers, but he also made choices that were instinctual. He understood that, in order to get the best out of people, you need to treat them as such. He knew, for instance, that toward the end of a season you sometimes need to shake things up.
I remember one September when the team was on a skid and none of the logical moves seemed to be working. Gold Glovers were making errors, the offense was incapable of scoring with runners on base, relievers were walking men with two outs. So, Bochy told everyone to show up late — to take the day, do what they wanted, then show up for gametime. It worked. Bochy ran it back. The next day everyone showed up late again, and they won! Suddenly things were looking up. I remember hearing players shouting from the showers, “We better keep winning, so that we can keep coming in late!”
That’s what a good manager does, and it’s what a good fisherman does. You do the logical things until they don’t work anymore, then you try something else. Bochy is both an excellent manager and an excellent fisherman.
“He’s a dying breed,” Giants pitcher Jeff Samardjiza told Alex Pavlovic of NCBS. “Unfortunately, after [Bochy retires] you’re going to have 30 puppets out there.”
I first met Bochy face to face when I was covering the Giants for this publication back in 2015. I don’t think anyone knew it at the time (not even my employer) but I was just 20 years old and still in college. I remember sitting in the post game press room after a bad loss, dressed in my father’s wedding suit and my grandpa’s old patchy workhat (for good luck), and in walks Bochy. He’s a very tall man, with big hands, and an even bigger head. He sat down and things got underway. I wanted to ask a question about the bullpen, and when I took the mic to ask the question my voice hardly worked. I was looking Bruce Bochy in the eyes and asking a question and he was going to answer. I just hoped he wouldn’t laugh at me, or worse, get mad and call me an amateur. He did neither. Instead, he listened attentively, and responded thoughtfully. Here was this kid in a baggy suit and a silly hat, not even allowed to drink a beer, asking a question after a loss, and Bochy didn’t show me up, he didn’t brush me off, he was kind, polite, and professional.
Throughout my time covering the Giants, Bochy was always that way. He always took time to answer questions. He was always kind to those of us without his clout, or his status. He held the door for reporters after his post game meetings. He made time for extra questions if that’s what you needed.
“I don’t have any cruises planned,” Bochy told Hank Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle. “I don’t plan going up Mount Everest. I don’t have a bucket list. Baseball is my life. I’ll be around.”