He'd be the ideal manager for the Toronto Blue Jays.
That's what I was thinking as I watched Bruce Bochy oversee his pitching staff, nurture his young position players and foster a never-say-die attitude in his San Francisco Giants during the club's unlikely run to its second World Series title in three seasons
Most importantly, the easygoing 57-year-old, who imparts his baseball knowledge in a deep baritone that's equally endearing and intimidating, seems to have the universal respect of his players.
What other manager could ask a two-time Cy Young Award winner like Tim Lincecum to move to the bullpen in the post-season without a whisper of protest? And not only did Lincecum not complain, he excelled in his new role and was a key reason the Giants swept the Detroit Tigers in this year's Fall Classic.
But let's stop dreaming here. Bochy is under contract until the end of next season and the Giants have a team option for 2014, so he won't be coming to Toronto. I would, however, encourage the Jays brass to look for someone with similar qualities.
The humble Bochy is quietly assembling a Hall of Fame resume. In securing his second World Series title on Monday night, Bochy has now led his teams to as many championships as Hall of Fame skippers Tommy Lasorda and Dick Williams, and he now owns one more title than Cooperstowners Whitey Herzog, Earl Weaver and Leo Durocher.
It's also important to note that the Giants are 8-1 in their two World Series under Bochy. So his teams are not only winning in the Fall Classic, they're dominating, which is a testament to how prepared his squads are and how hard they play for him.
With his 18th season as a manager now in the books, Bochy, who also enjoyed a nine-year big league career as a backup catcher, has accumulated 1,454 wins, which ranks 23rd all-time and puts him ahead of Herzog and Hall of Famer Wilbert Robinson and just behind Weaver (1,480 wins). Remember that Bochy amassed many of those wins with the penny-pinching San Diego Padres from 1995 to 2006 and it's no coincidence that Bochy has been part of all five of the Padres' post-season teams (1984 as a player; 1996, 1998, 2005 and 2006 as manager).
So with this sterling resume, why isn't Bochy heralded as much as his dugout contemporaries like Tony La Russa, Bobby Cox and Lou Piniella?
Well, the fact that he's managed on the West Coast for his entire career hasn't helped his profile. Most in the heavily populated Eastern Time Zone are asleep when he's working his magic in the Giants' dugout. And though amiable, Bochy is not a self-promoter or a quote machine like Lasorda or La Russa. He prefers to deflect any praise to his players. Earlier this year, Giants general manager Brian Sabean described Bochy as the "most understated, underrated manager in baseball" in an interview with the Wall Street Journal.
After he spent 12 seasons as manager of the San Diego Padres, Bochy was hired by the Giants prior to the 2007 campaign. Under his reign, three Giants draftees - Lincecum, Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner - have blossomed into elite starters.
And after losing closer Brian Wilson to Tommy John surgery in April, Bochy was masterful in piecing together a bullpen that by the end of the regular season was one of the best in baseball. A former catcher, Bochy seems to know precisely when to use his relievers, and the confidence of Sergio Romo, Santiago Casilla and Jeremy Affeldt all seemed to peak in the post-season.
During the first half of 2012, young infielders Brandon Crawford and Brandon Belt didn't look like big leaguers, but Bochy stuck with them and encouraged them, and his faith paid off. Both supplied elite defence in the World Series and now seem destined to be cornerstones of the Giants' infield in the future.
But Bochy's biggest asset is his ability to instill a never-say-die attitude in his clubs. Aside from losing Wilson to Tommy John surgery, the Giants were also forced to overcome the drug suspension of their best hitter, Melky Cabrera, in August. Faced with that adversity, Bochy didn't panic and instead penciled the speedy Gregor Blanco into his lineup more frequently. Blanco shone defensively and contributed some key hits in the post-season, and even when Cabrera was eligible to return, the Giants opted not to bring him back.
Bochy masterfully molded this disparate and fun-loving group of players into a unit that wouldn't accept losing, not in the NLDS when they fell behind 2-0 to Cincinnati and not in the NLCS when they battled back from a 3-1 deficit to oust St. Louis. Sure, the players won the games on the field, but their manager motivated them and infused the belief in them that they would prevail even when the odds against them seemed insurmountable.
So as the Blue Jays continue their search for a new manager to replace John Farrell, my suggestion is that they look for someone with the same qualities as Bochy.
The Giants manager is adept at getting the most out of his pitchers and the best out of his youngsters. He's respected and beloved, tough but nurturing. Most importantly, however, he knows how to unite a group of different personalities into a team that's dead set on winning.
That's exactly what the Blue Jays need in a dugout boss and exactly why Bochy should one day be considered for Cooperstown.
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