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FAREWELL BOCH AND BUSTER, WE’LL MISS YOU!! (Lets give a nod to Gabe Kapler though...)

Updated: Jul 15, 2022

UPDATE: I will keep this brief out of my ultimate respect for Bruce Bochy, but the franchise record-breaking 107-win season in 2021 was a marvel to behold. Most notably was the amount of home run power the Giants have shown recently, and although the game has already changed in a very significant way, Kapler's use of timely hitters, and a good rotation of talented young pitchers of several different styles, certainly made him worthy of NL Manager of the Year. Keeping with tradition, this is not a team of superstars, but outlasting the hated Dodgers to win another NL West crown was special, and despite coming up just short in the playoffs, Kapler has everyone in McCovey Cove believing again, and making it very fun to watch in the process. Nods go to the great Buster Posey, who finished a marvelous, likely first-ballot Hall of Fame career with a stellar final season in 2021, while Brandon Belt was equally impressive, and Brandon Crawford continued his gold glove dominance, making leaping catches, diving stops, and spectacular throws to thrill us all. Mike Yazstremski, Wilmer Flores, Evan Longoria, and LaMont Wade, Jr., among others showed unexpected power, and despite losing hurlers Johnny Cueto and Kevin Gausman, Anthony DiSclafani, and newcomer Carlos Rodon along with Logan Webb and Alex Cobb should keep giving the Giants a shot at glory! Thanks Skipper Gabe, we owe you a lot, and will continue to look forward to more great accomplishments in the future!


***Now that the Washington Nationals have finally broken their years long curse of both Steven Strasburg’s health in the post-season, and Bryce Harper too I suppose, I have to say that this year’s Nationals team really reminded me of the great San Francisco Giants teams that won 3 out of 5 World Series titles in 2010, ’12, and ’14, and very nearly made it a 4th in 7 years in 2016, before falling to the Chicago Cubs team of destiny. Those Giants teams were affectionately known as “The Misfits” because of their awkwardness, as well as “Team Torture” because of their propensity for eeking out close one-run ball games, or coming from behind to win extra-inning thrillers.


Players like Anthony Rendon, Adam Eaton, and Howie Kendrick truly reminded me of unsung and underrated players like Aubrey Huff, Marco Scutaro, Cody Ross, Edgar Renteria, and Joe Panik. Even the stars like the young upstart Buster Posey as a rookie, Hunter Pence, Pablo Sandoval, and both Brandons (Crawford and Belt) shared a similar workmanlike, and completely non-arrogant demeanor. Strasburg’s MVP brilliance (along with Max Scherzer, Corbin, Anibal Sanchez and their impressive bullpen) brought back memories of the dominance of Madison Bumgarner in 2014, as well as the consistent greatness of Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Barry Zito (and others), and Brian Wilson & the Giants vaunted bullpen at the beginning of the decade. The Nationals’ style was even a bit like that of the famed San Francisco teams, (who incidentally eliminated the Nationals on their final World Series run with Bochy in an epic series in 2014, spearheaded by Brandon Belt’s home run to win an 18-inning marathon game 4 at the Nationals home park) with their carefree exuberance, lighthearted demeanor, and overall joie-de-vivre.


Let me throw a few more names out there for you from these epic championship teams - Ryan Vogelsong, Freddy Sanchez, Sergio Romo, Juan Uribe, Javy Lopez. None of these players, combined with the underdog low-key superstars mentioned earlier, would seem like the types of players that could create a dynasty, which is exactly what the Giants were (in even numbered years anyway) throughout this decade. But they all had one common thread - a manager that was, in his own quiet, unassuming, and gentlemanly way, possibly the greatest manager we have ever seen in the great game of baseball. Bruce Bochy was the ultimate players’ manager, and a man whose deep baritone voice reminded you of a country singer more than a hardball guru. But a guru he was, especially with his pitching staff during these amazing and improbable runs. Timely hitting was a Giants trademark as well, as they always seemed to be able to get the big hit every time they needed one, make the right play in the field, or make a textbook fundamental play like a sacrifice bunt or fly to keep their opponents at bay, and unable to overcome this on-field mastery. Bochy did all of this with a kind-heartedness, and a genuine belief in and care for ALL of his players. He never let them get too high when the moment was peaking, or too low when the Giants seemed down and out, as they often did during these championship seasons. In 2012, the Giants trailed the Dodgers by as many as 10 games in the standings midway through the season, only to pull away and win the division by 8 games or so. And this was all part of Bochy’s brilliance.


To those that knew him, Bochy was a man’s man, and someone we could all relate too, mainly because we experienced the losses with him every bit as vividly as we experienced the victories. Contrary to another much maligned Giants hero in Barry Bonds, “Boch” (as he was affectionately known) never backed down from reality, or the press, and he never made excuses. Not only that, but he also fiercely defended his players when they needed him, and never let them be disparaged, or give up on them when everyone was ready to toss them to the wolves for a midnight snack. “Boch” was indeed one of a kind. In a big money era in baseball, when so many players have become alienated from their teammates, managers, and even their cities, or have become big money letdowns, Bochy always seemed to be able to get the absolute best out of every one of his players, and at the same time maintain an almost child-like camaraderie that clearly transferred itself onto the diamond.


As a result, all of his victories can be described as nothing short of legendary, almost as spectacular as the thrilling and improbable way these Giants teams won their World Series titles, overcoming some of the most formidable opponents any team has ever had to in order to win - 1) first coming from a series hole against both the Atlanta Braves and the Philadelphia Phillies, overcoming Roy Halladay (who had thrown a post-season no-hitter that year) in a come-from-behind victory in Game 6 behind Juan Uribe’s 3-run homer to lift them to a 4-2 series victory. This was en route to a World Series sweep in 2010 over the Cliff Lee, Josh Hamilton, and Nelson Cruz led Rangers team that went to back-to back WS’s; 2) Winning 3 straight games vs. both the Cincinnati Reds after trailing the series 2-0, and overcoming a 3-1 deficit to beat the Cardinals despite Matt Holiday’s dirty slide into the hip of a stoic and heroic Marco Scutaro’s, who somehow continued playing and in fact carrying the Giants into defeating the Cardinals. They then dispatched of the Scherzer, Verlander, (another thing they share with this year’s Nationals team) and Miguel Cabrera’s triple-crown winning (for the 1st time since Yasztremski in 1967) led vaunted Tigers team in 5 short games, led by Cain and Lincecum, to win championship #2; 3) And finally to, can somebody say Travis Ishikawa? and his epic home run that won the game 7 of the NLCS again over the Cardinals in heart-stopping walk-off fashion (Giant Splash, Andrew Baggarly), to of course what Bumgraner did from the Wild Card win in Pittsburgh over the Pirates to the final pop-out landing in Sandoval’s glove in foul territory to triumph in an epic game 7 on the Royals’ home field. Have we ever seen more thrills on the baseball diamond than what these Bochy-led Giants gave us this decade? I doubt it. Sorry Yankees and Red Sox fans, but I don’t think even your rich history can top this!


In today’s “juiced-up” baseball era, where home runs and strikeouts reign supreme, it’s only natural that San Francisco could not maintain its grip on one of the most phenomenal pitching performances baseball has ever seen throughout the first half of this decade, when Giants’ pitchers recorded multiple no-hitters (including 2 by Lincecum, a 2-time Cy Young award winner), a perfect game (by Matt Cain in 2012), and Bumgarner’s historic post-season run in 2014, leading SF to the incredible 5-inning shutout save in Game 7 in Kansas City to defeat the high-powered and hot-hitting Royals; nAnd let’s not forget the never-before-heard-of bullpen numbers in terms of saves and ERA during this time, posted by the likes of Brian Wilson, Sergio Romo, Jeremy Affeldt, Santiago Casilla, Javy Lopez (all of whose ERA’s were below 3.00 and most below 2.50 for all 3 WS winning seasons), and others. (www.baseball-reference.com) I believe these pitching numbers will never be duplicated, and of course a nod and a tip of the cap must be given to Dave Righetti, the Giants pitching coach during this era, but Bochy’s clutch in-game savvy and expertise, in knowing just when (or when NOT to) put in a pitcher, take him out, or let him keep on trucking as he did countless times, culminating with pitching Bumgarner on two days rest in 2014 to win it all, were a feat to be marveled at for all-time! This cannot go unnoticed when it comes to voting for the Hall of Fame people, he’s a first ballot guy without a doubt!


But Bochy once again, as is fitting for a man as HUMAN as he is, proved that even for the all-time greats, nothing lasts forever, and for every peak in life, there must also be valleys. I believe that in his final seasons as Giants manager, the effects of 3 heart surgeries in three years from 2015 to 2017 (www.KNBR.com), including having two stents placed in his heart to help diffuse a 90% blockage of his arteries, clearly took their toll. But did we ever hear one single word of complaint out of this true GIANT of a man? Absolutely not, not even close.


It did almost seem only fitting that “Boch” would have his finale spoiled at the Giants home ballpark by the hated Dodgers in a 3-game sweep that left him with a career record 2 games under .500 (at 1052-1054), in much the same way that the New York Yankees spoiled his first World Series appearance with the Padres in 1998 in a 4-game sweep in 4 close games, any one of which could or should have been won by the Padres. But this was still a light-hearted farewell. Even Dave Roberts, the Dodgers’ manager came out along with many of the Giant greats of this era (many of whom were still playing in his farewell game) such as Tim Lincecum, Barry Zito, Hunter Pence, Jeremy Affeldt, and Brian Wilson, and gave him a nice little party of a send-off! It was a sunny day, and being ever the sportsman, of course Bochy laughed off the loss. For him, the game was clearly never JUST about winning, but win he did, obviously, in his 25 years and 4,032 games as a big-league manager. Through all the ups and downs, “Boch” would always be the first to tell us all, that it was the relationships, the people, the characters, and the organization that always came first, and most importantly, the way the game was played. We’ve all heard that cliche spoken a million times, “It’s not whether you win or lose, but how you play the game,” but this man truly was the embodiment of this, and served as one of the most influential and inspirational managers the great game of baseball has ever known. So all I can say is “thank you Boch, and farewell, you will be deeply missed, and we’ll never see another one like you!” We’ve all become better people for having known this man’s presence in the dugout for a quarter century.


(Please enjoy these quotes from Bochy’s final game)


“I was blown away,” Bochy said. “I was just trying to keep it together. This was as tough a day as I've ever had because you just can't believe that there's that many people that care and made the effort to come out and be part of this.”


“I had no idea that this sendoff would be like it was today. They were really quiet about it. And then I’m getting all these ex-players coming out and each one I'm getting emotional about it. So it was an emotional roller coaster going on all day.”


Bochy, 64, will head into retirement with a 2,003-2,029 record, including 1,052-1,054 with the Giants, but his Hall of Fame credentials have long been burnished. After spending the first 12 years of his career with the Padres, Bochy moved to San Francisco ahead of the 2007 season and helped lead the Giants to three World Series titles in the first five years of this decade.


He is one of 11 managers to record 2,000 wins and one of nine to win three or more championships; the others are enshrined in Cooperstown, where Bochy seems destined to end up. He will be eligible to appear on the Today’s Game Committee ballot in December 2021, setting him up for possible induction in the summer of 2022.


The son of an Army sergeant, Bochy spent parts of nine seasons in the Majors as a backup catcher for the Astros, Mets and Padres. Shortly after his playing career ended in 1987, Bochy secured his first managerial gig with the Rookie-level Spokane Indians and found his true calling.


“Fellas, you’ve challenged me, you’ve entertained me with your diverse personalities and you’ve made me in awe of your talent,” Bochy said. “Managing you guys has been one of the greatest joys of my life. Thank you for making me a better manager and a better person.”


FINAL QUOTES ALL COURTESY of WWW.MLB.COM


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