The emotion of the Bruce Bochy retirement announcement unleashed a torrent of memories, so many sweet, rich ones.
Don Mattingly visiting the mound twice at Dodger Stadium.
Tim Lincecum finishing Game 1 of the 2010 NLDS, no bullpen in sight, a packed park roaring its approval.
Phillies sluggers Ryan Howard and Chase Utley, neutered in the 2010 NLCS by Bochy deployments of southpaws; cagy, deft deployments by the general.
Barry Zito getting the tap in Game 5 of the 2012 NLDS, Bochy belief rampant, letting an embattled player soar to the skies of performance.
Madison Bumgarner deployed in relief — right up until and through the 27th out — in the 2014 World Series; never wavering, nodding to his sheriff to administer justice until the end.
We could go on. Cody Ross anointed as a starter for one magical month. Closing 2010 with Brian Wilson and 2012 with Sergio Romo. Letting Hunter Pence run wild in the Cincinnati clubhouse, down 0-2, in the 2012 NLDS.
Bruce Bochy, the three-time World Series champ, bequeathed a lifetime of joy to Giants fans. Only Bochy, Bill Walsh and Steve Kerr have delivered three championships to the Bay Area. It’s legendary stuff, and we’ll spend most of the season honoring the legacy.
We’ll also spend the rest of the season needing to turn the page, and asking two relevant questions:
- Can the Giants win with Bochy as a lame duck?
- Who’s next?
As to Question 1: It would be tough to see Bochy limp to the finish line with a third consecutive losing season.
But, sports fans, that possibility is very real.
The pitching staff is a question mark past Madison Bumgarner, who stands a good chance of being traded on July 31. The outfield, without Bryce Harper, remains a mish-mash of unproven youth and aging fill-ins. The core group of Buster Posey, Brandon Crawford, Brandon Belt, and Joe Panik — so heroic just five years ago — has been part of two straight, even two-and-a-half straight, terrible seasons of baseball.
Since the All-Star break of 2016, Bochy’s Giants are 170-226, which is a .429 winning percentage. By way of comparison, the Dodgers, a team the Giants presumably should be competitive with year in, year out, are 234-162 in that same span.
In other words, the Giants are a cozy 64 games back of the pace in that span.
Pennant fever! Catch it!
So, it’s been awful. According to reports, Bochy pondered retirement after the 2018 season, and the hiring of Farhan Zaidi as head of baseball operations surely would seem to signal such a move. After all, Zaidi should have his guy, right?
But it makes sense, given Bochy’s legacy, and given Zaidi’s lengthy process to restore depth to the club and start to find their way out of the darkness, that Bochy could serve as a bridge.
As Paulie Mac’s sound board says: “You know why? It was out of respect.”
It’s just that there’s no guarantee the bridge will hold. It will take a magical season from players like Posey and Belt and even Evan Longoria to make something special out of Bochy’s farewell. Otherwise, keep those 2010-12-14 memories on loop, and try your hardest to forget the end.
As to Question 2: As odd as it seems, let the speculation begin on the next Giants skipper.
We haven’t had to ask these questions since 2006, the end of the Felipe Alou run. Prior to that, Alou was named as Dusty Baker’s successor without much of a search in 2003. Dusty had been running the show since 1993. The Giants have had a Pittsburgh Steelers-like run of stability in the dugout in the past darn near 30 years.
The new manager will take over in 2020, a clean year to make “vision” puns and a clean number to start a new era. Bumgarner may be gone. Joey Bart may be up. Zaidi’s trades may have reshaped the club.
And certainly his taste in managers will define the “next gen” that Larry Baer sought when he hired Zaidi. The fun list of “potential” Giants managers in 2020 put up by a Vegas sportsbook included silly names like MLB Network’s Brian Kenny, and beloved icons who will never manage, like Duane Kuiper and Mike Krukow.
But at the top of the list were names that merit consideration, like former Giants Matt Williams, Mike Matheny and Omar Vizquel.
I found another name the most intriguing: former Athletics Gold Glover Eric Chavez, who nearly was hired in Anaheim last winter.
Chavez might be the right guy. “Chavy” is a Californian who knows the Bay Area, a smart player who studied Billy Beane’s ways in Oakland, and now works for the Angels as a special assistant. Chavez has charisma and youth, at 41, on his side.
A Bochy farewell … a search already discussed seven months in advance . . . to paraphrase former Warriors coach Mark Jackson: Things be changing for the San Francisco Giants.