PETER K: Bochy’s Second World Series Win Is Validation

By  //  October 31, 2012

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PETER K: MY TAKE

(VIDEO: )

He yawned several times during our 40-minute conversation Tuesday, less than 48 hours after winning the World Series. Bruce Bochy was tired, but it was a good tired. The kind of tired he’ll take every baseball season.

Author Peter Kerasotis, right, and his wife Shelley in the dugout with their friend, San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy.

“I didn’t sleep last night as much as I was in a coma,” he said, laughing. “I’ll get caught up with sleep soon, I hope. But I’m too busy right now.”
The manager of the world champion San Francisco Giants can get used to this, sitting atop the baseball world and all the whirlwind activities that go with it. At the same time, he doesn’t take anything for granted.

Bochy, whose Giants just swept the Detroit Tigers 4-0 in the World Series, is a baseball lifer. There were his formative years in Melbourne, where he played at Melbourne High and Brevard Community College. And then all those years as a pro player, with his MLB career spanning 1978 to 1987. It was a playing career where Bochy is mostly remembered as the answer to a trivia question.

Who was the catcher the night Pete Rose broke Ty Cobb’s hit record? Answer: Bruce Bochy.

Who was the catcher the night Pete Rose broke Ty Cobb’s hit record? Answer: Bruce Bochy.

That was 27 years ago, back on Sept. 11, 1985, and all these years later Bochy is putting together a managerial career that might one day get him something that thus far Pete Rose has been unable to accomplish.

Induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

Across the phone line Tuesday, I could almost feel Bochy blush when I mentioned his name and the Hall of Fame in the same sentence. But it’s not just me mentioning it. His general manager with the Giants, Brian Sabean, mentioned it on national TV. And Tyler Kepner, the talented national baseball writer for the New York Times, wrote it as if it’s a foregone conclusion.

“It’s so humbling to hear people say that, because I have so much respect for the Hall of Fame and the people who are in there,” Bochy told me. “I don’t think about it. I don’t ever want to think about it. I can’t imagine something like that. I know how blessed I am to do what I do. So when I hear that, when I hear people mentioning my name and the Hall of Fame, I’m almost embarrassed because, again, I have so much respect for the people who are there.”

But make no mistake, Bruce Bochy is sure building a résumé.

This recent World Series is Bruce Bochy’s fourth. He played in one with the San Diego Padres, back in 1984, and also managed one with the Padres in 1998.

This recent World Series is his fourth. He played in one with the San Diego Padres, back in 1984, and lost to a dominating Detroit Tigers team. He also managed one with the Padres, back in 1998, and got steamrolled by a New York Yankees team that won 125 total games that season, earning the reputation among some in baseball as the greatest team ever.

And now?

Bochy has managed the San Francisco Giants to two World Series championships in the past three seasons, and it has people talking dynasty.

For Bochy, winning his second World Series has also been validating.

“When you win the World Series the second time, I do feel like it validates the first one; that it proves it wasn’t luck,” he said. “So, yeah, winning the second one, to me, validates the first one. I’ll admit it, it was something I did think about.”

“The first time you win, it’s a memory you’ll carry for the rest of your life,” he said. “You’ll never be able to repeat the feeling you get from winning the World Series the first time. I remember the last pitch, and being just numb, trying to comprehend winning the World Series. It’s something you dream about since you’re a kid, something that throughout your life you work hard for and dream about. When it happens, it’s a feeling you’ll never forget.”

And then, once that feeling settles in, a different one takes over.

“Those World Series games are such an adrenaline rush,” Bochy said. “It’s like a drug, and you want it again.”

For him, and he admitted this to me, winning two world championships is also validation. Maybe, in his mind, it still doesn’t stamp his ticket to the Hall of Fame, but it does stamp the ticket on credibility.

Bruce Bochy is a graduate of Melbourne High School and attended Brevard Community College. Prior to joining the San Francisco Giants, Bochy was the manager of the San Diego Padres for 12 seasons. He is the only former Padres player to serve as the team’s manager and has participated in all five postseason appearances in Padres history – as a backup catcher in 1984 and as their manager in 1996, 1998, 2005 and 2006. Bochy reached the World Series for the third time in this series with the Giants, who won the Series in the 10th inning 4-3 over the Detroit Tigers in a 4 game sweep. (fox40.com image)

“When you win the World Series the second time, I do feel like it validates the first one; that it proves it wasn’t luck,” he said. “So, yeah, winning the second one, to me, validates the first one. I’ll admit it, it was something I did think about.”

Yet, even while the Giants won their second World Series in three years, Bochy found media people and others talking about how lucky the Giants were, about fortuitous bounces off bags and bunts that hugged inside the third-base line and other inches that went their way in a sport that is known for being a game of inches.
Finally, after hearing that one too many times, Bochy said that he responded.

“I guess for me, and for my personality, you might say I snapped,” he said with a bit of a laugh, seeing as how he’s such an even-keeled guy.

“This team won with talent, grit and determination. It’s not luck when you lose your closer (Brian Wilson to Tommy John surgery) and one of your best players (Melky Cabrera to a drug suspension) and still win 94 games. When Pablo Sandoval hits three home runs in Game 1 against Justin Verlander, that’s not luck.

“Seriously, that did bother me, when I heard people talking about luck. This team won with talent, grit and determination. It’s not luck when you lose your closer (Brian Wilson to Tommy John surgery) and one of your best players (Melky Cabrera to a drug suspension) and still win 94 games. When Pablo Sandoval hits three home runs in Game 1 against Justin Verlander, that’s not luck. Those balls didn’t bounce over the fence. When you have pitchers throwing shutout innings against some of the best hitters in the game, that’s not luck. That buffaloed me a little bit when I heard people keep saying that.”

One of those best hitters in the game that San Francisco pitchers kept frustrating in the World Series was Tigers first baseman Prince Fielder, a fellow Brevardian. Fielder graduated from Eau Gallie High. Through their common Brevard roots, Bochy and Fielder have a relationship, and Bochy said that Fielder texted him after the World Series, congratulating him.

Another one of the World Series players with a Brevard County connection is Giants catcher Buster Posey, who will likely be named the National League MVP in the next week or so. Posey’s aunt, Jamie McLean (formerly Jamie Posey), lives on Merritt Island. Her husband is Jeff McLean, the Merritt Island High football coach. Posey has spent some time on Merritt Island, staying at the McLeans’ home when he was a teenager playing on traveling baseball squads.

Buster Posey

People are now comparing Posey to Derek Jeter. Both broke into the big leagues with teams that had gone 71-91 the season before they arrived. Both won World Series titles in two of their first three years in the big leagues. And both are quiet leaders and character guys.

You might also say that Bruce Bochy is to Posey what Joe Torre was to Derek Jeter, and not just because Bochy and Torre were former catchers. Rather, it’s how they’ve mentored young talent.

“What we wanted to build with this team is character,” Bochy said, speaking not just of Posey. “The mantra we wanted was ‘never say die.’ And they bought into that. We were down 2-0 in the Division Series, and won three straight. We were down 3-1 in the Championship Series, and won three straight. These guys just refused to go home. They refused to give up. They kept pushing.”

Bochy won’t say it, but they also reflected their manager’s personality and character. When the Giants’ had their backs against the wall, they never panicked, and a big part of that is because Bochy never panicked, making radical changes and shuffling lineups. He kept calm, composed and in control.

“I think the older I get and the more I’ve managed, the more patient I am with players. The more I stay behind them,” Bochy said. “When I was younger, I might’ve gotten frustrated and might’ve been quick to make changes. But I find myself now reminding myself of how tough it is to play this game, and sticking with guys. Trusting them. That’s hard to do sometimes, especially in the postseason, when there’s a tremendous sense of urgency.”

“I think the older I get and the more I’ve managed, the more patient I am with players. The more I stay behind them,” he said. “When I was younger, I might’ve gotten frustrated and might’ve been quick to make changes. But I find myself now reminding myself of how tough it is to play this game, and sticking with guys. Trusting them. That’s hard to do sometimes, especially in the postseason, when there’s a tremendous sense of urgency.”

To be sure, during the regular season, Bochy made some brilliant managerial moves and adjustments, one of which was shifting struggling starter and two-time Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum from the rotation to the bullpen. During the postseason, bringing Lincecum out of the bullpen proved to be a huge weapon. Bochy also played Marco Scutaro at third base and juggled his bullpen constantly, before settling on Sergio Romo as the closer.

During the regular season Bruce Bochy made some brilliant managerial moves and adjustments, one of which was shifting struggling starter and two-time Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum from the rotation to the bullpen.

He pushed a lot of buttons, a lot of the right ones, though anybody will tell you that managing a major league baseball team is far from a push-button operation.
“These guys made it easier for me to do those things,” Bochy said. “Sometimes the word team is overused, but this ballclub was a team. They truly cared for each other and wanted to win for each other. That’s a characteristic that’s so uncommon with professional athletes. But they all set aside their own agendas and asked to do what’s best for the club. Not once did anyone complain or question or come into my office and bend my ear. And believe me, I shook some things up and asked some guys to step outside their comfort zone.”

True. These guys were unselfish. But I think they’ll tell you that part of so willingly acquiescing to their manager had a lot to do with how much they respected Bruce Bochy as their leader.

That respect is obviously baseball-wide now.

Bruce Bochy, the Brevard boy who has never forgotten his roots, has now won two World Series titles, joining an elite group of men who have ever managed this game.

If he keeps it up, he’ll join an even more elite group of men.

The ones who reside in the Hall of Fame.


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3 Comments on "PETER K: Bochy’s Second World Series Win Is Validation"

  1. Bill Lewis October 31, 2012 at 5:09 pm · Reply

    Bochy was before my time in Brevard, but it’s good to read about a great man and great major league manager.

  2. Greg October 31, 2012 at 6:10 pm · Reply

    Peter,

    I’m glad that you’re glad.

    Greg
    (born & raised in Detroit)

  3. Susan M. Plymel November 1, 2012 at 10:52 am · Reply

    Just another one of your terrific stories on one of our hometown heros.

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