(all photos: me)
The last few days have been good for serious reflection on what the San Francisco Giants and their fans have experienced over the last five years, which has been historic and secures this period of SF Giants history as belonging to one man more than any other, Manager Bruce Bochy.
The Barry Bonds Era of SF Giants baseball ended in 2007.
When you think about it, it must have been an incredible burden for first-year Giant coach Bruce Bochy to have to steward the team through the amazing individual accomplishment of Barry Lamar.
Imagine walking into the managing job with that level of pressure on the team, on Bonds. Not to mention Bonds’ attitude as a player in the clubhouse – famously self-contained. Bochy had to quietly endure all that attention – much of which was incredibly negative – and yet try to manage the team … as a team.
Then Barry Lamar was done and we were left with a very young staff of home grown talent, no real MVP’s except maybe a Freak with crazy delivery. But within two seasons, the Giants were back in the hunt.
I was at the game in Mid-September back in 2009 when we were just starting to smell the playoffs for the first time under Boch. We had scrapped and fought our way into second place in the division and had beat the Rockies twice in a three game series to pull within two games back of Division-leading Colorado.
It was my son’s first MLB game, his first Giant game. Randy Johnson was in the ‘pen.
Note the absent WS pennants in LF, seems weird now!
Matt Cain was on the mound. Though we didn’t call it this back then, Matt got #Cained that night as we lost 4-3; couldn’t drive home the winning runs waiting at second and third base with two outs. It was as close as we would get to the playoffs that season (remember this is when Wild Cards didn’t exist), another season in San Francisco in the books without satisfaction. But already the Bruce Bochy effect was evident. We were fighting hard … as a team.
2009 to the present is The Bruce Bochy Era of SF Giants baseball.
In the five years since, this team has played some of the grittiest, gutsiest, most intensely-focused, never-say-die baseball I’ve ever seen.
We’ve won our first two World Series Championships in San Francisco and three of the last five National League Pennants.
We’ve seen talent squeezed out of Cody Ross and Aubrey Huff and Pat Burrell and Marco Scutaro at the end of their careers. I’ll never forget the post World Series interview with Bochy when asked about Aubrey Huff’s bunt in the only World Series game ever played in November. He told Krukow he’d asked Huff to start practicing bunting two months earlier! Huff hadn’t dropped and wouldn’t drop a bunt all season long, but Boch was concerned he would need it in a given circumstance and so he was ready in the last game of the World Series.
Under Bochy we’ve witnessed a perfect game, a near-perfect game, three no-hitters, an inside-the-park-walkoff, Scutaro in the rain, Pablo’s three homers in a WS game (and off Verlander saying “Wow”), Madison Bumgarner, Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Ryan Vogelsong and even, finally Barry Zito dominance for redemption. What Bruce Bochy has done in this time period has been nothing short of brilliant.
Bruce Bochy, I have criticized and cajoled and even mocked moves you’ve made. I have been upset by things you do, patterns that seem exclusive to you and outside of my own reasoning about how games ought to be managed mid-season. Yet you’ve consistently proven me wrong and over the course of a season, of several seasons, have shown how much more you know about what to do with this group of guys.
For all our complaining, the man responsible for hiring Bruce Bochy deserves credit. Really early in the morning before the 2012 World Series parade, I was passing by Brian Sabean who was talking to a couple of people while waiting to get into the convertible he would ride in the festivities. I waited til there was a pause in their conversation and then called out, “Mr. Sabean!” He looked over at me and I held up my camera and raised my eyebrows implying I would like a shot. He acknowledged me, paused, looked down, spat, then slowly raised his hand and signaled as he looked directly at my lens:
I only wish that damn trunk had been closed. But the point is, even then, Mr. Sabean was being clear we weren’t finished, that this team wasn’t finished. Look at him – that’s a face that says, “We aren’t done yet.”
Sabean feels and, I think we have all felt it, that there is something historically special about this group of guys … and it starts with coaching.
Rags, Wotus, Bam-Bam, Flan, Will the Thrill and even Barry Lamar have been important figures in this staff, critical cogs in the system. Bochy has allowed them all not just to thrive but to excel.
Skip, you’re a “Master” of team management. There is no doubt in my mind now that you belong in the Hall of Fame – you’ve earned it.
Because of an illness in my family, I’ve been away from SF and haven’t had a lot of time to blog lately and don’t even have much today, so I will end it here.
I would like to offer my sincerest gratitude to all of you on the eve of the World Series – to the Giants, to our staff and management and to all the rest of you fans and journalists, for what has been an amazing ride during what I encourage all of us to name The Bruce Bochy Era of SF Giants Baseball, for the one man more responsible than anyone else for the amazing success.
M.T. in Giants Baseball Corner