10/23/2012 07:17:59 PM PDT
Dodgers manager Don Mattingly saw this coming a month ago.
Mattingly, the captain of a sinking ship, looked across the field at the Giants dugout when the Dodgers visited AT&T Park in September. The Giants had withstood season-ending injuries to Brian Wilson and Freddy Sanchez, Melky Cabrera’s suspension and the Dodgers’ string of blockbuster deals.
And the resilient group was running away with the division.
“I don’t think I ever expected them to stop performing the way they are because I’ve known Bruce Bochy for a long time,” Mattingly said. “I know that the Giants are basically just going to keep coming at you. That’s just typical Bruce Bochy.
“His teams are resilient. They never quit.”
The never-say-die Giants are now champions of the National League and hosts of Wednesday’s Game 1 of the World Series against the Detroit Tigers.
During a run that has included a record-tying six elimination-game victories, the Giants have seemingly taken their cues from Hunter Pence, who gives raucous pregame speeches. But the Reverend Pence would like to let you in on a clubhouse secret.
“It actually starts at the top,” Pence said. “There’s a unique, relaxed and encouraging feeling that starts with Bochy. He’s always calm, and that keeps us calm.”
It wasn’t always easy for Bochy to stay calm this season. The Giants were put through the wringer, starting with Wilson’s elbow surgery in April. On 15, the Giants dealt with a bigger crisis when Cabrera, their All-Star No. 3 hitter, was suspended 50 games. Bochy met with the team, and long before players starting coming up with postseason mottos, he delivered one of his own: “Focus forward.”
“As I’ve said many times,” Bochy said. “It’s not that it happens, it’s how you deal with it.”
Bochy has been dealing the same way for years, 18 of them, to be exact. Nearly two decades of managing will fill a resume, and Bochy has. He ranks third among active managers with 1,454 wins and is tied for 14th all-time with six playoff appearances. A World Series win this season would be his second in three tries, giving the former catcher with a .239 career average a reasonable argument to be a Hall of Famer.
Bochy won’t be the one making the case.
“It’s great when you hear good things,” Bochy said. “The players would feel the same, but you can’t believe all the good things or the bad things.”
In quiet moments, Bochy concedes that he knows the criticisms, mainly that he can be too loyal with veterans. But on one of the closest teams in recent Giants memory, the manager’s loyalty is fiercely appreciated.
Tested by Tim Lincecum’s surprising first-half slump, Bochy continually insisted that “this is still our guy.” When Ryan Vogelsong slumped in August, Bochy ran the same play. “He’s one of our guys,” Bochy said after Vogelsong gave up seven runs in 31/3 in mid-September. “I have all the confidence in the world in him.”
That meant the world to the right-hander who traveled to Japan and Venezuela to resurrect his career.
“I’ve been on other side of this, where you’re not hearing that,” Vogelsong said. “He had my back, and it wasn’t just publicly. After every start he would come and say: ‘You’re right there. Your stuff is good. You’re on the brink of figuring it out.’ That means a lot.”
The manager’s meetings were plentiful, and not just with veterans. When Brandon Crawford made a slew of errors in the season’s opening weeks and struggled at the plate, Bochy called the 25-year-old shortstop into his office. The message was simple: Forget about your at-bats.
“He told me ‘You’re our shortstop. Just worry about playing good defense and you’re going to be in the lineup every day,’ ” said Crawford, who recovered in the field and has been a postseason threat at the plate.
The message was a bit more complicated for the other young infielder. Brandon Belt hit .186 in July and went 1 for 20 on a road trip through Atlanta and Philadelphia that ended with Belt admitting that he was struggling with confidence.
Bochy gave Belt a couple days off to catch his breath.
“That helped tremendously,” said Belt, who soon caught fire. “I needed to gather my thoughts, and he knew that.”
Bochy isn’t just pushing the right buttons off the field. He managed with urgency throughout the season, whether that meant using seven relief pitchers to get through three innings of an 8-3 September win over the Rockies, or using Romo to secure the final out of a 9-0 win in Game 7 of the NLCS.
In the first two rounds of the postseason, Bochy was continually a batter ahead of Cincinnati’s Dusty Baker and St. Louis’ Mike Matheny, both of whom left their winner-take-all starters in a touch too long.
The quick postseason thinking, first displayed during the 2010 championship run, doesn’t surprise Bochy’s players, who have found their 57-year-old manager to be adaptive off the field.
Bochy is a wine connoisseur and accompanies his wife to Broadway plays when the team visits New York, but he has little trouble identifying with players in an eclectic clubhouse that features a right fielder (Pence) who rides a scooter to the park, an injured pitcher (Wilson) who wears reflective shoes and a shutdown closer (Sergio Romo) who has piercings in his ears and a signature “That’s what’s up!” motto.
“He lets us be ourselves and do our thing,” Romo said. “He’s not judgmental at all. He had a lot of patience with us this season, which we needed.
“He let us come together as a team.”
Bruce Bochy was born on April 16th, 1955 according to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bruce_Bochy
April 16th, 1955
4 + 16 +2+0+1+2 = 25 = his personal year = Rooting for the underdog.
25 year + 10 (October) = 35 = his personal month = Hanging in there. Not giving up.
35 month + 30 (30th of the month) = 65 = his personal day = On top of the world.
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