Nothing endears you to Giants fans like making the Los Angeles Dodgers look like clowns, and that’s how San Francisco’s begrudging appreciation for Bruce Bochy began.
It all started on that night in 2010, when Bochy busted Don Mattingly for an almost imperceptible return to the sacred circle that is the pitcher’s mound. It constituted a “second trip,” forcing Mattingly — then L.A.’s hitting coach, but in charge at the time due to the earlier ejections — to take closer Jonathan Broxton out of a tight game that promptly turned in the Giants’ favor.
It helped the Giants continue a stirring comeback that, to this day, serves as somewhat symbolic of that sensational season.
Shortly after the game it was recalled that Bochy had pulled the same move on the Dodgers a few years earlier, when managing the San Diego Padres, and that was all it took for Giants fans to finally acknowledge that there’s some legitimate genius going on inside their manager’s massive melon.
Bochy’s brain got more and more praise as he pushed virtually all the right buttons while his lovable “Band of Misfits” — great book by Andy Baggarly, by the way — tore through the postseason on the way to San Francisco’s first World Series title.
Might title No. 2 be in the immediate future? Given how well Bochy’s been playing the hands he’s been dealt this summer, such a scenario shouldn’t surprise anyone.
As impressive as his juggling of the everyday lineup has been, a chore made substantially more difficult when the fraud that is Melky Cabrera was exposed and expunged, his handling of the beleaguered bullpen will forever serve as his signature contribution to what is almost a lock to be the National League West champion.
Even as Santiago Casilla cruised through the first few months of the season, Brian Wilson’s absence loomed large. Anyone familiar with Casilla’s body of work knew he was a ticking time bomb, his psyche far too fragile to withstand even a short string of blown saves.
And sure enough came said string, and with it the predictable shattering of Casilla’s confidence. And with that, widespread panic among fans.
Oh ye of little faith.
Those familiar with Bochy’s body of work weren’t all that worried, though. If there’s one thing for which he’s universally lauded, it’s been his ability to expertly guide a group of relievers through the maddening minefields that are the late innings of most big-league ballgames.
Give him a few quality arms with a variety of styles, preferably a lefty or two among them, and Bochy will take it from there.
Sergio Romo, Javier Lopez, Jeremy Affeldt and Casilla alone fill the aforementioned bill, and the cupboard isn’t exactly bare behind them.
Would having more clearly defined roles be a better way to head into October? Of course. And do pitching coach Dave Righetti and bullpen coach Mark Gardner deserves some credit, too? Sure.
But make no mistake: Bochy is the guy making MacGyver-type magic with these guys. Thanks to the confidence he’s instilled by putting them in positions to succeed, every one of them is capable of locking down the save.
And that, more than anything else, is what has saved this season.
SPEED ROUND: Out of work? Consider long snapping. What happened to the Raiders on Monday should prompt a serious wave of new hires. … All due respect to the job Buck Showalter has done in Baltimore, but if Bob Melvin doesn’t win the American League Manager of the Year award, the system is broken. A ton of folks had the A’s pegged for 100 losses, and their payroll is about $30 million less than that of the Orioles. … Looking back on The Handshake: Yeah, Jim Harbaugh was, um, out of hand. But so was Jim Schwartz. Nothing like two lunatics in a tizzy. Should be a fun night at The Stick.
Mychael Urban, host of Inside The Bigs (9 a.m.-12 p.m. Saturdays) on 95.7 FM The Game, can be followed on Twitter @BigUrbSports. His website is UrbsUnchained.com.