The Giants saved manager Bruce Bochy from a winter of second-guessing when they finally clinched the NL West title with Sunday’s 3-0 win over the San Diego Padres.
With an off day last week, Bochy rearranged his pitching schedule to pitch both Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain a day early, with Cain going on Friday night.
I was a guest on a Comcast SportsNet show from AT&T Park on Thursday, with Cam Inman and Mychael Urban, and host Greg Papa posed the question, “What if Cain loses and it’s up to Barry Zito to get the clinching win?”
None of us liked that scenario, and you saw why Saturday. Zito shouldn’t throw a pitch in the playoffs. He shouldn’t even be on the 25-man roster, since he can’t pitch in relief.
I praised Bochy’s move because I thought it sent a strong message to his players that he believed in them. And, if there had been a playoff game, they had Lincecum ready to go.
That move illustrated Bochy’s main strength as a manager: He’s a “players manager,” giving players every chance to prove they can do the job — or play themselves out of it.
Look at this season. Aaron Rowand started the season in center field but when Andres Torres continued his remarkable play, he replaced Rowand.
Bochy was loyal to Bengie Molina, who had done so much in the past, but as soon as Molina was traded, Buster Posey went behind the plate to start what should be a Rookie of the Year season.
When the Giants picked up Pat Burrell, Bochy gave him a shot, and he’s been a huge factor with his bat. When Edgar Renteria went on the DL — a blessing for the Giants — Bochy put Juan Uribe at shortstop, and he’s kept him there except for an occasional Renteria start, when he’s been relatively healthy.
Because I’ve seen them all, Papa also asked me if I thought this was the best and deepest Giants team going into the postseason.
It certainly has the most pitching depth. They have four solid starters, with Lincecum, Cain, Jonathan Sanchez and Madison Bumgarner, who is remarkably poised for a 21-year-old rookie. Their bullpen is solid, and Brian Wilson is their best closer since Robb Nen in his pre-injury prime.
It’s a much better team than the 1989 team that was swept by the A’s in the “Earthquake Series.” That team didn’t have much beyond Will Clark and Kevin Mitchell.
The 2002 team had a terrific 1-2 punch in the middle of the lineup with Barry Bonds (.370, 46 home runs, 110 RBIs) and Jeff Kent (.313, 37 home runs, 108 RBIs). Because of those two, the Giants had a much more consistent offense than this team, but it didn’t have the depth of starting pitching the current Giants have.
My personal favorite is the 1962 Giants, which had Hall of Famers Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, Orlando Cepeda and Juan Marichal, but because the game has changed so much, it’s impossible to compare them.
This year? I like the Giants’ chances in the first round, but the Philadelphia Phillies are the best team in the league and should represent the NL in the World Series.