I can understand a lack of enthusiasm with Bruce Bochy. He's about as exciting as Warriors preseason basketball on the radio. Trust me on that one, as that's how I avoided listening to Joe Buck and Tim McCarver. But the end of the world? Absolutely not. Did you see some of the other names being thrown around? Tony Pena. Jerry Manuel. Bob Brenly. Those are all managers who would bring a Scrabble dictionary into a game of Battleship, and who don't have the experience or zip to make you hope they'd make up for any strategical shortcomings. Those would be train wrecks. Lou Pinella? In what world would that have made sense?
Really, in the 6,201 games I've seen Bochy manage against the Giants, I haven't noticed him. That's a great sign. I think. If he were a total goof, I'd hope I would have noticed. Batting Brian Giles eighth, or putting Russell Branyan at short; stuff like that would probably grab my attention. Without that kind of obvious lunacy, it's hard to get too excited one way or the other. Here's an important point, though: Padres fans are actually caring. There's a sizable faction expressing regret that Bochy is leaving, and most are wishing him well. If there's one person who thought it was a good idea to have Felipe Alou back for another season, they're still waiting for the right moment to come out. When Dusty Baker left, there was a similar case of synchronized shrugging. It has to say something about a long-time manager when he isn't openly mocked by a fanbase after a decade in the same town. He's almost universally popular among his former players, too.
The most important thing for the Giants to have considered was how the new manager was going to handle young pitching, as that's about the only thing the Giants have going for the future. The Padres club Bochy took over in '95 had a good young core of Alan Benes, Joey Hamilton, and Andy Ashby. They weren't abused, and went on to careers of varying success. The Padres have had some top young pitching prospects under Bochy's watch. Jake Peavy became one of the best pitchers in the game. Dennis Tankersley wants to know if you'd be interested in refinancing your mortgage, because he has some super rates. Praising or blaming Bochy for one or the other would be silly.
But it's a huge plus that he's not an arm shredder. A team hoping to develop Matt Cain, Tim Lincecum, and Jonathan Sanchez has to be wary of a chaw-munching old skewwwl manager ready with the red pansy stamp for any pitcher who dares to report a shoulder twinge. Jake Peavy has never thrown over 130 pitches for any start in his career, and has thrown over 120 just four times. Part of that is Peavy being so efficient, and another part is that Bochy's had some great bullpens. Still, that's an impressive display of workload consideration. Compare that with Dusty Baker allowing Mark Prior to average 127 pitches in the last month of Prior's first full major league season. On this basis alone, Bochy would be a defendable choice.
There are certainly a bunch of red flags. One of the disagreements Bochy had with Kevin Towers this year had to do with Vinny Castilla. Towers didn't want Castilla to play so much. Bochy expressed his Platonic man-love for Castilla. Castilla was released. That Bochy wanted to stick with Castilla was bad, but it wasn't as if the Padres were holding back a young George Brett. Still, that's a veteran-first philosophy that could use some tempering in the new Giant era. And every manager is going to have his way of driving the hardcore crowd up the wall. Dex, from the great Gas Lamp Ball, had this to say:
Unfortunately, he also does some really crazy things. The same way that Alou has a fixation with pitching changes late in the game, Bochy will never allow a right handed hitter to face a left handed pitcher and vice versa. The most damning example was the game where he played third string catcher Miguel Ojeda in right field over Xavier Nady because of the matchup consideration.