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On the importance of Bruce Bochy calling out his team

A manager only gets one shot a year, and he has to make it count.

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San Francisco Giants v Oakland Athletics Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Before Friday’s game, Bruce Bochy held a closed door meeting in the Giants clubhouse and cajoled the 25-man roster to basically advocate for themselves in the playoff race.

I suspect the Manny Machado trade motivated this in large part — suggesting to the players in the clubhouse that they controlled their own destinies is a good way of saying “a new, 3-win player isn’t walking through that door” — and the other part of it was that they’ve hung around all season long to be just kinda okay. They need to decide who they are.

Managers don’t have many opportunities in the course of a tenure and the course of a season where they can give a speech that leverages the circumstances and the mood of the clubhouse into, possibly, some practical action.

Bill Walsh famously said that a coach has up to 10 years before players in the clubhouse tune them out. Well, we’re in year 11 of The Bochy Era, and while Walsh’s wisdom is unimpeachable, Bochy has probably stretched out his credibility in that clubhouse because it’s rare when he speaks up like this. Certainly, 2007 and 2008 didn’t provide much of a reason to lean into the guys, and while 2009 probably had some charge to it, that team was still young and awkward enough that it would’ve been tough to get a handle on.

2010, though, is when he and the organization had a plan in mind and they weren’t going to let poor performances derail them. There was a stretch where the starting pitching went perhaps 2-3 full turns through where the starters posted very few quality starts. Sabean and Bochy called the starters into the manager’s office and ripped into them for pitching terribly. The team was sniffing a playoff spot, they knew these starters could get them deep into the postsason — they weren’t willing to let the opportunity to slip away.

Beyond that, though, they said that the starters needed to pitch better because the offense wasn’t going to deliver for them. Over the past decade, the Giants’ offense has fallen into a range between A War Crime and Embarrassing. We were upset because they couldn’t score — we knew they needed to score in order to win. But Bochy galaxy brain’d us all by going in hard on the Giants’ strength: their pitchers.

The last prominent time Bochy did something like this was 2014:

They were 42-21 at one point that season, but were 69-62 by late August. That seemed like a pretty great time to call them out.

This year, they don’t have any particular strengths, but they’re not terrible, either. The offense has let them down lately (they’re projected to score only 650 runs on the season), and the pitching has fluctuated between below average to slightly above average, and the strong impact two rookies have made on the rotation has made it look even better overall.

Bochy didn’t single out the veterans or the hitters or the pitchers — he got them together and said it’s on all of you to make what you want out of the season. It’s honest. No weird Joe Maddon brain games or pseudopsychology. He simply stated the facts.

How the Giants respond is entirely up to them.