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Where will Bruce Bochy manage in 2021?

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It sounds like Bruce Bochy’s using 2020 as a sabbatical. Where will he go when it’s over?

MLB: Los Angeles Dodgers at San Francisco Giants Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports

Regrettably, we only get to hear Bruce Bochy these days via radio hits with “Mad Dog” Mike Russo. However, today’s interview provided the following snippet:

RUSSO: ENJOY YOUR OFF-TIME! YOU DESERVE IT! YOU’LL MANAGE AGAIN, TOO! I’LL PREDICT IT! NOT NEXT YEAR — YOU MIGHT EVEN BE IN A WORLD SERIES AGAIN! I’LL MAKE THAT PREDICTION RIGHT NOW, SAFELY, THAT WE WILL SEE BRUCE BOCHY — NOT NEXT YEAR! — BUT WE WILL SEE HIM IN THE FUTURE MANAGING A MAJOR LEAGUE TEAM! HOW DOES THAT SOUND? YOU LIKE THAT? OR NO?

BOCHY: No! No! I’m with ya, I’m with ya. I’m just hitting the pause button, that’s all, you know . . . and take a sabbatical here for a year, then I’ll {Bochy noises} you know, see where I’m at. I don’t know how I’m gonna feel, but uh, I’d love to have one more shot.

If you don’t believe that Mike Russo speaks in all caps or that Bruce Bochy publicly flipped his retirement into a sabbatical, listen to the exchange here:

Otherwise, now is the time for all of us to pat ourselves on the back for seeing what this year was really all about. Yeah, Bruce Bochy had won three titles. Yeah, he’d managed for 25 consecutive years. But the Giants didn’t bring in a new front office to maintain the status quo — it was brought in to make big changes. Bruce Bochy had done everything the organization had asked of him and it was time to go. The retirement gimmick was a face-saving measure for the team.

But there’s no question that a lot of teams are going to be mad about spending time putting together elaborate farewell gifts or simply shopping at the local Bevmo to help a manager stock up his liquor cabinet. That’s assuming Bruce Bochy actually comes back to baseball after a year away.

It’s not easy to walk away from a life-defining routine such as a baseball manager and having an identity crisis of any scale at the age of 64 feels like more trouble than it’s worth, so, it makes a lot of sense that Bruce Bochy still has the urge to do baseball. Watching Dave Roberts blow the season with late-game decision-making probably solidified, too, the notion that all he needs is a good team, and a year removed from what had become his career-defining job might give him the chance to jump right into a great situation.

That obviously means not the Giants.

A few more years of managing a truly great team would set him up for that career winning record (currently 2,003-2,029) and the chance for one more World Series title. More importantly, he’d have the chance to pick the relationship he wants, whereas Farhan Zaidi and that arrangement was thrust upon him and it was one that set a ticking clock on his time there. Plus, managing a new team to a pennant or more gives him a shot at really separating himself from any one team’s championship legacy.

That’s all the top-line vanity stuff, though. I’m sure it’s there — Bruce Bochy is a human being, after all — but it wouldn’t be the driving force. After years of watching the guy and listening to what people have had to say about him, it’s clear he’s a baseball lifer who loves to compete. That’s not mutually exclusive from the vanity, of course. I’m sure he’d like the chance to outmanage A.J. Hinch or whatever algorithm the next superteam unleashes.

But what’s the most likely destination? A lot can happen in a year, so this upcoming list can change for reasons I couldn’t even imagine. Figure, though, that a lot of teams would be interested in his services, but the feeling wouldn’t be mutual (::cough:: Pirates, Rockies, etc.) — potentially. So, based on nothing but a Mad Dog hit, here are the possibilities:

The Obvious

San Diego Padres

It feels a little too coincidental that on the day it’s reported the Padres hired Jayce Tingler to be their next manager that Bruce Bochy gave an interview saying he’s thinking about coming back next year. Tingler is the second consecutive rookie manager hired by A.J. Preller, and the fifth manager (including the interim guys) of his 6-year tenure as GM.

With an underperforming team and six-plus years of Prellerball, Padres ownership might see an opportunity to really turn the page and get the franchise back on track. That doesn’t mean the Padres will be terrible in 2020 or that they even have to be for team ownership to simply want to have Bruce Bochy be their manager. We just saw the Angels fire Brad Ausmus after one (really bad) year because Arte Moreno wanted to pay Joe Maddon $12-$15 million a year to get his team to bunt more.

Going back to San Diego would be a nice bookend to his career and if he could anoint a second franchise with their first World Series, then he will have accomplished something in the general ballpark of what Theo Epstein did by winning a World Series with the Red Sox and Cubs.

Los Angeles Dodgers

Now, Dave Roberts is under contract through 2022 and Andrew Friedman doesn’t seem like the type of executive who would tolerate a lot of independent thought from one of his workers on the factory floor, so maybe it’s not an obvious destination, unless . . .

Imagine this: It’s November 2020. The Dodgers still haven’t won the World Series. It’s the Yankees versus the Braves because Madison Bumgarner shutout the Dodgers for eight innings in game six and Mark Melancon got the save. Everybody’s miserable except for Giants fans. Stan Kasten is sick of reading McCovey Chronicles’ annual Dodgers Do Not Win World Series post.

But wait! What’s that massive shape moving through the dense LA fog? Is it a black hole? A monster truck tire? No. It’s Bruce Bochy’s head. And it’s attached to his body! That body is walking towards Dodger Stadium! Stan Kasten and the Dodgers ownership group gotta have him.

Now, why would Bruce Bochy do this? Why would he betray the Giants? Folks, there is no loyalty in sports, especially baseball. We might be able to assume that Bruce Bochy doesn’t want to uproot his entire life, so a southern California destination makes sense. But what if the Padres haven’t gotten their act together during his sabbatical? Why get involved in a neverending rebuild when a perpetual win machine is right there?

(Edited to add: I don’t think this is actually a betrayal. Apologies for not using the sarcasm font.)

Why would the Dodgers even consider this? It’s great PR! And the Dodgers, despite being blacked out in LA by the local cable company, are still revered by literally millions of people. The fans are extremely invested. Bruce Bochy is a name brand they respect and would get excited by — the perfect antidote for another failed attempt at a title.

Dark horses

Oakland

The A’s aren’t too hip to hire a winner who might be intrigued by the chance to win in the American League, especially if the A’s continue developing their top prospects next year and have genuine All-Star talent at nearly every position. This would almost feel like a greater shot across the Giants’ bough than the Dodgers because of how it would force Giants fans to think about the A’s more often than when the interleague series is going on.

I like this move if it comes as the result of Billy Beane slowly unraveling over the course of 2020 due to the Astros or the Rays or some surprise team like the Mariners suddenly becoming a thorn in their side and if the A’s make another early postseason exit despite another nearly perfect regular season.

Atlanta Braves

We don’t know if Madison Bumgarner will wind up signing with them this offseason, but it’s not impossible that it happens and if it does, then this would seem a likely destination for the reunion potential, and much like the Dodgers situation, a chance for the team to improve its decision-making process in the dugout with a proven winner. The Braves are setup to win for a long time, too, and while moving to Georgia would upend his life, if they’re one of the only teams that come knocking next winter, the situation might be too good to pass up.

No matter what happens, it’ll be weird. That includes going through the interview process with some teams and then deciding at the last minute that he’d like to stay retired. There’s something satisfying about the way Bruce Bochy ended things. It wasn’t perfect — most of his career, as a player and manager, has been anything but — but it was perfectly him.

Do you want him to manage again? Where do you think he’ll wind up?