In hindsight, Bruce Bochy retiring in 2019 could not have been more perfect. Sure, it felt a tiny bit awkward, as we all wondered whether he was retiring by choice, retiring to be a company man, or getting fired in style.
But it was perfect. The Giants outperformed expectations, and had a mildly competitive season. Madison Bumgarner was there. And the skipper got to tip his cap to the home fans in a ceremony with nearly every memorable Giant from the last 13 years.
Can you imagine if Bochy had tried to stick around for a year or two? What if the final year in his Hall of Fame career was in front of an empty stadium, with players he wasn’t allowed to high five? What if he didn’t get to double-shift because there are no pitchers batting? What if he had to fly up from San Diego for some random August, 2022 game, just to get to hug Tim Lincecum and have a proper retirement ceremony while Bumgarner tips his cap from the opposing dugout?
No, that wouldn’t be right at all. Short of a miraculous World Series appearance, Bochy could not have ended his Giants career in more style than he did.
And yet I find myself wishing he was here. Despite the emptiness of the fanless stadiums. Despite the fact that it’s set to be the least romantic season in baseball history. Despite the new rule where relievers must face a minimum of three batters (unless the inning ends), which is antithetical to the Bruce Bochy School of Managing.
Bochy was the king of squeezing every last drop of productivity out of weirdness. You can bicker about whether he was overrated, and whether his legacy is unfairly propped up by three championships that the Giants had no business winning. But that doesn’t change the fact that he was at the helm of three championships that the Giants had no business winning. That he led a squad that self-identified as being full of misfits and outcasts and weirdos in a sport that embraces breaks from the norm about as well as Wonder bread does.
If there’s ever been a season where that’s needed, it’s 2020.
Most people can agree that Bochy’s largest tactical strength is his bullpen management. And now we’re facing a 60-game season of bullpen management. The notion of starting pitching is halfway out the window. The Giants will have games — lots of games — where they effectively don’t have a starting pitcher at all. And when they do, that pitcher will be pulled an inning or two sooner than in other years.
On top of that, teams get to start the season with 30 players on the active roster, which will eventually dwindle to 28, and then to 26. Many of those players will be pitchers. So many of those players will be pitchers, especially since there will be a universal designated hitter.
Matt Blake says Yankees might take 15-18 pitchers to start season. All healthy coming into camp. Initial thought is 5-man rotation, but bullpen days and openers are options. Hoping to build starters up to 4-6 innings by end of camp.— Sweeny Murti (@YankeesWFAN) July 2, 2020
My goodness. Can you imagine Bruce Bochy with no set starter and 12 bullpen arms to mess around with? Even with the three-batter minimum, you know he’d get funky and find new ways to piss off Rob Manfred.
I’m glad Bochy got a retirement tour. I’m glad he got to hug Lincecum while the crowd cheered as loudly as they did when Travis Ishikawa walked it off in 2014. I’m glad the Giants get to drive the first lap of their new car, and move in their new direction towards their future.
But I sure wish Bochy was here to try his hand at this season.