For over a decade, Bruce Bochy has stood in the middle of the clubhouse at Scottsdale Stadium and tried to find the right words to inspire his players before the first workout of a new season. His season-opening speech Monday, his 13th as a Giant, provided the most powerful message yet.
The 2019 season will be Bochy’s final one as a manager, he announced Monday morning.
The decision isn’t a surprising one for the 63-year-old, who’s entering the final season of his contract and has a new boss in Farhan Zaidi. Still, there is no understating the significance.
The story of the 2019 Giants season is yet to be written, but at the very least, it will highlight a man who’s had one of the more successful managerial runs in Major League Baseball history. Bochy hopes it will turn into much more, perhaps giving him one last chance to push the right buttons in October. That month is where Bochy built his legacy, and his success in the postseason no doubt will land him in the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Bochy enters his final season 11th all-time with 1,926 wins, and the 10 men ahead of him already are in the Hall. Every manager with three World Series titles is enshrined in Cooperstown, and Bochy hit that mark in a span of five years. The success from 2010 through 2014 made Bochy the fifth manager in MLB history to win three titles in five years, but it’s just a sliver of his life in the game.
Bochy was drafted by the Astros in 1975 and, three years later, began a catching career that lasted nine years, also with the Mets and the Padres. His playing seasons weren’t particularly noteworthy, but during those years, Bochy soaked up knowledge that set the base of his managerial philosophy.
Bochy was named Padres manager before the 1995 season, and he took them to the World Series in 1998. He spent the first 12 seasons of his managerial career in San Diego, leading the franchise to the postseason four times.
Bochy moved up the coast after the 2006 season, and it took a couple of years before the Giants found traction. They transitioned out of the Barry Bonds era and showed signs of life in 2009. One year later, Bochy had his first World Series title.
That team of misfits soon was followed by two other champions that benefited from Bochy’s magical touch in the postseason. The Giants came from behind against the Reds and the Cardinals to reach the 2012 World Series, where they swept the heavily favored Tigers. Bochy pulled all the right levers, mixing and matching with his pitchers as he had in 2010, including a memorable bullpen stint from Tim Lincecum, one of many stars over the years who regarded the manager as a father figure.
Two years later, Bochy made what might go down as his most memorable move. With the Giants holding on for dear life in Game 7 of the 2014 World Series, he handed the ball to Madison Bumgarner in the bottom of the fifth inning. More importantly, Bochy never took it away. Bumgarner got past an early wobble and a scare in the ninth, giving his beloved manager a third title.
The years since haven’t been as kind. Bochy’s last postseason appearance came in 2016, and that series ended in an ironic way. Bochy has many defining traits as a manager, but he’s perhaps best known for his ability to handle a bullpen in the postseason. Through three title runs, Bochy almost seemed to be able to see into the future. He almost always made the right decision, but in 2016, the bullpen failed in the final inning of the season, as it had for much of the year.
The next season might have been Bochy’s worst, as a veteran roster lost 98 games. The Giants lost 89 games last season, and afterward, Bochy found himself working for Zaidi, the new president of baseball operations. A new executive generally wants to pick his own manager, but thus far, Bochy and Zaidi have appeared to work well together. Both men have talked of their eagerness to forge a partnership that leads the Giants out of the NL West basement, and Bochy seemed to enter this spring with a renewed spirit.
Bochy spent part of this offseason in Hawaii for his son’s wedding. He’s a grandfather now, and he lights up when talking about that part of his life. He had hip surgery over the winter and is walking better than he has in years.
Last week, Bochy strolled around the back fields at Scottsdale Stadium with a fungo in his hand, often mimicking a golf swing that’s in better shape, thanks to his new hip.
For a couple of years, it seemed Bochy might not go out this way. He had repeated heart problems that twice kept him away from the team during the regular season and required a surgical correction. After missing a game in Miami in 2016, Bochy sat in his office with beat writers and spoke at length about his future. At one point, he smiled as he talked about his desire to keep going.
“There’s nothing else I want to do than what I’m doing now,” he said that day.
One of the best managers in MLB history wanted to go out on his own terms. On Monday, Bochy announced that he will.