Bruce Bochy Heard The Call
3:19 PM EDT on October 21, 2022
Bruce Bochy doesn't need managing anymore, not for the money or the legacy, but he clearly needs managing. Why else would he sign up for three years with the Texas Rangers?
He's a Hall of Fame manager with three rings, and he remains one of only two men to date to guide the San Diego Padres to a World Series. He also represents baseball's newest market inefficiency—the old, experienced manager who understands analytics but owns his dugout based on observations made through 4,000-some-odd baseball games.
Plus, he still has the head size that caused former catcher Terry Kennedy to win bets by proving he could fit an entire six-pack of beer in Bochy's hat. Not even Buck Showalter has that.
Mostly, though, Bochy spent two years away from the game as the San Francisco Giants transitioned to a more aggressively top-down model run by Farhan Zaidi through Gabe Kapler. For a year, they were genii; for the last year, they were a monumental drag. Make up your own mind on that.
Bochy always seemed the sort to stay retired, too. He'd had two cardiac scares while with the Giants, caused by managerial stress, late nights after games, and the medicinal benefits of too much chew, and his wife Kim seemed the sort to insist that he not expire in the midst of a double-switch. He is 67. He's done not only his time but the times of four average men as well.
But here we are, the successful former Giants manager in the same state as another successful former Giants manager, Dusty Baker, in the same state and division. Bochy has declared himself a managing lifer with a three-year contract that is mostly about getting paid for at least three years rather than holding him to three years of work, and after a run of younger pawns of the front office, more teams are finding the value in the old head (pun intended) who likes to run his game his way. Presumably the newish Rangers general manager, former pitcher Chris Young, has signed off on a level of managerial autonomy that was not afforded to either Chris Woodward or his interim replacement, Tony Beasley. Otherwise, this fails well before the end of 2025.
He inherits a team with a half-billion dollar middle infield, a hyper-modest bullpen, and 68 wins that based on run differential should have been 77. That's the sort of number that usually gets pinned to a manager, especially when the front office is looking for reasons to gas the manager anyway.
Bochy's individual CV is worthy enough, but it might well be that it took Baker, Showalter, Bob Melvin in San Diego, and Terry Francona in Cleveland to show baseball's high priesthood of analyticals that it's bad business to throw away wisdom simply because one fears the implied freedom that comes with it. There are still more young managers than Bochys, but if baseball still has a value in the modern world, it is that heaven as well as hell come in a number of sizes.
How many sizes, you ask? Ozzie Guillen is apparently being interviewed for the vacant White Sox managing job he once had. That's slapping an oak leaf cluster on "old school," even for the franchise that gave you the last embers of Tony La Russa.
So why did Bochy opt for the Rangers and their habitually modest profile? Well, here's another old-school baseball thought: You take the job that calls you. The Rangers were a decided nonentity as they have been for all but a couple of years in their 50-plus year history, and had tried the first-time manager route with not only Woodward but Jeff Banister and Ron Washington before that. Bochy is by far the oldest manager the Rangers have ever hired, and for Young to break programming and turn over a team that was eighth-youngest in baseball last year and is bound to get even younger this offseason to a guy who has managed longer than Nathaniel Lowe has been alive is a statement about what Texas needs here.
Specifically, they need better players in a lot of places, but in the more macro sense they need someone who can be smart until they all learn how to be smart on their own. Hence, Bochy, who needs the job emotionally more than he would ever let on, so much so that he deferred what could have been his Hall of Fame election this coming year. Putting that off and risking the occasional side-eyes from Kim tell you how much Bochy wants one more crack at the thing that beat him as much as he beat it. The Texas Rangers may seem like an odd choice for him, but given their place in the state, the division, and the sport, he is a surprisingly sensible choice for them. If you can't go with what you know, always go with what someone else knows, birth certificate and hat size notwithstanding.