I have been following baseball my entire life (and if you think I’m kidding, just ask my parents). As a result, I’ve picked up a thing or two. And one of the things that has been proven over and over again is that a good manager makes the team.
Let’s take my home team, the San Francisco Giants. In the late 1990s – early 2000s, the Giants had some superstar players (think Jeff Kent and Barry Bonds) and made it to the playoffs four times (‘97, ‘00, ‘02, and ‘03). But they never got all the way. The closest they got was in 2002, when they lost the World Series to the Angels in seven games.
The manager of that team was Dusty Baker, who was a very good manager (he got the manager of the year award three times, in ‘93, ‘97, and ‘00). But he wasn’t good enough to get his team a World Series win.
Then in ‘07, Bruce Bochy came in. The Giants during that time were pretty bad; in ‘07 when Bochy took over, they were last in their division. But slowly they got better. In ‘08, they were fourth. In ‘09, third. And then all of a sudden, in 2010, they were first and managed to go all the way.
And the question you had to ask yourself was, how? The nickname the 2010 Giants had earned for themselves was ‘the Misfits’ because many of the players had been rejected by other teams. Take Pat Burrell for example – he was designated for assignment (and later released) by the Tampa Bay Rays, then signed with the Giants, got a starting position in left field, and was with the team all the way to the Series. And a lot of players had been brought to the Giants like that. None of them were superstars, and yet they went all the way to the World Series.
It was all because of Bochy. Bochy took a team that was by all definitions terrible and turned it around. And you might say, ‘they had superstars like Pablo Sandoval and Buster Posey on their team’. But if you look at what happened when Pablo Sandoval left the Giants, you know that’s not true. After all, it seems like only the Giants organization, and more specifically Bochy, was able to keep Sandoval fit and playing well. Which begs the question of how Posey would play if he were on another team.
So Bochy led the team to three World Series wins in ‘10, ‘12, and ‘14. And this year, the Giants are doing incredibly well before the All Star Break. They are six games in front of their nearest challengers (the Dodgers) and yet, none of the position players deserve to start the All Stars. But this team – devoid of real superstars – has a real shot at the title for the fourth time in seven years. And it’s all thanks to some pretty damn good managing.
Quick fun fact: Bruce Bochy is one of eight major league baseball players to have been born in France. As a French person who (quite obviously) appreciates Bochy, I found this very interesting.