Ratto: Bruce Bochy's Managerial Masterpiece

October 29, 2010, 10:23 pm
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Ray RattoCSNBayArea.com

ARLINGTON, Tx. -- BruceBochy walks well, shambles, more like the way he always has, but he hasthis perceptible smile on his face that he cant hide. He is playing with thecasinos money like he could feel the weighted dice in his hand and could seethe face-down king clear as day. Bon temps roulette,baby. Bon temps roulet.He is, 15 years after the fact, being hailed as a Baseball Mastermind (patentpending, MLB Productions), and he kind of likes the feeling of it, especiallyafter all those years of being dismissed as just another manager-dullard whoknows less than the Internet math wizard or the sportswriter whos seen it alla hundred times or Al From Foster City, youre on and turn down your damnedradio.People who once mocked him see him now and think hes really quite smart, andtrust us, that feeling sure beats waking up with lower back pain, showeringwhen the water heater goes out or finding out you ran out of coffee yesterday.But heres a shocking fact, one that will catch America by complete surprise. Bochyalready was what you now think he is, and a long time ago at that. What youreseeing now is luck, combined with roster depth, combined with planning, combinedwith expertise, combined with results.Which, as true baseball people know, is the real measure of a mans success whether hes good enough and prepared enough to know when hes pulling aces andfaces instead of twos and fews.Bochys work in this postseason has been exemplary, winning universal raves.And what the hell, why not? He does something, it works. He doesnt dosomething, that works too. Youre going to get snooty when you draw seven-deuceand the flop is seven-seven-deuce? No, youre going to show no expression, evenwhen you get that fourth seven on the turn.See, managing isnt about controlling every aspect of a game because thatcannot be done. Its about being in position to have the right guy at the righttime and let fate handle the rest.Bruce Bochy didnt contrive to create the Brooks Conrad Moment, or the VladimirGuerrero Moment. He didnt know that Aaron Rowand would throw a strike to homeplate from center field at just the right moment, or that Edgar Renteria can hithome runs with one bicep tied behind his back. He surely didnt will Cody Ross.But he did have the tools to make such things available, and the wherewithal toapply them in such a way that good things could happen as a result.Put it another way. Having Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum and Javier Lopez andBrian Wilson and six other really useful pitchers to get from one to the othersure beats a mallet to the stomach, but someone has to be there to employ them.And since Bochy has hit every note this postseason, he now reaps the benefitsof his good fortune and preparation, to make up for the years where he hadcruddy fortune and good preparation.We mention this because Ron Washington has been cross-nailed for his handlingof the Texas bullpen in Game 2 because he failed to know ahead of time thatDerek Holland would bowl a 13 in Game 2, and didnt give Ian Kinslers ballthat extra telekinetic nudge it needed to go from double to homer. He failed toexpect when he made out the lineup card that Guerrero could drive in two runsin Game 1 and still end up a minus-two for the night. He failed to understandthat Cliff Lee could deteriorate into Kevin Millwood on the biggest stage.Did Washington manage well? No, because his opinions were not validated by thesubsequent events. He took educated guesses that failed spectacularly. If thatmakes him a bad manager, then you go with that and be happy in your world.Games, though, are won and lost by the execution by the players (we were goingto say of the players, but the Players Association remains adamantly opposedto allowing the club to actually kill underperforming players).Bochy could have been an idiot for not teaching Lincecum not to run a trappedrunner back to the bag he came from, or he could have doltishly failed to warnFreddy Sanchez not to break from second on a popup like hed heard about the freelunch special at the French Laundry.But Bochy had already built up key mastermind points by then, because he hasdeftly used a very good and deep bullpen and gotten big starts out of everypitcher save Jonathan Sanchez in Game 6 of the NL Championship Series. He wascleared to land by a fan base that had such little use for him only monthsearlier.He has also had the great benefit of winning five one-run games, which alwaysmakes a manager look better than the average mailroom yutz.The point here, then, is simply to tell you that these three weeks are BruceBochys reward for all the months and years when he was condemned for having abig head, talking slowly and with a drawl and walking like the bolts that keephis feet on were coming loose.Oh, and for all those years of NOT having lots of useful players who rose up inbig situations on his behalf. Dont forget that one, either.So yeah, these are good times for Bruce Bochy, and hes more than earned thatsmile he cant seem to keep off his face. He knows it because he put in allthose years when he as just as smart and just as prepared but had a lot less towork with and therefore had to spend his days trying to put a pair of Tiffanyearrings on a late-model pig and call it Blake Lively so as not to burn theplayers.And ultimately, he knows that if he and the Giants pull this off, hes onscholarship for two years minimum. Wed say longer, but Charlie Manuelsgetting cuffed around in Philadelphiafor allowing Chase Utley and Ryan Howard and Jimmy Rollins not to save hisbacon like they did in 2008.This is Bruce Bochys time, the wheel keeps landing on 15 (his number), andgood on him for lasting long enough and being good enough to finally let LadyLuck plant one full and firm right on his lips.Ray Ratto is a columnist for Comcast SportsNet Bay Area.

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