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SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Bruce Bochy stood in front of a crowded room Wednesday, and for the 20th time, he gave a version of the speech he’s delivered every year as a major league manager.
They say the starting pitcher always sets the tone. But before the first full-squad workout of the spring, it’s the manager who delivers the opening message. And in Bochy’s case, he usually starts thinking about what he’ll say to the assembly in February before he empties his office in October.
His message this time: “You’re better, you’re more talented than the 2012 team that won the World Series.”
“That’s what you want to hear,” shortstop Brandon Crawford told me. “We’re all getting together for the first time and when you get that confident feeling from your manager, it means something.”
Said Hunter Pence: “They see it the same way we see it. We know what we have and what we’re capable of. We definitely have a chip on our shoulder. Last year happened but we don’t believe it’s who we are. We have an opportunity in front of us now and it’s a new year and a new story.”
The meeting lasted just over 30 minutes and Bochy wasn’t the only speaker. Other players took the floor as well. The Giants didn’t exactly bust down the door as they took the field, with Ryan Vogelsong leading the way. They carried themselves with a businesslike confidence.
What did Bochy want them to take away from the meeting?
“More than anything, for us to get better,” Bochy told me. “Sure, we were a team that had to deal with the injuries, we heard talk about, `Well, the WBC, and what did that do …’ and that’s all behind us. There are no excuses now.”
Bochy told the players that management could’ve torn apart a team that finished 76-86 last season. Instead, the front office spent almost $180 million to bring back Pence, Vogelsong, Tim Lincecum and Javier Lopez while adding a legitimate power threat in Michael Morse and a decorated starting pitcher in Tim Hudson.
“We’re fortunate to be with an organization that has the resources to put you in a situation where you can win,” Bochy said. “It’s not always a given and I wanted them to know that. So now it’s our decision to figure out how good we want to be.”
They went over specifics, too – areas of execution both offensively and defensively that weren’t up to snuff last year, and will be points of emphasis this spring.
“That’s the message you want to get across early in the spring,” Bochy said. “You’ve got your six or seven weeks to get ready for opening day and you certainly want them to know what your vision is and what it’s going to take: to come out and do things the right way.”
There was no chance any player could mistake Bochy’s confidence for overconfidence, though.
“It definitely wasn’t, `OK, it’ll be a breeze so let’s go win another,’” Crawford said. “He’s Boch. He’s not Hunter. I don’t know if you’re (ready to go) running through a brick wall, but he wanted us to know that he came in with a confident attitude and that’s great.”
How did the players respond to the message?
“Hopefully you’ll see it on the field,” said Pence, smiling. “That’s where it matters most, right?”