Giants manager Bruce Bochy received his third heart scare in as many years and underwent what is delicately called “a minor procedure” Tuesday in San Diego.
Which clearly leads to the question almost too delicate to ask: "When is enough enough?"
It can be argued that Bochy is probably the second greatest manager in franchise history after John McGraw. But it must also be argued that he is also a man, a husband, a father, a friend and a companion, and though poets will say that the heart wants what it wants, sometimes the actual heart demands what it needs.
And before we go much further with this, at no time should anyone infer, imply or state that this is a call for Bochy to retire. That’s between him, his medical team and his family to parse. He should be as welcome as he can manage to be forever, such has been his service to the club. Indeed, when he decides to hang up his tarpaulin-sized hat, whether it be after the 3,637 games he has already managed, or the 3,637 more he probably thinks he still has in him, the team ought to consider not only lifetime employment and a ballpark statue but maybe steal a page from international soccer and name a section of the stands at Tercero y Rey after him.
Anything less would seem, well, chintzy.
But that’s for down the road – for as long as "down the road" will permit. The problem for him is that his chest is suggesting that perhaps "down the road" isn’t as far a distance as he would like.
This is unlike your standard managerial speculation, because typically that comes with failure. Bochy, like former general manager/current godhead of baseball operations Brian Sabean, has been a monumental success, helping compress three championships into five seasons, an achievement he shares with only six other men (Connie Mack, Joe McCarthy, Casey Stengel, Walter Alston, Tom Lasorda and Joe Torre).
In other words, this isn’t about whether Bochy is still good at his job (this is indisputably so) but how much longer doing his job is a good idea for him.
One can make the case that while a manager’s lifestyle and stress level is not conducive to good health, his access to top-grade medical care is probably superior.
But it’s not a great case to make, especially if Bochy’s issues are indeed stress-related. It’s also not a great case to make because there is only one doctor that knows Bochy’s case – Bochy’s doctor. Everyone else is either an interested advocate, starting most importantly with his wife, Kim, or an interested observer.
In short, there is no case to be made here for his continuing or his retiring. That’s up to him and his, and if his life requires he own part of a winery and kick his feet up rather than trudging half-sideways toward the mount to make what would be (and this is a rough estimate, courtesy FanGraphs and BaseballReference.com) his 10,422nd career pitching change.
By the way, how the Giants failed to celebrate his 10,000th bullpen trip last May 25 is a massive marketing failure, especially since it was to bring Santiago Casilla into a high stress inning in what was eventually a 4-3 win over the Padres. Casilla threw a scoreless inning in that game, so no, you can’t play Forensic Sabermetrician and identify him as the reason for Bochy’s health issues.
But that’s neither here, there, nor anywhere else. Today’s issue is Bruce Bochy, and whether he can be (a) a good patient, (b) a prudent patient, and (c) a smart patient. This is about whether he can not just recover but also recognize the limits his body is suggesting for him, and work out a rational and sensible path going forward.
And yes, that would be Kim reminding him that “acting indestructible” is not one of the available options.
This managing gig wears on different folks in different ways, and it wears harder on successful ones because they do more of it, meaning more high leverage innings, more clubhouse fires extinguished, more umpire arguments, more road trips, more nights with lousy sleep, more nights with late meals or dehydration – more of pretty much everything.
Here’s hoping he knows when "no more" comes, and what to do about it. After all, it's not like his body isn't telling him that day is coming.