10:08 PM CDT, October 25, 2012
SAN FRANCISCO — Bruce Bochy could have been an extra for the movie "Lincoln'' with little more than a change of wardrobe. He has the craggy, dark features and straight, slow-talking style of the 1860s.
His job in the Old West, suggests one national baseball writer, would involve swinging some heavy tool. I could see him shoveling coal on a train or maybe toiling as a blacksmith, which would let him tell the occasional folksy yarn.
I know this about Bochy. He does not care if he is the "face of the franchise,'' which in recent years was listed as the value that made Ozzie Guillen critical to the success of the White Sox.
That Guillen bought into that line of thinking is at least partly why he is unemployed as the highly respected, seldom marketed Bochy has a team in the World Series for the third time in his career.
Tigers manager Jim Leyland knows a little bit about managing. He says the most difficult part of the job is managing media responsibilities, but the most important job is to have his team ready to play every game on its schedule.
"The biggest responsibility that any manager has is to make sure his players are ready to play on a daily basis,'' Leyland said. "If you achieve that as a manager, you've done your job. The X's and O's are what they are. … But the main responsibility for a manager is to have his players ready to play each and every day. If you can do that over a long period of time, normally you've done a pretty good job.''
Bochy never seems concerned about his image and his individual interests, which seemed to drive Guillen after the Sox's 2005 World Series championship.
When the Cubs targeted Lou Piniella after the 2006 season, Giants' general manager Brian Sabean pulled off a true coup. He stole Bochy away from the Padres, getting him when he had a year left on his San Diego contract. It has been a great marriage of shrewd management and significant resources.
Bochy prepares his team as well as anyone, which is how he got the Padres to the Series in 1998 and the post-Barry Bonds Giants here in two of the last three years. He doesn't have to be in the center of the crazy pre-game dugout huddles that the Giants have been doing lately but players trust him implicitly.
Bochy has been especially impressive in handling the highs and lows of his two Cy Young winners, Tim Lincecum and Barry Zito. He had to tell Zito that he wasn't on the playoff roster in 2010 and this year dropped Lincecum from the rotation for both the Division Series against the Reds and the World Series.
"He just came to me, told me,'' Lincecum said. "I had been thinking about how he would handle it, so it wasn't that big of a deal. Just good communication.''
Zito has said the same thing about his situation. Bochy had a way to make something that could have been terribly difficult easier for his players and less dramatic for the media and fans.
"Bochy has just been unbelievable,'' Zito said. " I mean, wow. He gets the credit. He gets a lot of credit. But I think he's due even more. ''
Zito pointed out how well Bochy has handled the Giants' bullpen this season.
"For a team to go out there without a definite, definite closer for most of the season, it's just unreal what's going on,'' Zito said. "We're doing matchups in the eighth, matchups in the ninth, one-run games, extra-inning games, pulling these games out. It's much easier on a manager when you have your obvious seventh, eighth, ninth (inning) guys, and your closer, and Bochy didn't have that luxury.''
"He handles his bullpen great,'' Leyland said. "They have three left-handers down there. We know one of our lefties is going to have to get a hit off a left-hander. Bruce mixes and matches as good as anybody.''
Guillen did a good job managing the White Sox, too, before he started to put his own interests ahead of his team's. His work with the 2005 Sox was just as impressive as what Buck Showalter did for the Orioles this season. But somewhere along the line he lost his way.
He took things for granted that are priorities for guys like Bochy and Leyland. He tried to build his own personal brand. He would have been better off hitting more fungoes, if not actually shoveling a little coal.
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