Maybe the final weeks of the season should be as much of an audition for Boss Bochy for next year as they are for some of his players.
Once again on Wednesday, Bochy made a hash out of things, failing to push the right buttons at critical junctures in the Giants' 3-1 loss to the lowly San Diego Padres.
A sweep of the Padres could have provided just a touch of hope that the Giants could continue to apply pressure on the Diamondbacks, perhaps move to within a much more reachable five games of the NL West leaders. Instead, the late afternoon loss gave the Diamondbacks a lift as they entered their evening game with the Rockies.
Indeed, the Diamondbacks defeated Colorado, and are now back to seven games ahead of the Giants.
Bochy said this week that he's going with his gut on lineup choices, as if to suggest that he would go against the book that had such a hold on him as the Giants fell out of sight in the West Division. But apparently, it's more difficult to let go of that book than he thought.
In recent games, with the playoffs only barely on the distant horizon, Bochy has appeared caught between the imperative to play for the miracle finish and for the future. Sadly, he clung to the belief that the only hope for a miracle lay in some revival of Aubrey Huff, Cody Ross, Orlando Cabrera and Andres Torres.
It never seemed to occur to him that fresh bodies could provide the lift that his veterans couldn't.
Bochy's conundrum was on full display in Wednesday's game:
1) Where was Darren Ford?
With Orlando Cabrera on first and Brett Pill on third in the top of the seventh inning, Bochy sent up Pat Burrell to try to get the tying run home. Burrell hit a shallow fly ball, and there was the 6-foot-3 233 pound first baseman Pill lumbering down the line only to get nailed at the plate on Will Venable's throw.
Had Ford been on third, Venable would have likely rushed his throw trying to nail the speedy base runner, and perhaps the throw would not have been on the money as it was when he didn't have to worry about speed with Pill on third.
Was Bochy locked into a frame of keeping Ford on reserve for a stolen base situation? Well, he got it, and Ford was thrown out on a stolen base attempt that killed the Giants' eighth inning prospects. That shouldn't be a surprise: he's only a 50-50 proposition (5-for-10) in stolen bases.
By the way, Bochy's decision to go with Burrell over Eli Whiteside sure wasn't consistent with the rationale he offered up three days ago when he allowed Whiteside to hit in a similar spot. Then, he said he didn't want to break up the groove his pitcher, Ryan Vogelsong, and Whiteside had going. Apparently, he re-thought that theory Wednesday, breaking up the Cain-Whiteside battery in an attempt to get a run right there.
By the way II: Was Burrell the best he had to offer? The aging and injured outfielder has been basically inactive all summer with his foot injury; he's out of game shape. How about someone who has been productive all summer? How about digging into that dugout and seeing what some of the young guys can do?
Despite Bochy's reluctance to test the kids, they have shown they're game ready when given a chance. You can't get a better demonstration than Brett Pill's wondrous start: two home runs in his first two games.
Instead of Burrell, why not try Conor Gillaspie, the .297 hitter in AAA this year?
2) The next inning, after Ford was thrown out on the base paths, Bochy inexplicably sent up Andres Torres for the kid who'd been called up to replace him. The 31-year old callup, Justin Christian, who'd had a double and scored a run Tuesday, hit a tremendous 400-foot blast that would have been a triple if not for a spectacular catch by Cameron Maybin, and made his own dazzling catch that saved two runs in the fourth inning.
What value was Torres going to add at this point? A pop up confirmed what Bochy should have known.
3) Where was Brandon Crawford?
In the bottom of the eighth, Bochy sent out Cabrera to shortstop, leaving the superior gloveman, Brandon Crawford in the dugout, wasting away. And there was Cabrera dropping an easy pop up that led to a deadly insurance run.
Crawford, when given a chance in his one-game trial Tuesday, showed he was ready, driving in a key run. But it was his unbelievable defensive play that reminded everyone of his true value. It was a line drive that appeared to have skipped by him, except that Crawford used those soft, quick hands to snare it on a hop.
Bochy didn't drop the pop fly, and by all rights should not have to worry that a veteran shortstop will drop an easy pop fly. But, Cabrera has actually mishandled a couple pop flies now and has made five errors in a little more than a month.
It was an easy move to make -- you get your best defense out there in the late innings of a close game, especially when you have plenty of bodies on the bench -- but having reached paralysis by stubbornness, Bochy could only watch helplessly, as if encased in a full body cast of defeatism.