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Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Everything Bochy touches keeps turning to dust

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.


  1. and as flemmng + miller stated...cabrera has played 35 games for the Gs and has made 5 ERRORS !!! yet bochy continues to trot him out under the gise of stretch thinks mr. bochy resents his judgements being questioned and is in his "stupid" phase vs his self-defined "gut" decision making phase....i am exasperated!!!!!

  2. Steve

    I am genuinely at a loss for why Bochy is so stubborn in his use (misuse, abuse) of so many position players. I can only speculate (and I emphasize "speculate" as to the causation of this bizzare type of game and line-up management. This is a problem that cost him his job in San Diego five years ago; the wheels which were set in motion in Washington DC on a road trip where he was confronted by a front office type on his continued use of Vinny Castilla.

    His explanations are not plausible in view of the evidence and results in front of his eyes on a daily and nightly basis.

    Its almost as if this seemingly humble guy has a vanity stick up his ass when it comes to not changing horses in midstream, even though the horse has thrown a shoe on one hoof, bucked shins on the front two legs and bowed a tendon on another and is on the verge of foundering.

    Going back, we have to remember that he was an Army brat. Line officers and platoon sergeants have sway with their troops predicated upon the loyalty they engender. And that loyalty has to run both ways.

    This is a desirable, and even admirable trait in a manager of course. As long as the loyalty and adherence to the predisposed plan of action are kept in the context of the ever-evolving circumstances and performances of his charges.

    If it is not, his perspective becomes distorted and he boxes himself into a corner defending the evolving indefensible.

    He forced the Padres to rid themselves of Castilla in a power play that he eventually lost, in spite of the Pads winning the division in 2006.

    The players know who should be playing and who shouldn't. Bochy has risked and gambled with Huff, Rowand, Tejada, Ross, Torres, and now Cabrera, and has lost or is losing all of those battles. When you play one inferior player to keep him happy, you piss off the other 24. When you play the right guy you only have one pissed off player instead of 24.

    Its that simple. Too many managers and coaches are caught up in the little power struggles of line-ups and clubhouse hierarchy. It appears Bochy has wandered down that rabbit hole.

  3. nicely put, Ernie. And I feel your pain, goodsam!

    It really is hard to understand because I've always felt Bochy is an intelligent person. I believed his use of Rowand was mandated by the contract (trying to squeeze as much value as possible for the bosses). But the others are inexplicable.

    And Cabrera: why the loyalty for a guy who dropped onto the scene late and has done nothing to merit playing time?

    It is indeed reminiscent of his use of Jose Guillen last year; remember he'd sweet talked him, promising him full-time status, and then stuck with him when it was apparent to all else that Guillen was finished (I remember being stunned at how heavy his run was breaking out of the box on a triples-alley double that he legged out).

  4. Here are some very nice comments I received on SFGate after posting my blog there:

    Panhandlepny: Best analysis I've read lately. Thank you!!!!

    (4) (0) Popularity: 4

    jive7: agreed, great article. You should write for the Chronicle. its better than some of the drivel on here

    (3) (0) Popularity: 3

    pianoman2: Your phrase describes Bochy's managing, perfectly:
    "Paralysis by stubbornness". Amen.

  5. Steve:

    I think those comments validate what a lot of us think. Your opinions are supported by observation, not gossip. And those observations are analyzed, questioned, compared with prior observations and only then are the opinions offered. Hence the credibility.

    Its nice when a professional writer respects his readership that way. Just because a lot of common folks are not trained to express themselves publicly, does not mean they are unaware or thick or unappreciative of respectful professional writing.

    What takes you a matter of hours, would take me days to sift through. Maybe thats why the world is full of unsupported opinions.

    I think the consensus for a lot of Giants followers and fans is that Bochy is somehow intellectually flawed. But after reading your pieces over a period of time and contrasting the results from last year, along with his uncanny ability to get the most out of a pitching staff that labors with zero margin for error, a thoughtful person is forced to see that Bochy is not stupid, but actually rather complex.

    His is a situation that is worthy of analysis as opposed to an opportunity to simply trashing a guy in print.

    And your writing has forced me to use my noggin, rather than just run off at the mouth with unsupported criticism.

    If you take that as a compliment, it is.

  6. Well, you guys keep me on my toes, too, Ernie! You guys motivate me with your kind words, you spur me to an attempt at excellence by your close reading and intense scrutiny of the game. It's been a blast.

  7. Steve, where are you? I'm missing your commentary. With you background covering politics, I'd love hearing your perspective on what's gone on in the Giant fiefdom.

    I personally find it tragic. Neukom was a dymamic CEO for them. I fear the Giants' future. It's hard being decisive as a leader if you have to consult with 10 others before taking action. I'm not happy with what transpired this week.

    Your thoughts?