Bruce Bochy nailed down his iconic 2,044th victory as a major-league manager Wednesday in Boston, because let’s face it, nothing says greatness quite like a large round number. And if 2,044 isn’t round enough for you, then your entire life has been a lie.
You probably read at least a few of the acres of fevered prose that he actually won his 2,000th game Wednesday, but he’d done that months ago, June 15 at home against Milwaukee in a nondescript game during a nondescript part of the Giants’ nondescript season. There was no ceremony, no commemoration, no gifts, no nothing. A few quick handshakes, a couple of beers and then on to the next day’s work.
That’s because of the weird habit people have for counting regular-season games as the only thing that matters for the purposes of milestoning. In many cases, that might be true, but this isn’t one of those cases. In the matter of B. Douglas Bochy, the 44 wins he isn’t being credited for are the ones that will put him into the Hall of Fame.
The 44 wins are his postseason haul, and if you want to be micropedantic about it, it is the 33 he amassed in 2010, 2012 and 2014 that really put him over the top. But then you have to figure that the seven he won in 1998 in San Diego that helped him get the gig in San Francisco, so let’s just give him the full 44 for simplicity’s sake.
Yes, we hear the “the regular season should be separate because you need an even playing field” crowd, but we dismiss them as we would a rabid barfly. Bochy wasn’t gifted 77 extra games. He earned them. We’re not trying to put him on the same field as Jim Riggleman or Manny Acta or Stuffy McInnis. The 77 games, perhaps just as much as the 44 wins in them, show why he is exceptional, which is the whole point of the 2,000 thing.
Bochy is, both anecdotally and mathematically, one of the finest managers ever in a sport that is moving inexorably toward a time when managers are reduced to civil servants. He is considered a confirmed master of bullpen management, and other than keeping his 25 clubhouses in working order in good times and bad, his ability to organize, handle, manipulate, and excel relief pitchers is what has separated him from his 153 contemporaries. He got to manage without interruption for a quarter-century, and the only other guy to do that was Connie Mack, who’d gone to the trouble of protecting his job security by purchasing the team he managed. And if Bochy wins 11 of his last 10 games, he’ll finish his career at .500, which is an even greater achievement than 2,000, or even 2,044.
Plus, he has a gargantuan head and wrote a book about walking while walking like he has caught nine innings every day of every year of his life. He’s pretty much earned his time on scholarship.
So now that we’re agreed that he is one of the five or six finest managers of his one-score-and-five, it’s probably time as we assess what he leaves behind (if in fact this is his last season), and the real reason people got to view him that way: the postseason. Bochy would be a very good manager if he hadn’t gone to those four World Series (the first one, with San Diego, ended in five days so you’re forgiven for not remembering it), but you wouldn’t have noticed him without them. Postseasons are where reputations are made and unmade because we as a society don’t have the patience for six months of anything. We know this because we ask questions about players’ legacies every four days, whether anyone shows any curiosity or not. We are, in short, the worst.
But enough joy-destruction for one day. Let’s get back to our boy. Celebrating Bochy for 2,000 wins today is, and we’re being polite about it, idiotic. The 44 he doesn’t get credit for here are the ones that showed him at his best in the brightest spotlight, and not only shouldn’t be separated from his resume but placed at its top. And if not that, then it should at least be commingled into one unifying number that says, “Here’s a bad-ass in his totality.”
I’m not saying you can’t say nice things about his work. You should. I’m saying if you want to fetishize the number 2,000, you’re 96 days late. He did 2,000 when you weren’t looking, and bringing him a cake three months late only reminds him what a moron you are. He’s just too polite to say so. Or not interested enough. For me, the latter is preferable.
Ray Ratto is often tediously pedantic.