Bruce Bochy

Giants manager Bruce Bochy keeps pushing all of the right buttons

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The Giants weren’t as much of a surprise the Nationals, so it’s doubtful Bruce Bochy will get much love in the Manager of the Year award balloting when the results are announced next month.

Now if there were a Postseason Manager of the Year award, there’s no doubt Bochy would claim it in a landslide. It seems Bochy and his giant cranium can do no wrong this month and particularly these last five games.

– He pulled Madison Bumgarner from the rotation in favor of Barry Zito in Game 5 of the NLCS, watched Zito pitch a gem to keep the Giants in the series and then restored Bumgarner to the rotation for Game 2 of the World Series with stellar results.

– He’s seemed to have the knack for knowing exactly when to turn to the bullpen. Of course, it’s a lot easier to look like a genius when both the starters and relievers are pitching like they have been lately.

The way I’ve always looked at it is that, if you’ve already decided you’re going to pull a pitcher after one mistake, you don’t send him back out to make the mistake. Jim Leyland may or may not have done that tonight. He had starter Doug Fister open the seventh, only to remove him after Hunter Pence singled to lead off the inning. Maybe it was Leyland’s plan to pull Fister for the lefty (with back-to-back left-handers coming up) regardless of what happened with Pence, and if so, that’s defensible.  Still, it should have been Octavio Dotel’s batter all along.

Bochy has handled the pitching changes flawlessly, and he’s continued to play matchups late in games even when it seems one of his relievers is doing well. Not only is he playing the percentages, but it appears that the quick hooks have made his relievers more effective while working for the second day in a row.

– He’s gotten terrific results from Tim Lincecum as a reliever.

– He hasn’t resorted to any foolish small-ball tactics. Bochy could have had Belt try to bunt in the seventh inning tonight, but Belt has very little bunting experience and probably would have struggled to get it down. Bochy let Belt hit and was rewarded with a walk. And then, with a guy up who can bunt, Bochy had Gregor Blanco move the runners along (and even that turned into an unexpected bonus when the bunt failed to roll foul and Blanco reached).

Bochy doesn’t have a great lineup, but he has his players playing to their strengths. He hits and runs with Marco Scutaro because Scutaro is pretty much the ultimate hit-and-run guy. There haven’t been any bad stolen base attempts. He hasn’t tried to force the issue, and he’s not giving away outs.

– He’s also not giving away baserunners. In the second inning of Game 7 against the Cardinals, Matt Cain was pitching with runners on first and third, one out and No. 8 hitter Pete Kozma at the plate. Daniel Descalso went on to steal second. Had Mike Matheny been managing the Giants, there’s a good chance the steal would have led to an intentional walk of Kozma, setting up the double play with the pitcher up. Bochy, though, let Cain face Kozma, got a strikeout and then retired Lohse on a looping liner to short.  As a result, it was inning over, instead of Jon Jay potentially being up with the bases loaded and two outs.

So, yeah, I like what Bochy is doing this month. And I’m not typically such a big fan of his. It’s also surely worth noting that the starting pitching decisions are hardly his alone; Brian Sabean and company have their say as well. But if the Giants do come through and win this thing, Bochy is going to deserve all of the praise he gets. He’s put the team in the right position to win every time.

Tony La Russa went into the Pirates broadcast booth over Hit-by-pitch criticism

MESA, AZ - MARCH 10:  Chief baseball officer Tony La Russa of the Arizona Diamondbacks gestures as he talks with coaches in the dugout before the spring training game against the Oakland Athletics at HoHoKam Stadium on March 10, 2015 in Mesa, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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On Tuesday a couple of Arizona Diamondbacks batters were hit in head by Pirates pitcher Arquimedes Caminero. Caminero did not appear to be trying to bean these guys. He simply had no control whatsoever. That the Pirates just sent him down to the minors underscores that. Still: a bad situation given the inherent danger of plunkings in general and beanballs in particular. Thank goodness nether Dbacks batter appears to be injured.

It would make sense that Dbacks folks would be a bit upset at this, but Tony La Russa took things to the next level. The Pirates announcers apparently mentioned something about the Diamondbacks’ and La Russa’s history with hit-by-pitch controversies. And then this, from Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic . . .

La Russa acknowledged he went into a broadcast booth during Tuesday night’s game after he “heard some stuff on the air” that he considered inaccurate about his history with retaliatory pitches during his managerial days.

“I never have stood for inaccuracies,” La Russa said, “so I corrected the inaccuracies.

“It’s about taking responsibility. If you’re going to speak untruths then you’re going to get challenged and you should be responsible for what you say. I am. I reacted.”

That’s a totally chill and above-it-all way for a Hall of Famer and the head of baseball operations of a major league club to react. Glad to see La Russa, as always, is a portrait of zen.

Either way, the Pirates announcers should be excused if they were somewhat inaccurate. For you see, La Russa has always been somewhat hard to pin down on his plunking/beanball politics. In the past he’s said that another team accidentally hitting his team is bad while defending his own team’s clear and obvious retaliation. He once blamed an opposing hitter for escalating a situation by not avoiding what was clearly intentional attempt to hit him by his own player, claiming that a mere inside pitch with no intent was worse than his own guy TRYING to hit the opposition.

The common denominator to La Russa’s history with this stuff is (a) whatever the Tony La Russa-led team is doing is correct; (b) whatever the other team did was incorrect; and (c) almost everyone who isn’t Tony La Russa just doesn’t get it and that’s their problem, not his.

So of course he’s gonna go into a broadcast booth to La Russa-splain things to them. It’s a complicated business about which he and he alone has clarity. He’s doing us a favor, really.

Wade Boggs embroiled in non-controversy over his Yankees World Series ring!

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Boston Red Sox
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The Red Sox held a ceremony honoring the 1986 team last night and one of the key members of that team, Wade Boggs, was in attendance wearing  his Red Sox jersey. He also wore his Yankees World Series ring.

When I heard about this controversy a few minutes ago I did something that neither I nor most people who are a part of the Internet Industrial Complex usually do: wondered whether this was actually a controversy.

I quickly scanned around and found a good dozen or so articles talking about it and people talking about them talking about it. I noticed people making reference to how, theoretically, this could upset some Red Sox fans or be seen as a sign of disrespect. But I could not find anyone who actually cared. Anyone who was actually upset about it. I can’t say that I read every comment to every article, but you usually don’t have to dig deep to find people mad about something on the Internet and I could not immediately find anyone who was mad about this. Lots of jokes and comments about the idea of being mad, but no one who actually cared. It was like an obligatory ceremonial function the meaning of which everyone has forgotten.

There are a lot of “controversies” like that. They tend to be more common in the entertainment world than the sports world — people referencing a “scandalous” thing some singer or actor did which, in reality, scandalized no one — but it happens in sports too. In sports it’s when a convention or custom is not followed or when someone doesn’t otherwise conform to some set of expectations. A lot of the time no one cares at all. It’s all about the politics of recognizing situations in which someone might, in theory, care. Or once did long, long ago.

Maybe someone is genuinely mad at Wade Boggs over this If so, I’d love to hear from that person and wonder why on Earth they’d care. But I sort of feel like such a beast does not exist. And for that I’m pretty glad.

The Cardinals had a “statement loss” yesterday

ST. LOUIS, MO - MAY 25: Manager manager Mike Matheny #22 congratulates Matt Adams #32 of the St. Louis Cardinals as he enters the dugout after scoring a run during the fourth inning against the Chicago Cubs at Busch Stadium on May 25, 2016 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Scott Kane/Getty Images)
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I’ve always been critical of the concept of “statement games” in Major League Baseball. Maybe it matters more in football where there are far fewer games and thus each one means much more, but in baseball a win lasts, at best, 48 hours and usually less. Like Earl Weaver said, we do this every day, lady. When you’re constantly talking, as it were, any one statement is pretty unimportant.

I’ll grant that a “statement win” is a thing players use to motivate or validate themselves, of course. We on the outside can roll our eyes at the notion, but we can’t know the minds of a major league player. If they think that they made a statement and it’s important to them, hey, it’s important to them. I’ll admit, however, that a statement loss is a new one to me:

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Kolten Wong provided the basis of that headline. Here is what he said:

“I think we still made a statement. We were down 6-1 right off the bat. The game before, we were kind of in the same situation. We were tired of it,” second baseman Kolten Wong said. “Our pitchers have been our go-to these past few years. It was time for us to step up and I think we all kind of felt that, too. We just wanted to make this a game and show that we have our pitchers’ backs.”

In context it makes sense. A moral victory, as it were. They got to one of the best pitchers in the game after finding themselves down by several runs thanks to their starting pitching betraying them. The hitters didn’t go into a shell when most folks would excuse them for doing so against a guy like Jake Arrieta.

Makes sense and no judgments here. Moral victories matter. Still, it’s hard not to chuckle at the headline. I can’t remember a big leaguer talking quite that way after a loss.

Julio Urias to be called up, make his MLB debut tomorrow

GLENDALE, AZ - FEBRUARY 20:  Starting pitcher Julio Urias #78 of the Los Angeles Dodgers participates in a spring training workout at Camelback Ranch on February 20, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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The Dodgers have been mulling this for a long time, but they just announced that they plan on calling up top prospect Julio Urias. He’ll be making his major league debut against the Mets tomorrow evening in New York.

Urias is just 19 years-old, but he’s shown that he’s ready for the bigs. In eight Triple-A games this year — seven starts — he’s 4-1 with a 1.10 ERA and a K/BB ratio of 44/8 in 41 innings. He has tossed 27-straight scoreless innings to boot. While the Dodgers and Urias’ agent are understandably wary of giving the young man too much work too soon, he has nothing left to prove at Oklahoma City.

Urias turns 20 in August. Tomorrow night he will become the first teenager to debut in the majors since 2012 when Dylan Bundy, Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, and Jurickson Profar each made their debuts.