ARLINGTON -- Rangers general manager Chris Young remembers playing for Bruce Bochy in 2006, when Young was in his first season pitching for the Padres. Baseball has changed since then. The role of the manager has changed and grown, too.
But Bochy, at 68 years old, has evolved with the game, even after the three-year hiatus that eventually brought him to the Rangers. Don’t let his age and experience fool you: Bochy is not an “old-school” manager. He emphasizes a blending of modern and traditional ideas, allowing the two to co-exist without one overwhelming the other.
“That's why he's still successful at managing,” Young said. “I thought he was a great manager in 2006 when I played for him. But the game has changed immensely since then, and Boch is keeping up with that and absorbing information. The staffs are bigger, the front offices are bigger, the influence of [research and development] is significant.
“He's a great manager because he's continued to grow and evolve and be open-minded. When we hired him, a lot of people asked about an old-school manager. I feel the exact opposite. I think that if you're stuck in your ways, you don't last. These old managers who have lasted last because they evolve and they're open-minded and they grow. I think that's an important attribute to recognize with Boch.”
Veteran second baseman Marcus Semien said that from the moment Spring Training started, the clubhouse bought into Bochy’s philosophy, and was optimistic about where he could lead the team. He preached dominating the fundamentals and preparing the right way, but also creating a team chemistry and culture that would foster a winning environment.
“At this point, winning is everything to us,” Semien said. “I think at the end of the day, it's been a roller coaster of a season. But in playoff baseball, the team playing the cleanest baseball usually wins.”
Through the Rangers’ run to the American League Championship Series, which has included sweeps of the AL’s best teams in the Rays and Orioles, Bochy’s managerial experience has shined through, from lineup changes to bullpen adjustments and everything in between.
As reporters peppered him with questions for days about the three slot in his lineup during the Wild Card Series, Bochy insisted that Robbie Grossman was the best fit for the time being. Grossman could work the count and wear down opposing pitchers even when not slugging the ball. When the Rangers won the series handily, it became harder to question Bochy’s reasoning.
But then Bochy slid Mitch Garver into that spot in the AL Division Series. In two games, Garver went 4-for-10 with seven RBIs. The Rangers swept the Orioles, too.
No matter what button Bochy has pushed this postseason, it’s seemed to work.
“I think the decisions he makes when it comes to the bullpen and the lineup, no one can argue with him, based off of his résumé,” Garver said. “It's hard to read the emotion on him, because sometimes it looks like he's folded up in a lawn chair watching the game. But, yes, we trust his decisions and how he manages the game.”
Bochy hesitates to praise himself or his particular style of managing -- “We're all different,” he emphasized -- but it’s hard to argue with the numbers.
Bochy has won 13 of the last 14 postseason series in which his teams have participated. He is the seventh manager to reach the LCS with three different franchises. His 49 career postseason wins rank fifth all-time, and his .598 (49-33) win percentage ranks third all-time among managers with five or more postseason appearances.
Now Bochy has the chance to become the first manager in MLB history to win an LCS with three different teams (Padres, Giants, Rangers).
“When you're in the postseason, it's different,” Bochy said. “I've said this so many times, the margin of error is not there that you'd have during the season, so you're going to manage a little bit differently. I don't know what else you can do that much differently. You put your lineup, you put your pitching out there and hopefully you have them prepared and they execute.
“You do have to make adjustments in the postseason, but I just think it's important that you be who you are, and stay the course, too.”
Bochy is in the driver’s seat for one of the biggest postseason matchups in Rangers history against the rival Astros, looking to lead the franchise to its third World Series appearance and first championship. Everybody in the clubhouse is more than OK with that.
“There's something to be said about the experience,” Grossman said. “The guys they brought in, Boch leading us, Day One from Spring Training, we knew we had something special in the clubhouse. You look at a man like Boch that's done it all in this game, that's been there, done that. Again, from Day One in Spring Training, the belief was there. He's led us the whole way.”