Winter Meetings interview with Bruce Bochy
Q. How different have things been this offseason compared with after 2010?
BRUCE BOCHY: You know, similar. I mean, right now we're in the Winter Meetings after really a short break. We played up until November, it cuts back similar to 2010. It takes a while to really catch your breath and really get back to doing your normal things. When you go through the postseason, like any club does that goes to the World Series. So it's been a short time really. I think we're looking at five weeks, and I have not been doing a lot to be honest, just talking about Brian Sabean a lot and spending some time with the family.
Q. I would assume after you won the first World Series you figured we have a good club, but a lot of things have to go well to win the World Series, especially given how long it had been since the Giants won one. When you looked ahead after winning the first World Series, what kind of chance did you give yourself and the club to actually win another one within a few years?
BRUCE BOCHY: I'll be honest, I gave ourselves, our club, actually a pretty good chance. When I looked at the core of the pitching staff, that's where it starts, our starting rotation. We have five guys that give us a chance to win on a consistent basis, and when they do that you have a good chance of getting to the postseason. They had the experience of pitching in the postseason and did a great job in 2010. So I felt that if we could get back with their experience and their stuff that we could do this again.
We're disappointed last year in 2011 that we didn't get there. I mean, we were in first place going into August, we were playing pretty good ball, and losing Posey was a devastating blow to us. But still, we came close to being the wild card and getting there, just came up a little short.
This is a club with a lot of talent. Brian Sabean has done a tremendous job of putting together a club that gives us a chance to get to the World Series and play in the postseason.
That said, I know how tough it is just to get there, but you have to have that confidence, especially when you've done it, that, hey, we can do it again.
Q. If you've done it twice, is it harder to motivate them for the third time?
BRUCE BOCHY: I hope not. I don't think so. Hopefully they enjoy and savored that experience like they have never done before, and you realize that's why you play the game. Our motivation hopefully will safer and cherish this the rest of our lives, but success is never final. You've got to do it over and over again. And we know we have our work cut out, but hopefully our motivation is to go out and make new memories. These are things we'll talk about in the spring.
Q. How encouraged or hopeful are you that Pablo can carry over what he did in the World Series or really the whole postseason?
BRUCE BOCHY: Yeah, I thought a huge postseason for Pablo, particularly after the 2010 experience when he lost playing time and he really got the lion's share of playing third base. A great experience for him and hopefully will help his confidence as we go into the new season. He's going to hopefully be the player that he was this year and really in 2011 a guy that can carry this club at times and can be a force. He's a guy that's probably going to be hitting in our 3 hole and be one of our horses that hopefully can carry us back in the postseason.
Q. After Buster got hurt, I know you were pretty vocal about changing some things in baseball, which I think should have carried a little bit of weight coming from you. But there are people that said a catcher has to stand back there and take the punishment, that's part of the job, part of being a leader. And I think to some extent you disproved that this season because he didn't take those hits as much and stayed out of the way. I'm curious about your role and what you told him about that stuff.
BRUCE BOCHY: We actually not only discussed it, Tony LaRussa and I talked about that today quite a bit. I stand firm with my beliefs. I think the rules should be tweaked a little bit to make sure the runner doesn't hunt the catcher when he's not near home plate or in front of home plate, and he can't go at the runner, he has to go toward home plate. I'll continue to say this: I don't want Buster in front of the line. I know how important he is to this team. I think it's the smart way to go about it, we need him in the lineup and we'll keep working at the plays at the plate.
Q. What are the kind of goals you have going into this offseason, the Winter Meetings? What are the kind of things you're thinking about right now?
BRUCE BOCHY: Well, I agree we are fairly well set with a lot of our guys under contract. We just got Pagan on a four‑year deal, which was a priority for us. Our center field lead‑off hitter. We're talking with Marco Scutaro right now. Hopefully we get something done there. But you're always looking to improve your club, and these are things that we're discussing, but whether it's somebody that help us in the bullpen or somebody on the bench, if you look around the field, we're pretty well set with our starters, with Posey and Belt and Crawford and Pablo and of course Pagan now and Pence, and Blanco is going to be on the club. Right now he's getting most of the time in left field, but we're still trying to fill in some pieces and continue to get better.
Q. How important was Affeldt's signing?
BRUCE BOCHY: I thought that was a critical signing for us. The value that he brings, he can give us multiple innings, he's resilient, he's good against lefties and righties. He's come up with a really good split to go with his two fastballs, a four‑seamer and a two‑seamer. You saw how effective and what good stuff he has in the World Series, especially in that last game when he had to go through the heart of their orders and really tough right‑handed hitters.
I thought big sign for us. And when we lost Wilson, we had the luxury of having three or four guys who are accustomed to pitching late in the ballgame, and he was one of them.
Q. What's your plan at shortstop next year?
BRUCE BOCHY: Brandon Crawford will be at shortstop. As I said, we're talking to Marco Scutaro now trying to get something done with him. I think we'll know something here real soon, so we'll know where we're at, what direction we'll go at second base. Now it's kind of a wait and see here today.
Q. There's a Japanese free agent player named Nakajima. Have you heard of him?
BRUCE BOCHY: Yeah, I have, I've seen a little bit of him. Really nice player. In fact, our scout in Japan, he's talked to me about him and really likes him.
Q. Last spring there was sort of an ongoing story, Lincecum was inconsistent, you could say, and there were a lot of people wondering if that was going to carry over to the season, and it turned out that it did. I was wondering what you're anticipating next spring what things are going to look like, how you're going to deal with the first game if he doesn't pitch well. People are going to be talking about 2012 all over again and what that means for your spring.
BRUCE BOCHY: Yeah. Well, I'll start. I think you can look at any player and really any good player, and I'll say great player. They have their ups and downs and they can have an off year. That's how Timmy to me has to look at this. It was a little bit of an off year for him. He battled some things in his delivery, and hopefully you learn from those difficult times of adversity that you have to go through. With that said, I think sometimes it's important how you finish. It was pretty amazing the job that Timmy did for us, even though it was coming out of the bullpen, how he was throwing the ball, how he finished. And I think he should carry that confidence into Spring Training and into next year, knowing that he is the pitcher that we all know that's won two Cy Youngs and is one of the elite pitchers in the game the way he dominated coming out of the bullpen.
Q. You've shown in two of the last three years that pitching and defense can take a team all the way to a championship. Do you see a lot more teams kind of going that way, especially the way run scoring has been down the last few years in the Major Leagues as a whole?
BRUCE BOCHY: Yeah, I would agree with that. I think clubs are really trying to build up their bullpens in particular to improve their pitching staff, but also their defense, there's more attention paid to that. The last thing you want to do is give up more than three outs in an inning, and so I think that's true. I think really in our division, too, with the bigger ballparks, it just seems like teams have gone more toward pitching and defense. I know that's what we wanted to do, and it's worked well for us. Instead of trying to shrug it with the other team, play the game, and hopefully you've got a pitching staff that's going to keep you in the game, give you a chance to win. The more often you do that, chances are the more games you're going to win. I think Atlanta showed that in the '90s, all the success they had when you look at the pitching and they caught the ball and they won a lot of ballgames.
Q. It's pretty rare for a manager to switch jobs within a division. You did it. John Farrell is doing it in Boston now. What is that transition like?
BRUCE BOCHY: I'll be honest: At first, the first day of Spring Training is a little bit different because you're addressing a club that you've been trying to beat for a number of years, and so that's just an early stage of making the adjustment.
But the advantage you have is all the games you've played in your division, so you have a good feeling about the other clubs, including the club you just left. So I think there's somewhat of an advantage for that manager because he knows the division very well.
Q. How strange is it that first game against the former team?
BRUCE BOCHY: It's different. You know, especially when you're playing in that ballpark and you're going to a different clubhouse versus a clubhouse that you're accustomed to going to. I remember talking about it with my staff. This was really strange. I had to take a left at pet co versus going right. But again, that's just the first game or two, and then that's over. But it's always a little different initially.
Q. Do you feel you need an outfielder?
BRUCE BOCHY: I mean, we're talking about that. Do I feel we need? I think possibly we could use some help in left field to help out Blanco. We do have some internal choices. But we are looking at some help there.
Q. Has Ichiro been talked about?
BRUCE BOCHY: We've had discussions about Ichiro, sure. Sure.
Q. What kind of player are we talking about?
BRUCE BOCHY: Ichiro? Tremendous. The career that Ichiro has had, this is a guy that has all the skills, defensively, arm. He's a good hitter. You know, he's heading to the Hall of Fame. I have tremendous respect for him.
I know him a little bit and his agent Tony Attanasio. He is a guy that we discussed last year, and of course he's been in our discussions at times this year.
Q. One of the things that can happen with a team like this is that the younger guys have to wait their turn. Do you see any opportunities on the roster next year for any of the younger guys coming up, left field maybe, backup middle infield, something like that? Are you looking at anybody?
BRUCE BOCHY: To be honest, I can't say that we're going to be holding somebody back. We don't feel that there's somebody right now in Triple‑A who's ready to start in the Major Leagues or even within a year. You know, we're going to take a look at some of these young kids obviously in Spring Training, but our strength right now is probably not in the upper level of the Minor Leagues as far as helping us.
Q. Probably just a formality, but Larry picked up the option for 2014. How gratifying is that?
BRUCE BOCHY: That's always a good thing. No, it's nice. I love it in San Francisco, I do. I'm thrilled to be here, and for Larry to make this move, sure, it's always a very nice thing and something that you're very thankful for. And I did, I thanked Larry. It's a good thing.
Q. Are you happy or content with Brandon Belt as your everyday first baseman heading into the spring?
BRUCE BOCHY: I really like the progress he's made. I think he's on the upward swing as far as his development. He got rushed. A year before, going up and down, I'm sure it wasn't easy for him. He didn't get a lot of time in the Minor Leagues. But a lot of his development was on the Major League level, which is not easy. I saw that happen the second half. He's made some adjustments with his swing, allowed him to get to some pitches that he wasn't able to when he first came up. So I think his confidence has grown. We're going to see his numbers improve this coming year.
Q. Can you talk a little bit about those adjustments? Which pitches wasn't he getting to?
BRUCE BOCHY: You know, more than anything closed off at the plate. We squared him up a little bit more, actually opened the front leg a little bit so that would allow him to handle anything in a little bit easier. That's probably the biggest adjustment that he's made. He was so closed off that his hips were ‑‑ they had a tough time getting through, and consequently he was missing some pitches.
You look at early in the year, it's pretty alarming the number of swings and misses that he had, and he really cut that back and started making better contact once he could get to the fastball.
Q. You just told me that you're familiar with the name of the Japanese player Nakajima and that even though the reputation of the Japanese is not so successful recently, but was there a reason why you were still looking for a way to negotiate with Nakajima?
BRUCE BOCHY: Oh, I don't know. My general manager could answer that better than me. Right now we're, again, in the process of signing ‑‑ trying to get Marco Scutaro signed, and we've got a young shortstop who we think a lot of with Brandon Crawford.
Q. How is your relationship with Brian? You had a good one, but what about the GM relationship?
BRUCE BOCHY: Oh, I couldn't be more fortunate to have Brian Sabean as my boss, my general manager. We have a great relationship. He's more than a boss. He's a friend and somebody that really spends a lot of time with me talking about the team, talking about baseball, ways to improve the club. I mean, he's passionate about the game, about the players, about the fans and about winning. You know, this is his life, and we live in the same building, so we spend hours together, whether it's at the ballpark or at dinner. He's my boss, but he's also my friend.
Q. Pablo said yesterday he'll play for Venezuela. Do you have any concerns about any of your guys potentially playing in the World Baseball Classic?
BRUCE BOCHY: No, no. These guys want to represent their country, and I know that's the case with Pablo. We want these guys to feel like they can do that.
Now, when you play up to November, sure, there's going to be some concerns with the pitching staff, for them to get ready by the 7th of March and be game ready. That means they're going to have to crank it up early. I'll be honest, I have concern with that. But as far as position players, it's a long season, but if they feel that they're good to go and they want to play, then I'm for it. It's good for baseball, and it's good for their country.
Q. What about Buster Posey, though, coming off the injury?
BRUCE BOCHY: Well, again, everybody is different. We put Buster through a lot this year. We played him a lot more than we thought we would. I'm sure he was pretty tired and beat up after the season and needs ‑‑ he needed a break. To be honest, he could use the break with all that we put him through.
But it's his decision, and I think this is good for baseball, and I support it. Believe me, completely I'm behind this WBC, and it's being played at AT&T, and I think every club is going to be well represented.
Q. There's been some concern that when a team plays in the World Series, basically an extra month of baseball, that it has a wearing or carryover into next season. Do you think that was a concern in 2011 at all?
BRUCE BOCHY: No, I don't think so. But I will say in 2011, as I mentioned, we were leading our division as we were going there into August, right there at the end of July, August, and we hit a wall. But we had some injuries. Buster went down. I had two outfielders went down. Schierholtz, Rowand, and Beltran went on the disabled list. So we had some bad luck to go with that. But I know in that month we did show some signs of fatigue. Now, whether that played a part in going into November last year, I can't answer that for sure, but I will say our pitching continued to throw well, and that's usually where my concern is more so than the position players.