DETROIT — Bruce Bochy doffed his cap to the crowd, ambled down the dugout steps and was swallowed by the innards of Comerica Park toward his second World Series celebration in the past three seasons. A television crew member offered his congratulations to the San Francisco Giants manager as they climbed another steep set of stairs and a short conversation about the newly crowned title team ensued.
"I kept hearing the word 'lucky,'" Bochy said in his deep voice as he turned into a hallway that had been turned into a makeshift party scene. "You don't luck into 94 wins. You don't luck into the World Series."
It's not hard to see the case, either. Bochy has 1,454 career victories in 18 years with the San Diego Padres and Giants and could hit the magic Hall of Fame number of 2,000 without too much trouble. He has six division titles to his name and won a National League pennant with the Padres in 1998 before winning two with San Francisco. With two World Series titles on his shelf, he's already tied with Tommy Lasorda and ahead of Bobby Cox, Lou Piniella and 2012 World Series opponent Jim Leyland.
"I'm blessed to be in a situation where we can win," Bochy said after the game. "I'm thankful for Brian Sabean bringing players in to put us where we're at right now, ownership, of course our fans and these players. It's all them. And for me to be the manager, I know how lucky I am and how blessed I am. To even be mentioned with those guys, I revere all those managers you just talked about and the careers that they had."
Bochy's "it's all them" is a nice nod to his humble nature, but it's also untrue. Though his two titles have come in the short span of just three seasons, he did it with two very different teams. Different ace, different closer, different lineup and a few other things. When the Giants finally recorded the last out on Sunday night, catcher Buster Posey was the only one who could boast of also being on the field for the last play of 2010.
The one real constant has been Bochy and his staff, including the great pitching coach Dave Righetti. The Giants turned six elimination games into a World Series title thanks in large part to Bochy, who identified that Barry Zito could contribute in the postseason rotation, Tim Lincecum would accept serving as a lethal weapon out of the bullpen and that all Madison Bumgarner needed to fix himself was an extended bout of rest between the NLCS and the World Series. His knowledge of his players' capabilities was evident until the end with Matt Cain pitching a perfect seventh in Game 4 when it looked to the rest of us like he was done an inning earlier. Bochy also silenced all the doubters when Jeremy Affeldt recorded four strikeouts over five high-leverage outs in the eighth and ninth innings.
"He's a Hall of Fame manager, enough said," Sabean told CSN Bay Area. "Understated, maybe. Undervalued, definitely. You look now at what he's done, and this is a just, just reward for someone who is a lifelong baseball name and a great person."
For his entire managerial career, Bochy has been the bass-voiced level, a calm and rational presence in a profession too often surrendered to ego and vanity. He used to be one of the best-kept secrets in baseball, but not anymore. Two World Series trophies have a way of boosting one's visibility and exposure.
Not to mention a Hall of Fame case.
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