Bochy Leads Rangers in Playoff Hunt After Free-Agent Spending Spree

The Texas Rangers hired venerable manager Bruce Bochy to get the team exactly to this place: leading defending World Series champion Houston in the American League West by half a game, and hard-charging Seattle by one game, with 36 games left to play.

“It’s go time,” Bochy said Tuesday night about the AL West, Major League Baseball’s most competitive division, as the schedule races toward Labor Day.

More from

“It’s been a fun season,” Chris Young, the Rangers’ general manager, said in an interview. “The team has played well and put itself in that position, and Boch and his staff have done a great job.”

This is what it’s all about. Rangers’ majority owner Ray Davis has authorized this two-season spending spree; the team’s payroll increased to $241.1 million, fourth highest in MLB, after the Rangers obtained pitchers Max Scherzer and Jordan Montgomery at the trade deadline. In 2022, they signed free agents Cory Seager, Marcus Semien, Jon Gray and this offseason Jacob deGrom, although the latter blew out his fragile right elbow early in the season and required a second Tommy John surgery.

The teams that rank above the Rangers in player payroll—the New York Mets at $343.9 million, the New York Yankees at $279.4 million and the San Diego Padres at $252.6 million—seem destined to miss the playoffs. The Rangers right now are on the cusp. They have lost six in a row, heading into a four-game series at Minnesota starting Thursday night. It could go either way with barely six weeks left in the regular season.

Bochy, at 68, was the perfect veteran manager for Texas, with his three World Series titles from 2010 to 2014 in San Francisco and another trip to the Fall Classic in a losing effort with the 1998 Padres.

“I can’t say enough about Boch believing in what we’re doing and believing in our vision,” said Young, who hired Bochy after pitching for him decades ago in San Diego.

Bochy has to contend with the Astros and their seventh-in-the-league $236.9 million payroll, who retooled at the trade deadline, too. The Mets traded Scherzer to Texas and Justin Verlander to Houston only days later. Verlander has won six times since Sportico caught up with him to talk about his chances of winning 300 games last month. Three of them have been since he rejoined the Astros, including a 7-3 win over the Boston Red Sox Tuesday night that drew Houston within a half game of Texas. He’s currently at 253 victories, and at 40, seemingly has plenty of time to win 47 more games.

Scherzer said he was shocked by the deals and only agreed to waive his no-trade clause after he was told the Mets were not going to spend more money on free agents to rebuild heading into the 2024 season. Ditto for Verlander.

“If they had said, ‘We’re going to hold on to all the ‘24 pieces,’ that would have been a different story,” Scherzer said.

The current Astros have been to the AL Championship Series six years in a row, winning the World Series twice, including last fall in six games over the surprising Philadelphia Phillies. They did it last year under Dusty Baker, who won the World Series for the first time after 25 years as a big-league manager, and at 74, Baker could realistically do it again.

The Rangers have never won the World Series, having lost to the San Francisco Giants and St. Louis Cardinals, respectively, in 2010 and 2011. They haven’t made the playoffs since 2016.

Enter Bochy, whose managerial resume boasts three World Series wins. During the initial costly rebuild phase of 2022, when the Rangers spent a total of $500 million over 10 years on a pair of stellar middle infielders in Seager and Semien, the club fell flat. They lost 94 games and finished 38 games out of first place.

“On paper last year there wasn’t much to be excited about,” Young said. “But [if] you dug a little bit deeper and looked beneath the surface, I thought there were a lot of positive things.”

Long-time general manager Jon Daniels and manager Chris Woodward were the immediate casualties. Young, who replaced Daniels a year ago, disposed of interim manager Tony Beasley at the end of the season. The Rangers hadn’t hired a manager with any experience since Buck Showalter was fired in 2006. Thus, Bochy, who left the Giants as manager after the 2019 season, was No. 1 on Young’s extensive list of candidates.

The reasons for Bochy’s San Francisco departure were compound. Among them, he didn’t want to work for their analytically driven GM Farhan Zaidi. “I’ve adjusted to the new rules and the analytics, but I liked managing better in the old days,” he said this week.

And after a series of heart issues, Bochy’s wife, Kim, wanted him to retire, or at least take a break. But after spending three years on the sidelines, Bochy was itching to get back, saying now he’s completely healthy.

Bochy wanted to return to the Padres but didn’t mix well with GM A.J. Preller. So Young traveled to Nashville, where the Bochys had relocated to be closer to his son and their three grandchildren. After a seven-hour conversation, Bochy ultimately told him, “Man, I’m in!”

“I overstayed my welcome,” Young said, laughing now about that process. “I left feeling he’s not going to want this after staying so long.”

Bochy was hired only days before his contemporary Baker won the World Series. Now Bochy’s attempting to do what he did in the past: win for the first time with a formerly moribund franchise. In San Diego, he was the backup catcher behind Terry Kennedy on the 1984 team, the first to win a pennant, and 14 years later managed the second and last Padres’ pennant winner. In San Francisco, his 2010 team was the first to win a World Series since the Giants moved from New York to the West Coast in 1957.

When asked which of those were his favorite team, he said: “That’s like asking me which of my three grandchildren I like best. But it has to be the first one [to win it all]. That was special. And that 1998 team was something. Those guys still stay in touch. It was special, too.”

Now, he has a chance to do something special with the Rangers. Bochy said he’s trying to take losses easier than he did in the past, but he was clearly perturbed this week as the Rangers dropped a pair of winnable games to the suddenly resurgent Arizona Diamondbacks.

“I have to answer your questions, too,” Bochy quipped, apparently joking about my presence. We’ve known each other since 1983, so he’s had 40 years to get used to that.

But Bochy knows too well it’s winning time as he nears the end of his 26th season of managing.

“You can’t place a value on wisdom,” Young added. “And Boch offers all of that.”

Best of

Click here to read the full article.