What’s all this bashing being absorbed by the San Diego Padres?
When watching the World Series, it’s full of personnel — in and out of uniform — who know what it means to be a Padre faithful.
We’re speaking, of course, of the Texas Rangers, a squad that, until recently, was usually a two-step away from the American League West cellar. Texas lost at least 94 games in consecutive seasons until a new sheriff rolled into town.
That would be our old buddy Bruce Bochy shuffling around on his bad knees as the Rangers manager after being hired by Texas general manager Chris Young.
Young pitched for Bochy when both were in San Diego, but his most effective offering came last offseason when waltzing to Tennessee, Bochy’s new home, and enticing him to ditch retirement after three years.
“You could see he had a vision of what he wanted to get done here,” Bochy said. “And it really wasn’t a long conversation.”
There was always chatter of Bochy, once a longtime Poway resident, returning to San Diego after his impressive run with the San Francisco Giants. Bochy left a legacy in S.F. that included three World Series titles and almost his heart.
“I had managed through 25 seasons and three stents,” Bochy said with a huge smile that matches his huge noggin. “It was time.”
Just like the occasion arrived for him to get back on the dugout’s top step. With his heart issues in the rear-view mirror, there was Young in Bochy’s front yard outside of Nashville, barking for his return.
Back to Bochy’s possible boomerang to San Diego, and wouldn’t that have been grand? But Bochy, a man of conviction and a resume worthy of the Baseball Hall of Fame, declined to work with A.J. Preller, the Padres’ unconventional president of baseball operations.
Bob Melvin, a three-time manager of the year, lasted but two seasons under Preller’s approach; he was named the new Giants manager on Wednesday.
Bochy, of course, remains a bigger-than-life person to Padres fans.
He was the Padres’ backup catcher when they reached their first World Series in 1984. He was their manager when they reached their second, and last, World Series in 1998.
Bochy was beloved for representing the organization, through the good and mostly bad times, with a no-nonsense, old-school approach and an unrelenting quest to win each day.
Players swear by him, and rivals occasionally swear at him. Bochy would encourage both to bring it on, knowing that baseball is a daily grind that requires an even keel.
Watching Bochy, 68, navigate the Rangers this last month has been a master clinic in managing and turning the page while others fret and panic.
Texas blew its shot at winning the AL West — and getting a first-round bye — when it stumbled the last weekend of the regular season and the Houston Astros took the division.
That produced a Bochy shrug instead of anxiety, and Texas eliminated the Tampa Bay Rays in the opening round.
Next was letting Game 5 slip away in the American League Championship Series against Houston, an ugly loss that included bean balls and bad blood.
Bochy sighed and hitched up his britches. The Rangers were tasked with winning twice at Houston, which they did to punch their World Series ticket to a Fall Classic that has a Padres feel to it.
In addition to Bochy and Young, former San Diego catcher (and North County resident) Nick Hundley and former infielder Ian Kinsler are Young’s assistants. Ex-Padres outfielder Will Venable is on Bochy’s coaching staff.
Between the lines, look for outfielder Travis Jankowski and catcher Austin Hedges, two more with Padres connections.
My link to Bochy comes from covering him for decades, but my admiration for him was cemented when he was surrounded by a bunch of pint-sized Encinitas Little League players.
Bochy knew I was managing my son’s team, and he offered to say hello to the squad on Little League Day at Petco Park. But when Bochy came to the rail, he was swamped by others.
“Shoot, just bring them down here,” Bochy said.
So an hour before the first pitch, there were 15 kids getting comfortable in the dugout. Bochy held court, stressing that baseball was built around failure and that no matter what happens, always keep your cool.
The kids and their parents were thrilled, as was I, and we returned to our seats.
Later during the game, after a bang-bang play at first base went against the Padres, Bochy shot from the dugout as if arriving via a cannon.
He went nose-to-nose with the first-base umpire, kicked dirt and flung his hat after the controversial ruling. Bochy was given the heave-ho, which later produced a mea culpa.
“Tell your Little Leaguers I’m sorry about that,” Bochy said. “I guess I didn’t do as I say.”
Bochy’s presence in the World Series triggers fond memories and sad reminders of the Padres chasing him away.
While the Padres’ world is upside down, Bochy aims for his fourth World Series title in directing his third team to the game’s biggest stage.
“It’s unbelievable,” he said modestly.
Not really, and no one is more deserving.