San Francisco managed to score 20 runs in three games and lose a series to the lowly Philadelphia Phillies this week. Manager Bruce Bochy was mad. Players said they were embarrassed. It was time to write an article about how hot Bochy’s seat was getting.
After all, San Francisco is supposed to be competing with Los Angeles for the National League West division title. Instead, Arizona and Colorado are rolling with the Dodgers, each eleven games or more ahead of Bruce Bochy’s team.
The Giants record is the third worst in baseball despite fielding the highest payroll ever for San Francisco. Surely, Bochy is another dropped series away from being an ex-manager, right?
Except for that one thing…
I checked several national and Bay Area sports sites looking for any evidence of Bochy’s job security being questioned. Inexplicably, it hasn’t been. In desperation, I called an old co-worker who lives and breathes San Francisco baseball.
“We’re not happy,” he said. “but we can’t remember what to do because we haven’t seen anything like this in a long time.”
For sure, the Giants have enjoyed success recently, but it was only ten seasons ago that the Giants finished last. That was Bochy’s first season at the helm. He would guide the Giants to fourth and third-place finishes before winning the first of three World Series over the next five seasons.
When I asked if Bochy might be fired, my friend laughed. “Why fire Bochy? He’s not playing the games.” I stared at the phone. As a lifelong member of the New York sports world, I could not imagine the press wasn’t calling for heads in San Francisco. The first mention of Mets manager Terry Collins’ shaky job status was written before opening day.
So who takes the rap in San Francisco?
Bruce Bochy has always been a no-excuses, straight-talking manager. This year, he offers little in the way of answers, either. Interviews include phrases like, “I don’t know what we’ll do,” and “I can’t explain that,” and “What else can I say?” If the Giants still played on the opposite coast, those would be headlines with every beat writer speculating who has those answers.
There are some hostile fans. Twitter revealed colorful questions about Bochy’s use of relief pitchers, his lineup changes, putting somebody’s mother in left field, and the general IQ of the coaching staff. Even those fans did not call for a new manager. A few questioned why general manager Brian Sabean did not yet fix what apparently every Giants fan knew would be a problem this year- the outfield.
To be fair, two-thirds of the Giants’ opening day starting outfield has spent considerable time on the disabled list. Hunter Pence recently returned. Jarrett Parker is still weeks away. However, the Giants do not seem to have reliable back-ups.
Earlier this week, in their 60th game of the season, prospect Austin Slater became the tenth different player to start in left field and the 12th to put in at least one inning behind the shortstop. Fans outside of Northern California would be hard-pressed to recognize the names of the others.
But the carnage prevails throughout the lineup. The Giants are batting .235 as a team, good for 27th place in the Majors. On June 1, only five Giants boasted batting averages over .250 and one of them was injured pitcher, Madison Bumgarner. The Giants have fewer home runs than every other team and scored more runs than only two.
They are an anomaly on the mound, giving up fewer home runs and walks than most other teams, but still sitting in the middle of the pack in with a 4.21 ERA. One of the things Bochy can not explain is his staff’s habit of allowing hits on 0-2 counts.
What to do?
San Francisco writers and fans are forgiving, but they are realistic. There is talk about which players the Giants should give up before the trading deadline. Few seem to want to blow the team up. They mostly discuss a few ending contracts and veterans who may have enough value to help the pitching and outfield staffs.
For their part, the Giants took a flier on Texas reliever Sam Dyson. He has been miserable all season, sporting a 1-6 record and a 10.80 ERA. But he is one year removed from 38 saves and is under contract through 2019. If pitching coach Dave Righetti can figure out what went wrong this year, Giants fans will lay off GM Sabean.
One thing is for sure, though. San Francisco fans and writers do not seem ready to give up Bruce Bochy.