SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — As Bruce Bochy did an interview with MLB Network on Tuesday morning, the news broke that Manny Machado will be a San Diego Padre. Bochy's last season in the NL West just got a bit tougher, but for most of his tenure in San Francisco, the relationship between his old team and his new team has been a lopsided one.
The Giants overtook the Padres on the last day of the 2010 regular season and went on to win the first of three World Series titles in five years. The Padres haven’t had even a .500 season since, and they remain mired in a lengthy rebuild, perhaps just now seeing a light at the end of the tunnel. In recent years, Petco Park has been jokingly known as "AT&T Park South" when Giants fans invade for the three series the teams play there a year.
There was a day 13 years ago, though, when the Giants turned to the Padres for a boost.
Felipe Alou’s contract expired without an extension in 2006, and the Giants began a search process that would zero on some coaches who have since become familiar names. Bench coach Ron Wotus was considered, along with Angels pitching coach Bud Black, who later managed the Padres, and Mets third base coach Manny Acta, who would go on to manage the Nationals and Indians.
As Brian Sabean sorted through his options in late October, he got on the phone with Padres GM Kevin Towers, one of Bochy’s closest friends. Sabean remembers talking to Towers, who passed away last January, while watching an Arizona Fall League game. Towers told him that Sandy Alderson, CEO of the Padres, would be making some changes. Bochy had one year left on his deal.
“He said, ‘(Bochy) may have a chance to talk to other organizations,’ and that’s really how it started, that we knew there was a real possibility,” Sabean recalled Monday.
Bochy had gone 951-975 in 12 seasons with the Padres, leading them to the 1998 World Series. He was well-respected, and fit a lot of what Sabean, Peter Magowan and Larry Baer were looking for. The three executives and their wives met with Bochy and his wife for a dinner, and Baer remembered one thing that stood out about Bochy: “He was very humble,” he said Monday.
“Through all the championships, he never made it about himself,” Baer said.
Back then, Bochy didn’t have a postseason resume that would get him into the Hall of Fame. But he was popular with players. Just as important, he was a name that would resonate with a new fan base.
“We were very fortunate as far as our succession of managers,” Sabean said. “There’s a reason we hired Felipe after Dusty (Baker). Dusty was iconic and every bit as popular as Barry Bonds, so we thought that we had to have a ‘name’ manager. Same as when Felipe’s tenure was up, we thought that it was in the best interest of the organization, that we needed name recognition.
“I think whether it’s us as baseball people or our fans, we were appreciative of some of the stuff that he had done or how he kind of weathered a lot of storms in San Diego.”
There have been storms in San Francisco, too, particularly in those early years, and over the past two. But Bochy has weathered them, adding 975 more wins in addition to those three titles. He’s the only manager in MLB history with 900 wins for two organizations.
Bochy will reach 1,000 wins with the Giants, but won’t go much further. He announced Monday that this upcoming season will be his final one. It was a shock to much of the clubhouse, but not to Sabean, who took his own step back after the third title.
“I wasn’t at all surprised. Nobody has to tell you,” he said. “Somebody didn’t have to tell me that I had to reinvent myself after 2014 and it was (Bobby Evans’) turn. It’s like life, you rise at different junctures. Your head and your heart become one.”