Pablo Sandoval to honor Bruce Bochy, manager who always had his back


Pablo Sandoval to honor Bruce Bochy, manager who always had his back

SAN FRANCISCO -- Pablo Sandoval burned his share of bridges when he left the Giants for the Red Sox in 2014, but his conversation with his manager that offseason carried a different kind of emotion.

Sandoval still remembers how hard it was to tell Bochy he was leaving. He told Bochy he would miss him. Bochy responded by telling Sandoval he wished he was returning.

"He said, 'Enjoy your moment. This is the time you've been waiting for,'" Sandoval recalled recently. 

Three years later, Bochy was there waiting when Sandoval decided to come back. 

Sandoval's career with the Giants will go down as one of the more interesting in franchise history, full of highs (All-Star appearances, World Series titles, a performance that dropped Justin Verlander's jaw) and lows (getting benched, repeatedly dealing with weight issues, downtimes on the field and that exit to Boston), but through it all, he has had his manager in his corner.

He views Bochy as someone who has always been fair with him and has always communicated with him in the right way, and tonight he'll honor his longtime manager. 

Sandoval has chosen to recognize Bochy at the Coaching Corps Game Changer Awards. Now in its fifth year, the Game Changer Awards honor coaches who have had a noteworthy impact on the lives of some of the biggest stars in the Bay Area.

For Sandoval, this relationship goes beyond a player and coach. 

"I tell him, 'You're my father.' I always tell him that," Sandoval said. "I love him and I wish him a nice end to his career, and I wish that I can be there when he retires. I want him to be my manager when I retire from baseball."

Four years ago, it didn't appear that was possible. 

In his first spring with the Red Sox, Sandoval gave a stunning interview with Bleacher Report in which he said it was "not hard at all" to leave the team that signed him out of Venezuela and questioned the way the Giants treated him. The most eye-opening quote came when Sandoval was asked if he missed the Giants. 

"Only Bochy," he said at the time. "I love Boch. He's like my dad. He's the only guy that I miss. And Hunter Pence. Just those guys."

The quotes made waves in his old clubhouse, and when Sandoval found himself looking for a job just two and a half seasons into that massive contract, a reunion seemed unlikely. There were players who were not ready to welcome him back, and executives high up in the organization who were not on board with the move. Sandoval knew that, and on his first day back, he walked into Bochy's office and told him he knew what he had to do. 

"I came to Bochy and said, 'You know what, I need to apologize to you,'" Sandoval said 

The redemption tour quickly gained steam. Sandoval moved past those comments quickly, again bringing energy to a clubhouse that needed it and earning a role as a valuable reserve. When he pitched a perfect inning against the Dodgers last April, Sandoval was all the way back to his former status as a favorite of much of the fan base. Bochy was looking for a way to shake things up in the midst of a blowout that day. He knew exactly which player to send to the mound. 

From his first day in Bochy's clubhouse, Sandoval has stood out because of his energy and enthusiasm for the game. Bochy says it is infectious, and something that has never waned through two tours with the Giants. 

"That's what I love about Pablo, his passion for the game," Bochy said. "To me, that can be a difference-maker for a club, it really can. Chemistry is such an important part of the game, too. We're always looking at the talent, but the talent can come together and gel if you have the right guys in the clubhouse. You get guys to enjoy the game and just play the game for the love of it, and that's the type of player that he is. There have been times that he's been on the DL and players miss him. They miss him in the dugout, they miss him around the clubhouse."

Bochy said that repeatedly down the stretch last season, when Sandoval was sidelined by a major hamstring injury. With his team on an 11-game losing streak, Bochy sat in his office one Friday last September and wondered aloud what he was supposed to do.

The Giants simply did not have the talent to compete with the teams Bochy was seeing every night. As he talked through solutions, Sandoval walked into his office, a wrap on his injured leg but a bat in his hand. He smacked the bat against a door and promised his manager that the Giants would win that night. 

"We miss him," Bochy said, a few hours before the Giants edged the Rockies to snap the streak. 

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Sandoval felt the same way about Bochy when he was gone, and he said the manager was one of the main reasons he returned to San Francisco. Sandoval credits Bochy for helping him be himself in the big leagues, constantly reminding him to have fun, but also to respect the game and play it the right way. In the down times, Bochy has always been there with a lesson. In the good times, Sandoval looks at his manager and simply sees an approving smile. 

"I try to remind myself how difficult the game is, and when a guy is going through a tough patch, that's when they need you," Bochy said. "That's when they need support. If you make an impact on a player that's struggling and you can help them, that's what it's about. That's what the game is about."

Ranking top five Madison Bumgarner homers over 10-year Giants career


Ranking top five Madison Bumgarner homers over 10-year Giants career

There haven't been many players like Madison Bumgarner in MLB history, maybe ever. He's a beloved Giant for his performance and personality. 

Bumgarner's playoff heroics always will be remembered, especially with the image of him walking out of the bullpen in Game 7 of the 2014 World Series. Close your eyes and you can perfectly picture that moment. 

For all his greatness on the mound, though, Giants fans might miss his hacks in the batter's box even more now that Bumgarner is on the Arizona Diamondbacks. The two-time Silver Slugger swings like it's the Home Run Derby, and he truly believes he's going to launch one into the bleachers every at-bat. It's a sight to behold. 

Bumgarner hit his first home run as a Giant at 22 years old and his last at 28. He crushed 19 long balls while wearing a Giants jersey. With that being said, here are our five favorite Bumgarner blasts from his 10-year career in San Francisco. 

Click here for Bumgarner's five best homers with the Giants

How D-backs' Madison Bumgarner would've done vs. Giants per simulation


How D-backs' Madison Bumgarner would've done vs. Giants per simulation

Giants fans missed out on seeing Mason Saunders Madison Bumgarner pitch against his former team Tuesday, as the MLB season's suspension due to the coronavirus pandemic delayed what was scheduled to be Bumgarner's first career start against San Francisco.

They didn't miss much, according to Strat-O-Matic's 2020 season simulation.

Bugmarner pitched a gem against his old club, winning for the first time with his new one while the Giants fell to 0-5 in Strat-o-Matic's sim. The lefty struck out 10 in 7 innings, allowing six hits and walking just two.

"When he reached 10 strikeouts, the fans showed him their appreciation with a loud cheer," Strat-O-Matic's write-up said D-backs manager Torey Lovullo said after the game.

Bumgarner pitched for the Giants for parts of 11 seasons, winning three World Series and earning four consecutive All-Star nods from 2013 through 2016. He signed a five-year contract with the Diamondbacks in December.

How have the Giants gotten off to such a poor start sans Bumgarner in the simulation? Strat-O-Matic head of operations and director of research Len Schwartz told Newsday last week that the company is creating its player cards each day for the simulation, utilizing an algorithm including "projections and recent performance."

Losing all five games to start a season literally is, at least in terms of wins and losses, a worst-case scenario, but well within the Giants' expected range of outcomes this season. Baseball Prospectus' PECOTA projections pegged the Giants as about a 94-loss team, while FanGraphs had San Francisco losing 91 games. Either, surely, would have included a few five-game losing streaks.

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Whether Bumgarner dominates the Giants when baseball resumes -- and, when baseball resumes -- remains to be seen due to the spread of COVID-19.

MLB and the players association agreed to a wider deal last week that reportedly included the provisions that the season won't resume until it is deemed medically safe to do so and there are no outstanding bans on travel or mass gatherings.