Bruce Bochy thought about it for a second, and then gave an answer you might expect.
The just-retired Giants manager had been asked to decide who will have the advantage when Madison Bumgarner faces Buster Posey for the first time next year. That’s like asking a father to pick between his sons.
“I have to feel strongly on both sides on that one,” Bochy said.
Bochy believes it’ll be a somewhat normal matchup after the first at-bat, but he admitted it will be strange to watch his longtime ace, who signed with the Diamondbacks earlier this week, face his longtime catcher for the first time. All of this is strange, even to Bochy, who knows Bumgarner as well as anyone but didn’t foresee him taking his talents to the desert.
Bochy always has known that Bumgarner and his wife, Ali, like spending time in Arizona in spring training. But as the bidding neared an end last week, the Diamondbacks were not front and center.
Bochy thought Bumgarner might end up in Los Angeles, or possibly Atlanta or even Minnesota. Others were in the bidding, including the Giants, who offered around $70 million over four years.
“When it was announced Arizona signed him, I was a little surprised, but I’m looking now and it makes sense,” Bochy said in a phone conversation Wednesday. “He said he liked their brand of play. They’re a talented team, and even though they traded [Paul] Goldschmidt, they had a good offense. They play the game well — they ran the bases, they had good athletes, they did a good job of grinding out at-bats and running the bases well. They play a nice brand of ball. They had good pitching. I see why Madison said that.”
The Giants went 9-10 against the Diamondbacks in Bochy's final season, with Bumgarner winning two of his three starts. Bochy, for years, had a front-row seat as Bumgarner took it to Arizona.
Bumgarner has pitched more than a full season's worth of games against the Diamondbacks, posting a 2.63 ERA in 36 appearances that span 229 innings. He never has been all that bothered by a ballpark that was a launching pad before a humidor was installed and remains friendly to hitters. In 20 career appearances at Chase Field, he has a 3.13 ERA.
"He'll pitch fine there. He'll do a nice job," Bochy said. "Madison has got the ability to adjust. I know he gave up a few more home runs last year than we were used to, but I can assure you that's something that he'll work on. I expect him to do well, I do.
"He's a guy -- I've said this many times -- he never stops trying to be the best that he can be. If that's tinkering a little bit with his delivery and his pitches, he does it. He's always trying to be the best that he can be ... and I know he's going to love hitting there."
Bumgarner has two homers at Chase Field, both coming on opening day in 2017. That was back when you could head into the holidays with a pretty good idea of what to expect from the Giants in their opener.
Bochy would be in the dugout, Bumgarner would be throwing to Posey, while Brandon Crawford and Brandon Belt would be crouching down on the infield with every pitch.
Two years later, Bochy is a special advisor for the organization, and he'll watch the matchups on TV, not from the dugout. He laughed and said he's sure Bumgarner already is working on ways to get the better of Posey, who had some hard-hit balls when the two battled occasionally in live batting practice sessions during spring training.
The next time the two face off, one of Bochy's longtime stars will be wearing different colors.
"It's a little sad when you look at somebody who has impacted the organization as much as he has," Bochy said. "When that caliber of player moves on, sure, at first it's different. But that's also baseball. He was a free agent, he became a free agent and he had a lot of options. This one is one that worked out for him, and I couldn't be happier for him and for Ali, because I love the man, not just for what he did for us on the field but also as a friend.
"I admired his talent and his determination and his work ethic, and I'm happy that he's happy."