Giants

What it was like to cover Bruce Bochy's final season as Giants manager

What it was like to cover Bruce Bochy's final season as Giants manager

SAN FRANCISCO -- It's pretty standard for Giants manager Bruce Bochy to get questions about his lineup when he meets with the media in the afternoon. Early this season, Bochy looked up and found a young reporter, just out of high school and new to Oracle Park, asking him why Kevin Pillar was batting seventh that night. He explained why he liked Pillar, still relatively new to the team, in that spot. 

Six hours later, Bochy's postgame session was winding down when the young reporter again grabbed a microphone. The Giants had lost and Bochy was ready to head back to his office, but again he was asked if he would consider moving Pillar up in the lineup.

Gregg Popovich probably would have snapped. Bill Belichick probably would have glared and muttered something about the next opponent. Bochy paused and then broke into a wide smile.

"You said that earlier!" he told the young reporter. "You really like Pillar, don't you?"

I've spent eight years covering Bruce Bochy, and have spent more time with him than just about anyone in my life over the past decade. I can't think of an interaction that better sums up his relationship with the media than that one. 

Bochy will be remembered as a winner, a fierce competitor, one of the best managers this game has ever seen. I'll remember all of that, of course, but I'll also remember him for his kindness, patience and professionalism. He has never lost sight of the fact that interacting with the media is part of the job, and he seemed to embrace that role through good times and bad, deep conversations and bad questions. And man, were there a lot of bad questions this year. 

"The fact that you guys are here listening, I'm savoring that," Bochy said earlier this week, smiling. "I can't get my wife to do that."

The questions will now exclusively come from Kim, but for 13 years here and 12 in San Diego before that, Bochy has done his best to fulfill every request from beat writers, TV reporters -- both local and national -- and hundreds of media members he didn't know. 

It's easy to be generous with your time when you're winning, but what I found most striking was that Bochy never changed over the past three seasons. He would fulfill every request, especially this season. 

Bochy never wanted a farewell tour. He thought announcing his decision would get all the questions about his future out of the way early. Instead, reporters in every visiting city flocked to the dugout to ask the same series of questions. 

"What's your favorite memory of managing in this ballpark?"

"Are you really going to stay retired?"

"What does 2,000 wins mean to you?"

If you know Bochy well, you could see in his body language that it was starting to wear thin at times. But he never snapped or turned anyone down. He answered those same questions so often that phrases like "I made my decision" and "I'm good with it" were stuck in beat writers' heads throughout the summer. 

Bochy sat with that small group of traveling reporters in Atlanta last week and chatted for half an hour in the visiting dugout. Our takeaway was that he really does seem "good with it." He's ready to see what else is out there and spend more time with his growing family, although he has said repeatedly in recent weeks that he'll still be around in some respect.

The Giants expect to have him play a role in the organization. They would expect nothing less from someone who helped make #ForeverGiant a thing. I thought about that commitment to loyalty this week when the San Francisco Chronicle's Henry Schulman helped present Bochy with "The Good Guy Award," a small trophy from local reporters that usually is reserved for a helpful player. 

Schulman joked that he had only seen Bochy snap a few times in 13 years together, and all were because he asked him why he stuck with a struggling Tim Lincecum so long in a given game. That loyalty is what Bochy's players might most remember.

Throughout lean times, whether with late-career Lincecum or 2018 Hunter Pence or this season's version of some core Giants, Bochy has stood behind his players, always insisting publicly that it's going to get better. There's a reason Lincecum, famously private, is expected at the ballpark on Sunday, along with dozens of other former Giants. 

They'll be here to say goodbye to a man who treated everyone, whether they were an All-Star pitcher or a nervous young reporter, with the same patience and respect. Everyone got Bochy's full attention, something I was reminded of earlier this summer. 

[RELATED: Gwynn's Bochy salute shows retiring manager's fatherly side]

A week before the Giants visited Citi Field, I asked Bochy if he had a few minutes to chat for a feature I was writing about no-hitters. We decided to talk in New York, but the night before our scheduled meeting, Bochy won his 1,000th game as a Giant. 

He was toasted by his players in the clubhouse and spent plenty of time after the game reluctantly discussing the achievement. I assumed he had long forgotten that I wanted an interview and was far too busy with the milestone to even think about it, and that was fine. I would just try again after the road trip. 

But as reporters filed out of the visiting clubhouse at Citi Field, Bochy called out.

"Alex," he said. "We're still on for tomorrow, right?"

MLB rumors: Cardinals 'entering the fray' to pursue Madison Bumgarner

MLB rumors: Cardinals 'entering the fray' to pursue Madison Bumgarner

With the Winter Meetings rapidly approaching, MLB free agency is heating up.

One of the top available pitchers -- Madison Bumgarner -- is expected to be in high demand, particularly now that Cole Hamels has signed with the Braves and Zack Wheeler reportedly has agreed to a five-year contract with the Phillies. For teams who scoff at Gerrit Cole's price tag, Bumgarner might be the logical compromise.

The Giants have been "in communication" with Bumgarner, but rumor has it another interested team has entered the mix.

MLB.com's Mark Feinsand reported Thursday that the St. Louis Cardinals have been linked to Bumgarner, citing a source.

St. Louis already has brought back veteran Adam Wainwright on a one-year deal, and after he, Jack Flaherty, Miles Mikolas and Dakota Hudson, there appears to be an opening for Bumgarner in the starting rotation. Signing with the Cardinals would not only allow Bumgarner to continue pitching in the National League, but would also allow him to continue taking his own at-bats, which we know he loves so much. He also has been linked to teams such as the Twins and White Sox, but would forfeit his at-bats to a DH in each of those situations.

[RELATED: How Wheeler's reported $118M contract could affect MadBum]

While Bumgarner is expected to receive a contract in excess of $100 million, Feinsand suggests Wheeler's reported $118 million payday might serve to increase the total.

MLB rumors: Yankees make signing free agent Gerrit Cole top priority

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MLB rumors: Yankees make signing free agent Gerrit Cole top priority

Gerrit Cole is far and away the gem of the 2019 MLB free-agent class.

The former Pirates and Astros ace led the American League in both ERA and strikeouts last season and finished just behind teammate Justin Verlander in the AL Cy Young Award race.

The team that historically always has had the deepest pockets in baseball -- the New York Yankees -- have made Cole a priority in free agency, ESPN’s Jeff Passan reported Thursday, citing a source.

Cole is a Southern California native with familial ties to the Giants, a team that also features one of the most pitcher-friendly ballparks in the MLB. San Francisco also has been mentioned as a destination for the ace, who reportedly desires a return to the West Coast.

But if the Yankees, who always have jumped to outbid every other team for talent in free agency, decide to back up the proverbial Brinks truck for the 29-year-old, the Giants might be swiftly eliminated from contention for Cole.

Reports indicate that Cole’s price tag will “shatter” the record set by David Price when he signed a $217 million contract with the Boston Red Sox in 2015.

[RELATED: Report: Giants targeted UGA's pitching coach for same role]

While San Francisco has plenty of money to spend this offseason, it likely won’t engage in a bidding war that could approach $300 million.

Even if longtime Giant and current free agent Madison Bumgarner elects to go elsewhere in free agency, it remains to be seen how much money San Francisco would be willing to shell out for an elite talent like Cole in the heart of his prime.