It’s said that heavy is the head that wears the crown, and that’s true beyond the anatomical for Bruce Bochy. There’s a lot riding on his appointment as the 20th–and most decorated–manager in Rangers franchise history. The expectations are clear: for Texas to get to the place Bochy has repeatedly been, with his steady hand at the helm.
Somewhere around the middle of the 2023 season, the first of three on Bochy’s deal with Texas, he will become the 10th-winningest manager in baseball history, passing Leo Durocher and Walter Alston. The only one ahead of him not in the Hall of Fame isn’t there for the same reason Bochy is not: Dusty Baker, like the Rangers’ new manager, has decided he’s got a little more work to do before retiring once and for all and being eligible for enshrinement.
But regular-season victories aren’t the point here. Playoff wins are. Bochy is already sixth all-time in that category, and that’s why the Rangers are bringing him out of a three-year managing hiatus. (He insists it wasn’t a retirement.) Presumably, that’s why he took the job. With his legacy in the game secure, no amount of money would be worth finishing a career in uniform with a few years of mediocrity. He wants something with stakes. But those are highest for Chris Young, who once pitched for Bochy. As he prepares for his second year on the job as executive vice president and general manager, Young made a huge first move as the club’s ultimate decision-maker that could define his tenure. This isn’t hiring Bill Parcells to win a stadium vote.
One thing Bochy and 2002 Parcells have in common is age. Parcells was 61 when he agreed to coach the Cowboys. Bochy is 67. It’s certainly not unprecedented to hire from the Social Security set, albeit to mixed results. Things didn’t turn out so well for Tony LaRussa or Joe Maddon, both well over 60 when they took ill-fated jobs with the White Sox and Angels after winning elsewhere. But they have worked just fine for Baker, Bob Melvin, and Buck Showalter.
Showalter, incidentally, is the last experienced manager the Rangers hired. That was 20 years ago, more than a year before Young debuted as a big leaguer with Texas. After pitching for Showalter for two seasons, Young was traded to San Diego, where Bochy was his manager for one year.
Young’s other managers over his 13-year MLB career were Bud Black, Terry Collins, Lloyd McClendon, and Ned Yost. Only Black was in his first managerial stint. That’s not to say that Young’s experience with managers as a player was a driving factor in the decision to prioritize experience with this hire. But it’s fair to assume Young has a comfort level with veteran managers that might differ, for instance, from predecessor Jon Daniels, who hired only first-time skippers (Ron Washington, Jeff Banister, Chris Woodward).
Whether Bochy’s arrival increases the odds that the Rangers can execute a plan to sign at least two impact starting pitchers this offseason, it certainly shouldn’t hurt their chances with the likes of Jacob deGrom, Clayton Kershaw, Carlos Rodon, Justin Verlander, and Chris Bassitt. Like Baker, Bochy has always been a manager with seemingly universal and unassailable respect in the game. Three World Series rings can’t hurt either.
For any manager, part of the charge is helping young players grow into core contributors. Bochy has done that; his Giants teams were heavy on homegrown stars like Buster Posey, Madison Bumgarner, Tim Lincecum, and Brandon Crawford. But part of the job in Texas also involves asking more of key veterans in terms of leadership and team culture and other elements that analytics can’t measure. Bochy has the credibility and cachet to lay down those expectations, too.
In one sense, expectations have just shot up for Young himself. If the Rangers don’t win soon, it will be difficult to say it was because they didn’t have the right manager. More than ever–or at least more than two months ago–it’s about the talent on the field and nothing more. And that’s on Young, within the constraints of payroll room he’s granted by ownership.
For the first time in a generation, the four major teams in town have veterans leading the coaching staff–and they’re all veterans with past success. Mike McCarthy arrived with a Super Bowl title to his name. Jason Kidd coached playoff teams in four of five years at his two previous head-coaching stops in addition to winning championships as a player (with the Mavericks in 2011) and as an assistant coach (with the Lakers in 2020). Pete DeBoer’s four prior stops as an NHL head coach included two Stanley Cup Final appearances.
None of those three boast Bochy’s pedigree. He took four Padres teams and four Giants teams to the playoffs without being the beneficiary of a world-beating payroll. Widening the lens a bit, it’s not just about Bochy’s penchant for winning–there’s much to be said about where his teams had been before his arrival. The Padres hadn’t been in the playoffs in 11 years prior to Bochy; he led the club to the postseason in his second year and the World Series in his fourth. Before Bochy, the Giants’ last World Series title came in 1954, when Durocher was managing, center fielder Willie Mays was 23, the team played its home games in New York, and Bochy wasn’t yet born.
Now he has one last turnaround to script. This isn’t Baker taking over in Houston or Melvin in San Diego. The Rangers have a rut to pull out of, and they’ve promised a second straight winter of impact adds to do just that. Their first came before the league closed up shop on the 2022 season.