Strictly speaking, the Rangers did not have to hire Bruce Bochy. They could have appointed any number of baseball men or women for their vacant managerial post. In a parallel universe, any number of them might have succeeded, too.
But in this one, Ray Davis has made his intentions plain for months. Texas will be in the playoff hunt in 2023, and it will put an end to the worst of the futility that has defined the last half-decade. If that meant firing Chris Woodward just past the season’s halfway mark, so be it. Same goes for showing Jon Daniels the door two days later. For better or worse, “no half measures” has gone by the wayside in 15 months’ time. There will be no measured rebuild.
In its wake is a mandate for microwaved success. It does not matter that the outfield remains unsettled nor that the pitching staff is still mostly in tatters. Nor that Chris Young must paper over those holes with a lighter checkbook than what he had to work with last offseason despite his club needing to win far more games. The time is now, allegedly.
This brings us to Bochy, the three-time World Series winner in San Francisco—chances are you remember the first of those in 2010—who was far and away the most decorated candidate the Rangers reasonably could have courted. (He becomes the first World Series-winning manager the Rangers have ever employed.) Even he is not exempt from the standard managerial disclaimer: talent determines almost everything. Whatever Young does to patch up the roster will dictate this team’s fate far more than the man setting the lineup.
And because so much of a manager’s work takes place behind lowered curtains, there is no divining precisely how much better Bochy might do at age 67, three years since his last job, than someone less accomplished. Certainty is never promised in this line of work. Just ask the White Sox about Tony LaRussa, the only other living three-time World Series champion manager, whose own return to the game went awry from the jump and ended this month with LaRussa effectively admitting he didn’t have it anymore.
But Bochy does guarantee the only things someone in his position reasonably can. For starters, he’s actually done the job, which distinguishes him from every Rangers manager since Buck Showalter came aboard 20 years ago. He has also done it well enough to win more championships than all but five men in baseball history. Inherent in that are qualities that every manager ideally should have: smarts, creativity, mettle, communication skills, baseball knowledge, and, perhaps most important, the disposition that helped him stick around in San Francisco for 14 seasons without pissing off his coworkers too much.
Not that he should be expected to linger in Arlington for nearly that long. His deal runs through 2025, at which point he’ll be 70. But that’s immaterial given how fixated the Rangers are on the present. When the order is to turn a 94-loss team into one with almost as many wins inside of a year, you scrape together every advantage you reasonably can, and Bochy is a difference-maker until proven otherwise.
That makes him more than just the best hire. He was the only possible hire. And if that feels binary, well, so much else with this franchise does, too.