Week of October 4, 2019


Thanks, Boch

Bruce Bochy managed his last game for the San Francisco Giants on Sunday. I paid a mint to be there. My wife asked why it was so important. I considered it a moment and said, “The man had a large part in a half dozen of the twenty or so happiest moments of my life.” And I thought for a few more moments, and confirmed in my mind what I had just said. In terms of pure, unadulterated joy, he really did. So, I had to be there to say thanks. I brought my oldest boy, because he’s old enough now to remember, and I want him to be able to say, “I went to Bruce Bochy’s last game – he was the last true manager.”

Baseball is changing. Analytics have taken over. Teams are smarter, more ruthless. Teams make decisions on probabilities, not hunches. On the whole, I think it’s made the game better. But an inevitability of that change is that the manager means less. There’s less strategy, more looking at pitch counts and heat maps and splits and spray charts. A computer could manage a ball club at this point, and with some teams, they basically do. But Bruce Bochy proves that teams are wrong to do so. 

On Sunday, dozens of Bochy’s former players showed up, just like I did. After the game ended, they were introduced, team by team, player by player, to the crowd. Names I had forgotten, like Vinnie Chulk, Dan Runzler, and Kevin Correia. Names that made me laugh like Tyler Walker, Brian Wilson, and Pedro Feliz. And names I could never forget, like Coddy MF Ross, Edgar Renteria, and Marco Scutaro. And, of course, Timothy LeRoy Lincecum.

Timmy had not been back to the park in the five years since he left the team, and word has been he had declined invitations to do so. The end of his career is so painful for the fans to whom he gave such joy, and we wanted to say thanks. All week the talk amongst Giants fans was: Is Timmy going to show up? I stayed offline all day Saturday and Sunday, because I figured it’d leak, and I didn’t want to know, either way. During the ceremony, Renel announced the 2010 players, no Tim. Hm. She announced the 2012 players, no Tim. Hm. She announced the 2014 players, no Tim. Hmmm. And then, suddenly,

“NUMBER FIFT…”

She didn’t even get through “Fifty Five” and I lost my friggin mind. 42,000+ lost their friggin minds. Tim smiled, and waved, and laughed. I followed him over to Boch, and Boch gave him a bear hug. It took Bochy leaving to get Timmy to come back, and that tells you how much Bochy meant to Tim.

Then the speeches began, and it was great. Man, was it great. Peavy got me legit watery-eyed. When Vogey spoke, I could feel the true gratitude he had in his heart for Bochy, someone who believed in him and helped to revive his career. Earlier, during the game, they played a video message from Panda, and when Panda broke down, I got choked up then, too. But it was when Bochy spoke that I really got emotional, and so did so many people around me. 

His full speech was almost fifteen minutes. It was heartfelt and funny, and I was so glad I got to be there. 

Bruce Bochy may be the last of his tribe – the old school manager; one who does not ignore statistics and probabilities, but one who also understands his players on a deep level, and almost always managed to pull the right strings. He was able to do so because he’s in the trenches. He knows his players. He knows what they need, and what they can give him or can’t give him, each and every game. He didn’t just make lineup decisions and pitching changes. He managed the club. He managed their personalities, their insecurities, and their egos. He managed to maximize their strengths and hide their weaknesses. He took the blame when they failed, and deflected all the praise to them when they succeeded. He was fiercely loyal to his players, and in turn they were fiercely loyal to him. 

I’ve never heard of a manager retirement ceremony like this, where so many former players showed up to pay tribute, and I was very pleased to read this week that Giants President of Baseball Operations Farhan Zaidi walked away from Sunday’s ceremony similarly impressed. As Hank Schulman wrote this week:

As Farhan Zaidi watched Sunday’s farewell ceremony at Oracle Park, he was struck by the affection that five dozen current and former players showed Bruce Bochy.

That scene fortified what he already felt from working with other managers in Oakland and Los Angeles, that the most important trait he can find in Bochy’s replacement is a leader who forges close ties with his players and front-office partners, in that order.

It’s going to be deeply, deeply weird to see another manager leaning on that rail next season, and I will miss Boch something awful. But I am hopeful the next manager will have many of the same qualities. He’s sure got a big hat to fill. -TOB


Bochy Made The Giants Easy To Love

As my Twins set out to try to stop a 13-game playoff losing streak in the Bronx, the ultimate fantasy of any fan has officially come to an end in San Francisco. Bruce Bochy has managed his last game for the Giants, and while it’s been five years since the Giants won the last of three World Series under Bochy, his departure stamps it official. 

I am lucky to have lived in a place when a team goes on an extended run like that. Nothing brings a community together like a postseason run. To hear cheers and expletives from the apartments across the street, or the bar down the block erupt in celebration. It’s the best. No matter where life takes me, I will always think of San Francisco on a warm fall evening with the restaurants and bars, windows open, filled with people watching a Giants playoff game. It’s when the most beautiful city in the world felt most alive. 

The Giants were easy to root for, and Bochy was perhaps the easiest of all to like. Aside from liking him, Claire McNear writes that Boch signals the end of an era: 

But the time for dynastic managers like Bochy has nearly ended. At the start of the 2019 season, just five of 30 managers in Major League Baseball had been leading their teams for more than four seasons. The ability of a manager to wield much decision-making power has shriveled as front offices have taken ever more control over the on-field product. The grounds for firing have likewise grown: The Cubs, for instance, seem all but certain to part ways with Joe Maddon, who led the Northsiders to their first championship in 108 years in 2016 and a playoff berth in each of his first four years with the team, and nearly—OK, kinda—a fifth one this fall. It’s not enough; for most teams now, it’s not clear what could ever be.

And yet the Giants remained Bochy’s for 12 years, through seasons great and dismal, through the lost causes and the should’ve-made-it years alike, through the period when the team’s unofficial slogan was “Giants Baseball: Torture” and through the years that ended with parades. In his hands, baseball felt like something older, less fragile: Sometimes there are crap years and sometimes great ones, and neither will last forever.

Of course winning cures all, but there’s something crucially irrational to the best fan experience. There’s a romance in putting trust in a guy that talks about the baseball gods while not denying the value in some statistics that don’t appear on the back of baseball cards from another century. 

With Bochy, I always got a good feeling, and his teams were made up of dudes that were easy to like – Tim Lincecum, Madison Bumgarner, and Buster were the best of the best, but the characters like Hunter Pence, Marco Scutaro, Pablo Sandoval, Sergio Romo, Javy Lopez, and many more were intensely adored. To a man, their respect and adulation for Bochy has been unwavering. 

A baseball season is a long haul, and you gotta like the team if you’re really going to follow them through all those games. I always liked rooting for the Giants, and I am realizing today that Bruce Bochy had a lot to do that.  -PAL 

Source: Bruce Bochy Bids Farewell”, Claire McNear, The Ringer (09/27/19)

TOB: Great stuff, buddy.


CHANGE YOUR FLIGHT, PHIL

As you may know, Phil’s Minnesota Twins won 101 (!!!) games this season, and set the all-time MLB record for home runs by a team, with 307. This is their first appearance in a division series since 2010. And I’m guessing Phil hasn’t been to a Twins home playoff game since…if not the early 2000s, then…maybe ever?

So last week I texted him about an idea for plans this weekend and he said he can’t, he’ll be in Minnesota. Wow, I think, the sonofagun is really flying home to see the Twins play. Good for him.

So I checked the Twins schedule, and they play in New York Friday and Saturday and host the Yankees Monday. So, I asked when he leaves, and if it’s on Saturday, maybe we can meet up and watch Game 1 Friday:

“Flying Friday, flying back Monday.”

“You’re not going to Game 3!?”

“Got flight before this!”

“Dude CHANGE IT. You have my permission.”

He did not address my demand. Folks, if you have Phil’s phone number or e-mail address, please reach out. Tell him to change his flight to Tuesday, and tell him to enjoy the hell out of that game, in person. -TOB


Belichick Shows Another Side of Patriot Way

Here’s a fun little nugget about Bill Belichick, courtesy of Patriots receiver Julian Edelman. 

For all the attention to detail, dedication, and focus Belichick is known for, the coach apparently thinks the rules don’t apply to him. We’re not talking meaningless, harmless rules, folks. No, we’re talking about the types of rules that, when someone ignores them, the only correct response is ‘OH COME ON, DUDE!”

I just so happen to walk by the hot tub and coach is in the hot tub. Obviously, I came in the room to go in the hot tub. But then we made eye contact and my natural instinct was to turn around like I was gonna leave. But then I saw that he saw that I was in there and then he got up and got out and real, real big party foul by coach. We’re supposed to have shorts on. Supposed to have shorts. But I guess at 11 o’clock, when you’re the GOAT of coaching you go wherever you want, free—free ball. So I had to hide my absolute face of terror after seeing what I saw and sit in the hot tub.

Birthday suit in a hot tub that’s not your own? Not cool, Bill. Can a reporter please, please, please ask him about using a team hot tub in the nude during the next press conference? 

Also, is there anyone that loves anything as much as Julian Edelman loves being on the Patriots and being in the vicinity of Tom Brady? – PAL 

Source: Julian Edelman Tells Detailed Story About an Awkward Encounter With Bill Belichick”, Jimmy Traina, SI.com (10/02/19)


Sports Illustrated, Placed In Trashcan Outside, Waits for Trash Day

Yesterday, 40% of an already depleted staff at SI was laid off. This is not shocking. The iconic magazine had been sold twice in the last two years, and now is in the hands of a company that, per Bryan Curtis of The Ringer, manages the images of dead celebrities like Ali and Marilyn Monroe. 200 contractors will replace the full-time writers and staffers. And that’s the way SI turns this around – by building cheaper, less qualified workforce.

Of course, the goal for its parent company is to wring out, not build up. It will extract whatever drips of value that remain until there’s nothing left, and then SI will I guess be officially classified as waste.

I have little to offer other than a few ideas. You shouldn’t see today’s awfulness as a single event—“the day SI died.” You should see it as the latest in a series of awful events. SI laid off a lot of people in 2015, 2016, and 2017. Spare a thought for the people who lost their jobs back then. They weren’t treated any fairer than the writers who got the sack today.

Of course it was a long time coming. And instead of using this minute of your day to bemoan the death of the newspaper and print (we all saw it coming for 20 years and, at most, we subscribed to a paper, so all of us should not saddle up on the high horse on this one), I only would like to speak to the joy of monoculture (with a hat-tip to Chuck Klosterman). Monoculture wasn’t lost this week either, but this was just a kick to the ribs to make sure it was dead (it is).

Now sports content is a lot about breaking stories and uploading highlights as immediately as possible. It’s takes on takes on takes (talking heads on any of the sports networks). It’s analysts with TelePrompTers showing us the nuance of run-blocking and route-running and super slo-mo instant replay.

The highlight piece of the current sports landscape is incredible – let’s not overlook that. Being told something awesome happened somewhere – anywhere – in the sports world and immediately finding video evidence is so gratifying…and at once tossed into the trash. Onto the next. Always next. Always right now.

There is something lost in binging on sports content. The idea, one SI represented, that something noteworthy happened in sports and world-class writer had a few days to write about it, and then we all read the piece, and then we all talked about it – that part of monoculture is not without value or merit.

Of course, we find ourselves in miniature versions of that place through various art ant entertainment – pretty much everyone I know read Unbroken or a Malcom Gladwell book, and now millions of people (and a good chunk of my friends) listen to the same podcasts as I do.

But finding likeminded folks is very different than an authority like an SI editor telling sports fans what’s worth reading about and who’s words should describe the topics worth our time. It’s important to share experiences with people who don’t see the world – even the sports world – the same way as I do.

And of course the irony of Bryan Curtis writing a column about the death of Sports Illustrated on for a sports and pop culture website run by Bill Simmons is not lost on any of us.

A couple weeks ago I was listening to this interview with a person whose expertise is waste. The economy of waste, the operations of waste, shipping patterns, etc.; in other words, what happens the moment we put the garbage out and never think of it again. It was fascinating, surprisingly complex, and shockingly lucrative (I guess I should’ve learned that lesson from The Sopranos). Reading this story about SI layoffs reminded me of that interview. – PAL

Source Crueler and Dumber by the Day: On ‘Sports Illustrated’ and a Dark Media LandscapeBryan Curtis, The Ringer (10/03/19)


Another NBA Rap Battle

Somehow, Shaq and Dame Lillard got into a rap beef this week. Ok, well, Dame was on a podcast and said Shaq wasn’t a good rapper in his day, but was popular because he was Shaq. Which, fair. But Shaq came out of retirement, and I gotta tell ya – it’s not awful! In fact, it’s pretty good, especially for a guy approaching 50. 

Dame’s retort:

Ok, Dame probably wins, but it’s closer than I’d have thought. The Ringer’s Shaker Samman does a good job breaking it all down. -TOB

Source: Is This a Thing? Dame Lillard and Shaq’s Rap Beef”, Shaker Samman, The Ringer (10/3/2019)


More Bochy Stuff

We read a lot of stuff this week on Bruce Bochy, here are a few of our favorites:

Saying Goodbye to Bruce Bochy and the Golden Era of Giants Baseball”, Grant Brisbee, The Athletic (09/29/2019)

For Tim Lincecum, and So Many Others, the Ultimate Giants Reunion Was a Celebration of Bruce Bochy’s Legacy”, Andrew Baggarly, The Athletic (09/29/2019)

Stop Celebrating Bruce Bochy’s 2,000th Victory”, Ray Ratto, Deadspin (09/19/2019)


Video of the Week


Tweet of the Week


Song of the Week: Kamasi Washington – “Leroy and Lanisha”

 

 


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He’s a linebacker. Skill positions only for Donna Meagle. 

-Donna Meagle

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