Bochy’s Choice

Bruce Bochy is fiercely loyal to his veteran players. This has made him a successful coach and beloved by his players. Case in point: in Jake Peavy’s first interview when he joined the Giants in 2014, he referred to Bochy as a “father figure” dating back to their days together on the Padres during the previous decade.

Today, as Peavy struggles with a staggering ERA hovering around 9, Giants fans wonder if Peavy’s nine lives in the starting rotation are coming to an end. But Bochy has only heaped respect and trust on Peavy, like a dad believing in his son.

This must be gut wrenching for Bochy, because Peavy is far from his only baseball child. Bochy and the Giants front office have difficult choices to consider regarding the fourth and fifth spots in their rotation. Today, another one of Bochy’s extended baseball family, Tim Lincecum, who some people credit with resurrecting the Giants franchise, is looking for work and having a showcase after hip surgery.

This is the same Tim Lincecum who not too long ago wasn’t just winning Cy Young’s for Bochy but was also willing to risk his health and put what some have seen as unhealthy strain on his body for the good of the team in the postseason om 2010. Bochy turned to Lincecum to come in from the bullpen on two days’ rest to pitch in the 8th inning of the close-out game against the Phillies. Timmy did this for Bochy that night and the Giants won that critical game and avoided having to take the series back to San Franciso. During that historic postseason in 2010, Lincecum also threw a two hit shutout in game one against the Braves and won the World Series deciding game against the Rangers. That final win prevented the Giants from facing a terrifying game six against the Rangers.(Can any Giants fan truly forget the agony of what happened in game 6 in the 2002 World Series against the Angels?) Without Lincecum’s clutch performance in Texas, that nightmarish game six failure might have reared its ugly head and echoed into 2010.

As a manager who takes pride in being loyal to his players, Bochy has not forgotten Timmy’s heroics and grit, and this must be a challenging time for Bochy to think about how he approaches this iteration of Timmy the Kid.

As the media asked questions last week, the Giants front office started their public comments on Timmy’s showcase with GM Bobby Evans saying that they are leaving a door open for Timmy as a potential reliever, but that their five starting spots were taken, essentially closing the door on him. But only this week, Bochy added that consideration would also be given to Lincecum to fill a potential starting spot that could open because of an injury. This could be a hint at the phantom ‘injury’ that sidelined Peavy early last season as he struggled. And last night after the Rockies pounded Matt Cain, Bochy admitted that the pitching rotation is something “they’ll talk about”.

This added comment hints at how much Bochy must be suffering on this Sophie’s Choice decision– to have to choose among Bochy Peavy, Lincecum  and even Matt Cain, as these heroes of Bochy’s past seek to find out what they have left while all still in their early 30’s (Lincecum and Cain are both 31 and Peavy is 34).

To add a layer of complexity: observing this is Madison Bumgarner, the best pitcher for Bochy right now. Like Lincecum, Bumgarner risked his health by pitching on two days rest in the post season, and he did this for a lot more innings than Lincecum did. Bumgarner must know that some day he may be in the same position as Lincecum, and I’m sure he’s watching this out of the corner of his eye.

The Giants were out of line when they said publicly before Timmy’s showcase that there is no room for him in their starting rotation right now. While they may feel they have to say this to show confidence in their current players, simply keeping silence on the issue would have been a more tactful way to pay respect to what Timmy has meant to the Giants.

Without Lincecum throwing his body all the way into the operating room, the Giants might still be looking for their first World Series win in San Francisco. Instead they seek their fourth title in seven seasons this year–and those last three championships must be in the forefront of the mind of a loyal player’s coach like Bochy.

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