COHN: Sandoval gets message from proven leader
Published: Monday, June 4, 2012 at 3:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, June 5, 2012 at 9:00 a.m.
SAN FRANCISCO — Giants manager Bruce Bochy is in a tough situation. It's all about Pablo Sandoval. How Bochy handles Sandoval is important — serious. Bochy will handle Sandoval just fine.
Here's the deal. The Giants aren't saying anything about Sandoval's legal issues which involve alleged sexual assault Friday night in Santa Cruz. In fact, they aren't saying much about Sandoval at all. We know Bochy had a private meeting with Sandoval Saturday morning, the morning after Sandoval's scrape, if you can even call it a scrape. I don't frankly know what to call it as Sandoval has not been charged with anything.
You can imagine — I do — Bochy pointedly asked Sandoval why he was partying late in Santa Cruz when he is supposed to be getting in shape for baseball, his chosen profession. I also think Bochy just might have mentioned Sandoval's weight. After going on a diet last season and explaining how he was eating several small meals a day in his daily battle to fight impending pounds, Sandoval has gained weight and resembles an elephant standing on its hind legs.
I bet Bochy told him to get his act together. Here's what Bochy said to reporters before Monday's 3-2 win over the Cubs.
“We have enough first basemen. We need to get (Sandoval) in shape to get him to third. I hope we're not forced to make a change. That's in Pablo's hands. He has to be able to make the plays that (Joaquin) Arias is making. Before he comes up here, it's not just his hitting. We have to see how he plays third base.”
That is a direct threat to Sandoval. Bochy is saying, “You're fat. You're in trouble. You've let us down. Get straight or we'll delay your return from the minors and you may not get back your position.”
After the game when someone asked if Sandoval got his message, Bochy said: “He's working hard down there. He's got to get ready not just with the bat, with the defense. We're going to make sure he's ready when he comes up here. This guy's going to make us a better club. We need to get him ready but we can't rush him. Meanwhile, Arias is doing a nice job there (third base). Got a big hit today, found a way to get a run in. He's doing a pretty nice job.”
I don't believe in a million years the Giants will replace Sandoval with Arias. Bochy needs Sandoval and he knows Sandoval knows it. But Bochy will not knuckle under to Sandoval. Bochy will bring him back under the right conditions and on his terms.
Because Bochy is a leader.
He commands respect from his players. You never could imagine a player getting in his face. You never could imagine Bochy letting Barry Bonds terrorize a clubhouse. And you feel, deep in your heart, if a player messes with Bochy, Bochy will handle him. Like, “Goodbye Miguel Tejada.”
Will Clark had this to say about Bochy:
“A sense of consistency in the clubhouse starts with the manager. That's what you get out of Bruce. If he's got something to say, it's always behind closed doors. He's not going to call anybody out in the paper. Because of that, he earns more respect from the players here in the clubhouse.”
An important note goes here. Clearly Bochy called out Sandoval publicly — very politely. That was after he had spoken privately to Sandoval. By speaking to the press, he was reinforcing his point, a point Sandoval needed to hear.
Here is Jeremy Affeldt on Bochy: “He just understands the pitchers he has and he can pitch them accordingly. He's not a manager that gets to put the same lineup out there every day, that's what makes it difficult. And every game is 2-1, so it's really hard to manage because every decision you make, whatever pitcher you put in or whatever hitter you send to pinch hit or whatever double switch you decide to do, it's not because you're up 10-2. It's a game on the line and one mistake you're out.
“And it's really tough on a manager to manage games that are close all the time, not just every now and then. All the time he knows he's going to deal with one-run games and I think the stress can be there and he's handled the stress pretty good.”
Does Bochy show stress?
“I don't think we show it. I don't think any athlete shows it, but it's there. It's there on us. And the decisions he makes, everybody looks to him. He makes the decision in the close game. In the National League you're doing more of that than in the American league.”
Here is Bochy on Bochy. Does he fret when things aren't going well?
“I don't think you're quite the same guy. You try to remain the same, look the same. But don't let that belie what's going on inside. You are thinking a little bit more when you're losing about things you can do to make the club better — lineup changes, maybe talking to the club. Now when things are going well and you're winning, you stay out of the way. You let them go and do their thing.”
When the team is not going well, does he become distracted at home?
“Well, I'm told I'm distracted a lot. I don't listen sometimes because you are constantly thinking about things with the club. I try not to take it home. I spend a lot of time here. Brian Sabean comes here after games and we'll talk about the club, what changes need to be made. There's no question after a tough loss or a few losses, you carry it with you a lot more than a player does.”
Bochy may feel stress like any normal person, but he does not convey stress. He conveys steadiness and control and leadership. That's what he must convey with his third baseman who signed a three-year, $17.15-million contract extension in January and promptly got fat and then got himself in trouble.
For more on the world of sports in general and the Bay Area in particular, go to the Cohn Zohn at cohn.blogs.pressdemocrat.com. You can reach Staff Columnist Lowell Cohn at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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