The Giants just served notice on future Hall of Fame manager Bruce Bochy, fired a shot right across his battered bow.
Don’t be naive about the so-called reassignment of pitching coach Dave Righetti — pitching coach for 18 years, a Giant long before Bochy showed up, developed Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner. That Dave Righetti.
By reassigning (almost firing) Righetti along with bullpen coach Mark Gardner and assistant hitting coach Steve Decker, the Giants are saying Bochy can be next, is likely to be next, may never complete the two years remaining on his contract.
Don’t take my word for it. See what general manager Bobby Evans said about the reassignments in a recent conference call. Evans is a nice man who usually says nothing nicely. You never can sink your teeth into his words. This time you could take a giant bite.
“Ultimately, a change for us in the clubhouse is really an opportunity to put a new voice with our pitching staff and try to keep pushing to the heights we aspire to as an organization and club. Changes sometimes are needed as much for the sake of that new voice as anything, and that was really the priority here.”
Aside from that baloney about pushing the heights — after the astonishing lows the Giants pushed this season — what was Evans actually saying about Righetti, if you put his words into understandable, everyday language real people really speak?
He was saying Righetti and the pitching staff had stopped communicating with each other. Were speaking two different languages. Righetti, God love him, is an old-style baseball man. He didn’t have the vocabulary, the grammar to speak to young pitchers, and going forward, to a staff which needs rebuilding in the bullpen and, whether or not the Giants know it, in the starting rotation, too.
For what it’s worth, I agree with the Giants reassigning Righetti.
A well-placed source told me months ago the Giants worried about the diminishing communication between Righetti and his pitchers. For what it’s worth, I must add this. Righetti took the fall for a lot of people — although Bochy is on the edge of a cliff.
But let’s be real — Righetti didn’t run alongside Madison Bumgarner on the dirt bike and throw him off. Righetti didn’t give Johnny Cueto blisters. Righetti didn’t louse up Mark Melancon’s arm. Righetti didn’t start the season with no outfield. Oh, the Giants put three bodies out there, but you hardly could call that an outfield.
Righetti didn’t start the season with no third baseman. Righetti didn’t resort to the sadly diminished Pablo Sandoval out of sheer desperation. Righetti didn’t start the season with the overrated, overpaid and ineffectual Brandon Belt at first base. For his pathetic body language alone, the Giants should trade him.
Hey, Bobby Evans, all of that is on you and your voice. I’d include Brian Sabean in this disaster, but I’m retired and honestly don’t know what Sabean does for the Giants. At one time he was the best general manager in baseball. Evans isn’t. Maybe somebody should replace Evans’ voice which, in terms of smart solid baseball moves, has been a squeak.
But, OK, reassigning Righetti is fair, understandable and even desirable. What does this mean for Bochy?
It means Bochy lost one of his top generals, along with a few sergeants. It means Bochy is being isolated. The status of batting coach Bam Bam Meulens and bench coach Ron Wotus still is unclear. If they leave, Bochy gets more isolated. A monarch with no elite cadre supporting him, a monarch on an ice floe.
Now let’s talk about voices. Bochy’s voice in particular.
If Righetti’s voice didn’t exactly communicate, how was Bochy’s voice on a team that lost 98 games and never contended? Never mattered. The Bochy voice sure didn’t come in loud and clear. The Giants could correctly say about Bochy the same things they said about Righetti. Bochy didn’t communicate with the players. If you call what Bochy did communicating, heaven help the concept of communication.
Bochy is old. He’s old school and old style and maybe worn out, especially after multiple surgeries for his heart. Righetti is 58. Bochy is 62. Which makes his voice less current, more ancient than Righetti’s. Which puts Bochy on the spot.
Back to what Evans said on the conference call:
“At some level, you can enliven (the players’) focus and hopefully ultimately get the best out of them with new people working with them.”
Evans was pointing his finger directly at Bochy, Giants manager for 11 years going on 12. A glorious but exhausting reign. If the Giants find themselves in trouble next April or May, the Giants will reassign Bochy then and there.
You can call it a soft firing, but a firing nonetheless. They’ll reassign him to “senior consultant” or call him Manager Emeritus, something like that. Like they did with Felipe Alou. One way or another, it means, “You’re out, but we don’t want to embarrass you.”
I wish Bochy would just retire. Retire right now. Spare himself the final indignity. Spare us all.
You can reach Lowell Cohn at firstname.lastname@example.org.