SAN FRANCISCO — Chris Young, the executive vice president and general manager of the Texas Rangers, didn’t try very hard to hide how grateful he is that Bruce Bochy took his offer to become the organization’s next manager. But as Young introduced Bochy on Monday afternoon in Arlington, it was another member of the family who received some of his kindest words.
“As I start here, I want to first recognize Kim Bochy,” Young said. “When we saw you in Nashville, I said to you that you’re equally important in this process to us.”
Kim was there with Bruce every step of the way in San Francisco. There were three titles, but also a sharp downturn over the final three seasons, along with multiple health scares and an emotional and sometimes awkward retirement tour.
As they settled into life after baseball, the Bochys moved to Nashville to be closer to their grandchildren, and that’s where Young found them earlier this month as he chased a hire that will define his tenure with the Rangers one way or another.
The Bochys have two adult sons, and Bruce said both were “all in” on him returning.
“My wife,” he said, smiling, “I had to convince her a little bit more.”
Kim ultimately got on board, and Monday it became clear that her husband was at that point the entire time.
After three seasons away, Bochy said he felt great physically and knew the fire was still there to be a manager. He said he had “a wonderful time” with his family, but the more he watched the game, the more he missed it. When Young called and set up a visit, Bochy knew he would likely end up back in a dugout.
“I know some have asked why,” Bochy said Monday. “Well, the simple answer is I miss this game.”
That always was going to be the case for Bochy, who has spent most of his adult life on the top step of a dugout.
There was nothing that escaped him in 13 years with the Giants, and that was particularly true in the spring of 2019, when Bochy made life a bit easier for the new president of baseball operations and announced his retirement before the season, allowing Farhan Zaidi to have an unobstructed path to his own hire.
That year was filled with pre-game ceremonies, certificates for fishing trips and bottles of wine, but Bochy treated it like any other. The fire didn’t burn quite the way it did when the Giants were truly in contention, but it was still there, and it was impossible to fully extinguish.
Young experienced that firsthand in 2006 when he was a pitcher for Bochy’s San Diego Padres, and when the Rangers fired Chris Woodward in August, Young put together a short list of potential candidates to be their next manager.
It had been 20 years since the Rangers hired a manager with previous managerial experience, and Young knew this team needed a different approach. As he called fellow executives around the game and picked their brains, Bochy’s name kept coming up.
“He was the perfect candidate for this job,” Young said.
Young visited Nashville earlier this month and then returned a few days later with Rangers owner Ray Davis, who joked that he initially had a hard time getting over the 2010 World Series. Davis said he realized right away that Bochy had done his homework after Young’s initial seven-hour visit. When Davis arrived, he felt right away that Bochy knew as much or more about the Rangers and their prospects as he did.
“It took about 10 minutes into the process where I was sold,” Davis said.
Bochy was, too, but he did have some boxes to check during negotiations. Over the past three years he had quietly kept an eye on potential openings. There was a common thread to the organizations he talked to friends about: They were all contenders.
The Rangers haven’t been to the postseason since 2016. They haven’t finished above .500 since that season, and after spending half a billion on Corey Seager and Marcus Semien last winter, they won just 68 games. But Young pitched Bochy on a much brighter future.
The Rangers bolstered their lineup last offseason and plan to spend on pitching this winter, with Jacob deGrom and Carlos Rodón looming as possibilities. They have six of MLB Pipeline’s top 100 prospects in the minors and the sixth-ranked farm system overall, per Baseball America.
“If I’m going to jump back into the fire, it had to be the right fit,” Bochy said. “After the many conversations that [Young] and I had, that was pretty evident. We talked many hours about the team and the culture that he wanted to create, and I was in. I could see and feel the passion and commitment that he has to building a winning culture here and bringing winning baseball back to the fans.”
The Rangers’ “culture” came up several times during a half-hour press conference, and above all, that might be what the organization is counting on with this hire. Bochy walked through the doors with 2,000 wins and three rings, along with the wind at his back thanks to other recent hires.
In the same division, Dusty Baker has the Houston Astros four wins away from another title. Bochy watched this season as Bob Melvin helped the Padres get over the hump and Buck Showalter led the New York Mets to the playoffs. The game is cyclical, and right now there again seems to be an acknowledgement that, yes, experience still matters.
In San Francisco, Bochy had a reputation for managing by his gut, but he was an early adopter of analytics, embracing platoons and late-innings mixing-and-matching long before most others. On Monday, Bochy admitted the game has changed, even in his three years away.
He said he wants all the information from his staff that he can get and hopes to get a long look at younger players in spring training. But he also plans to focus on some areas that might be considered more “old school.”
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Bochy said the Rangers need to be fundamentally sound on defense and in running the bases. They need to commit to developing a winning and positive culture. His main focus, he said, will be on communication.
“I don’t want to treat these players as numbers,” he said. “They’re not robots. I want to know them.”
Over 25 years as a manager, he did that as well as anybody. The leadership skills led to three titles for the Giants, but all involved Monday admitted that the Rangers have a long way to go. They feel they took a huge step in hiring Bochy, though.
As a thunderstorm pounded Bochy’s new $1.1 billion office, he put on a baseball jersey and hat for the first time in three years. As he sat back down, he flashed a wide smile.
“I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t want to help bring a championship to Texas,” Bochy said. “I know we have some work to do, but I can tell you I’m all in. I’m all in on this.”
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