KANSAS CITY – This has been no ordinary title quest for San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy. It has major long-term ramifications.
Bochy is trying to lead the Giants to their third championship in five years, which is significant enough on its own. But there is plenty at stake on a personal level for Bochy, who came to San Francisco in 2007 from San Diego after 12 years at the helm of the Padres.
There have been nine managers who have won a World Series three or more times, and Bochy tonight will try to become the 10th. Of the previous nine, all have been inducted into the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.
Casey Stengel and Joe McCarthy lead the all-time list with seven championships, followed by Connie Mack (5), Joe Torre (4), Walter Alston (4), Tony La Russa (3), Sparky Anderson (3), John McGraw (3) and Miller Huggins (3). Bochy could join Alston and McGraw as the only men to win three from the National League.
Bochy, 59, said this kind of run was beyond his wildest dreams when he arrived in San Francisco in 2007. But the work of General Manager Brian Sabean has paved the route after Bochy’s first two years produced records of 71-91 and 72-90.
“You’re certainly hoping for success and helping to get your team to the World Series,” Bochy said. “Now for us to be here three times in five years, I don’t know if anybody would say that’s my dream because of how hard it is to get here. But to get to postseason, yeah.
“Brian and I knew we had to change some things. The team was getting a little bit older. We wanted to get a little more on the pitching and defensive side instead of trying to slug it out with the other club, and that works more in our division with the ballparks. These guys have amazed me with what they have accomplished. I’ve had a good group.”
Strangely enough, Bochy’s overall record in regular season play is just 14 games over .500 (1,618-1,604). But after Tuesday’s loss he is 41-30 in the postseason, including 33-18 with the Giants. Bochy was denied his 10th straight postseason series victory, a list that counts this year’s National League wild-card game and would have put him one behind Torre (1998-2001) for the all-time record.
The Royals were thrilled to get designated hitter Billy Butler back in the lineup for Game Six after he had just one at-bat during the three games in San Francisco because pitchers hit under NL rules.
“It’s a big comfort to us,” said manager Ned Yost. “Billy is a big presence in that lineup offensively for us. Right in the middle of the lineup, he’s been a proven run producer. It’s just a big comfort level having him back in there.”
Butler has played at least 150 games for the Royals for six straight years. He hit .271 in the regular season with nine homers and 66 RBIs. He entered Tuesday batting .265 in the postseason. Butler went 1 for 4 Tuesday night, an RBI double.
A few hours prior to Game Six, the Toronto Blue Jays announced an interesting waiver acquisition that could impact the Buffalo Bisons. With Adam Lind likely to be traded, Toronto claimed switch-hitting first baseman Justin Smoak from Seattle. Smoak, 28, was Texas’ No. 1 draft pick in 2008 and the key chip sent to the Mariners in the 2010 trade for Cliff Lee.
Smoak was the Mariners’ regular first baseman from 2011 to 2013, but never hit better than .238 in any season. He had a career-high 20 home runs in 2013, and a career-high 55 RBIs in 2011. He split last year between 80 rough games in Seattle (.202-7-30) and 56 much better ones at Triple-A Tacoma (.337-7-40).
Smoak doesn’t project to be Toronto’s starting first baseman, although he could be a bench player. Were he not to make the big leagues, however, he would certainly line up to be a potentially key lineup piece in Buffalo.
In other Bisons-related news, several reports say Boston Red Sox bench coach and Buffalo Baseball Hall of Famer Torey Lovullo is one of the final two choices to become manager of the Minnesota Twins. Lovullo, who had a second interview Monday, is considered an underdog in the battle for the job with Hall of Famer and Minnesota native Paul Molitor.
There is obviously huge cachet attached to the name of Molitor, who has never managed and was a coach on Ron Gardenhire’s staff this season. Lovullo, meanwhile, is widely respected around the game as a tactician and big believer in utilizing analytics.
He played for the Bisons from 1995 to 1998 and managed them from 2006 to 2008. He has been a minor-league manager or big-league coach with Cleveland, Toronto and Boston since 2002.
The Twins are not believed to be interested in meeting the potential price that former Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon is looking to earn, and will finish their process this week without bringing Maddon into it.
Lovullo is looking to become the second former Bison to get a big-league gig this month. Pittsburgh bench coach Jeff Banister, a catcher for the Herd in 1990-91, was hired last week to manage the Texas Rangers.