Tuesday, June 28, 2005 | An icon, Tony Gwynn, has moved on into retirement.
An MVP, Ken Caminiti, has come and gone, tragically losing his life in a battle with drugs and alcohol.
A massive ego, Rickey Henderson, has come and gone, returning with a warm-and-fuzzy image in San Diego while playing for a new independent minor league franchise in town.
But through all the different rosters, the balancing of egos and the rides up and down the win-loss columns, Bruce Bochy has remained the Padres’ stabilizing presence.
No less an authority than Sandy Alderson, the newly arrived CEO who once ran the Oakland A’s with cool efficiency before taking an executive position with Major League Baseball, has decided San Diego baseball wouldn’t be the same without Bochy Ball. Alderson and the Padres last week signed Bochy to a two-year extension.
Knowing Bochy’s track record, especially when he has talent to match up with the remainder of baseball, it means he’ll be the manager in San Diego for his 12th and 13th straight seasons in 2006 and 2007.
Bochy is in his 23rd season overall with the franchise as a player, coach and manager. He has been a part of all three postseason teams, playing backup catcher on the 1984 World Series team and serving as the manager of the 1996 team that won the National League West as well as the 1998 team that again won the National League West and advanced to the World Series.
Bochy Ball means a fun clubhouse with few controversies and players who keep their focus on the game and the fans, even though this is an era when egos have run amok.
“Bruce Bochy is a player’s manager,” said Mark Loretta, the Padres’ All-Star second baseman. “I’ve unfortunately played for a lot of managers because I’ve moved from team to team, and he’s the best manager I’ve played for. As a player, you want a manager who lets you put on your uniform and do your job. That’s what Bruce does. He gives us an opportunity to be ourselves, but he always has control of the team.”
There was no better evidence of Bochy’s presence in the clubhouse and dugout than when Henderson played in San Diego in 1996, 1997 and 2001. Bochy took one of the most egocentric athletes in baseball and made him loveable in San Diego.
Chicago Cubs manager Dusty Baker could have used some advice from Bochy last year on how to handle Sammy Sosa before their divorce. Same with Angels manager Mike Soscia and Jose Guillen, who had their blowup and parting of ways.
Henderson is a guy who, during his time with the New York Mets, could be found playing cards in the clubhouse in the late innings of games. That was his form of protest for not being in the lineup.
Remember Henderson’s glory days with the Oakland A’s? He was the guy brazenly holding up a base and stealing a line from Muhammad Ali by proclaiming himself the greatest after breaking the career record for stolen bases. He also was the guy crying on ESPN when he explained how upset he was that the A’s didn’t reward him with a six-figure sports car in addition to his multi-million dollar contract.
Grace is not in Henderson’s nature, yet somehow he played a quiet yet productive role with the Padres in 1996 and 1997, a time when the Padres were asking him to share left field.
The warm-and-fuzzy image San Diegans have of Henderson allowed the San Diego Surf Dawgs to sign him and market him as a way to sell tickets.
“We don’t have too many rules here,” said Mark Sweeney, the Padres’ versatile star off the bench. “That’s Bruce Bochy. He expects you to have respect for the community and understand that you respect the game and the people you play in front of.”
That’s Bochy Ball. It may sound old-fashioned in today’s era, but it keeps baseball fresh in this town that loves the game.
“He is San Diego baseball,” Loretta said. “Hopefully he’ll be running this team for a long time.”
Tom Shanahan has been writing about San Diego athletes at the professional, collegiate and high school levels for 27 years. He is the media coordinator for the San Diego Hall of Champions (