Bruce Bochy didn't feel like the major leagues' winningest active manager Wednesday morning.
So when a visitor strode into the manager's spacious clubhouse office to talk about the art of leadership, Bochy greeted him with a firm handshake and a wan expression.
"Great timing on your part, talking to me now," he said. "Because I'm not very smart right now."
Four hours later, though, Bochy was a genius again. His successful challenge of an innocent-looking play at the plate opened the floodgates for a seven-run inning, his team's biggest inning in nearly two years, that stopped the Giants' slide.
The manager hadn't thrown a pitch, swung a bat or caught a ball, yet his fingerprints were all over the victory just the same. The pinch-runner he inserted in the seventh inning wound up scoring the tying run. The pinch-hitter he used four batters later chased the opposing starter, then scored. And the relievers retired six of the seven batters they faced.
But most important, the manager had refused to let the Giants quit despite their recent free fall. Baseball can be a fickle game and Bochy's success comes from riding out the glories and the failures in the same stoic manner.
"He's got a lot of poise. When your leader is a rock, it leaks into your team," said Hunter Pence, who has played for five managers.
"He speaks, people listen. He's a game changer," said pitcher Jake Peavy, who played for four other men.
Bochy's peers agree, with a recent poll of NL managers selecting Bochy as the best in the league. Then there's what the numbers say, namely that he's a Hall of Fame manager in waiting.
With the Giants' comeback victory over Philadelphia on Saturday, Bochy has won 1,594 games in 20 seasons, more than Hall of Fame managers Dick Williams, Earl Weaver, Miller Huggins and Whitey Herzog and nearly 300 more than any other current manager. Barring another losing streak, he'll soon pass Tom Lasorda for 19th place on the all-time list for victories.
Of the 18 managers ahead of him on that list, 13 are in the Hall of Fame. And if the Giants win the NL pennant this season — they've won two of the last three — he'll become the 23nd manager to win more than three league championships.
The other 22 have plaques in Cooperstown.
"He's very quietly putting together a Hall of Fame career," said the Angels' Mike Scioscia, the second-winningest active manager. "When you talk about Joe Torre, about Tony La Russa, about Bobby Cox, about guys that have made it, Boch is going to be right there when it's all said and done.
"And it will be very deserving if he gets in."
Bochy waves away such praise, refusing to even utter the words "Hall of Fame." For him the victories and the titles inspire thoughts of simple human mortality more than they conjure comparisons to baseball immortality.
"When I'm told how long I've been managing or the wins, I just don't know where the time went," he said. "This is what I love to do and it's hard to believe I've been doing this since 1995."
At 59, Bochy's graying beard speaks to the passage of time while his stiff, shuffling gait bears testimony to a youth spent squatting behind the plate, taking fastballs and foul balls off any place that wasn't protected. He didn't set out to be a manager, but after an unspectacular 14-year career in which he caught for three major league teams and passed through more minor league cities than Greyhound, he was coaxed into retiring as a player in 1989 when the Padres offered him the job as manager of their rookie league affiliate in Spokane, Wash.
The team won the title that summer, the first of three for Bochy in four minor league seasons.
"He's one of those guys that has incredible instincts," said Arizona Diamondbacks General Manager Kevin Towers, a former teammate who was Bochy's pitching coach in Spokane and later his general manager in San Diego. "As a backup catcher he spent all those years watching the game, studying the game."