“Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.”
Baseball lifers, obviously, have a hard time leaving the game for good. Even when they step away, sometimes seemingly for the last time, they find their way back.
On Friday, the Rangers announced the hiring of Bruce Bochy as the franchise’s 20th full-time manager before officially introducing him on Monday. Next year will be the future Hall of Famer’s 26th season as a major league skipper after spending 12 years in San Diego and 13 years in San Francisco, where he won three World Series championships with the Giants.
Bochy has been away from a major league dugout since 2019, when he managed the Giants to a 77-85 record in his final season. Three years later, he’s back in the Rangers dugout.
Over recent years, the trend in managerial hires has been picking younger, analytical-thinking coaches from the staffs of successful veteran managers. See Davey Martinez here in Washington. See Brandon Hyde in Baltimore. See Alex Cora in Boston.
The emphasis has been forward-thinking minds that embrace advanced analytics.
But another trend has been some of those successful veteran managers returning after some time away from the game.
This has of course happened over the years. But in recent memory, you can go back over a decade to when Buck Showalter was appointed manager of the Orioles halfway through the 2010 season after being away from the managerial seat for four years.
Showalter repeated this just last year when he was hired as the Mets’ new manager three years removed from his last season in Baltimore.
Dusty Baker did it here in Washington. His 20th season as a major league manager came during his last season with the Reds in 2013 after also spending time with the Giants and Cubs. Two years later, he was hired as the new Nationals manager.
After two seasons in D.C., Baker spent two years away from baseball before returning at the helm of an Astros franchise surrounded by a sign-stealing scandal. He is currently managing them in their second straight World Series under his watch.
Terry Francona, after spending four seasons with the Phillies and winning two World Series titles over eight years with the Red Sox, took just one year off before accepting the job in Cleveland in 2013. Even after battling health issues over the past two years, the Guardians and Francona announced on Friday the skipper will return for his 11th season in Cleveland next year.
Tony La Russa returned to manage the White Sox for a second time 10 years removed from the end of his incredible run as Cardinals manager. But the 78-year-old only managed two more seasons in Chicago before (presumably) retiring for good.
There are currently three more managerial positions open with the White Sox, Royals and Marlins. Joe Maddon and Don Mattingly are two veteran managers available. However, they are not included in the Marlins’ reported final list of four candidates.
It remains to be seen if either Maddon or Mattingly will be considered for the two other open positions. And their decisions to return as managers might hinge on different factors. Length of contract, dollar amount, state of the roster and even the city play roles into whether or not veteran skippers want to keep managing or return from a hiatus.
This time of year every season brings questions about the managerial carousel. Teams in search of a new manager often try to find the new, young analytical mind to lead their clubs in today’s game.
But even so, some of the wily vets can’t seem to stay away from the game for too long.