But with the San Francisco Giants winning two World Series titles in three seasons, it has become a legitimate question to ask: Is Bruce Bochy the game's best manager?
The numbers say this:
Look around: Joe Torre is an MLB executive. Tony La Russa, Bobby Cox and Lou Piniella have left the dugout for other pursuits. And it's Bochy, 57, who unassumingly has stepped into the void.
"His track record speaks for itself,'' Leyland said. "He's one of the best in all of baseball. There's no question. He's a tremendous manager. He's everything that's good about baseball managers. He does it the right way. He's terrific.''
Added Giants left-hander Barry Zito: "He gets a lot of credit. But I think he's due even more.''
Which is pretty much what you hear from anybody around the Giants when you mention Bochy's name. But this is all you'll get out of Bochy when you try to single him out from among the club's success story:
"I count my blessings,'' he said. "I'm blessed to be in a situation where we can win. I'm thankful for (Giants general manager) Brian Sabean bringing in players to help us win. For me to be the manager here, I know how lucky I am. You have to have the personnel to win, and we did.''
And so there will be no more mentions of 'Bochy' and 'under-the-radar' in the same sentence. But for so many years, that's the way it was — in part because that's the way Bochy prefers it.
He speaks in a gravelly, Sam Elliott-deep voice, keeps it simple, direct and professional with media, and always deflects credit. But if you know him well enough, his dry sense of humor does come out.
"He's laid-back, he's relaxed, he has a good time, and he trusts us,'' Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford said.
Added Leyland: "He's got a nice, calming influence about himself. (But) you know who's in charge.''
Bochy was 40 when he got his first chance as a big-league manager with the San Diego Padres back in 1995. Randy Smith, then the youngest general manager in the game at 31, elevated Bochy from the Padres' coaching staff.
"I'm very appreciative of Randy Smith taking a chance on somebody who didn't have any experience at managing in the major leagues,'' Bochy said. "He said, 'I want you to be my manager.' I'll never forget it, that moment that he told me.''
Two years later, the Padres won the NL West, and four years later, they were NL champions before being swept by the New York Yankees, who won the second of their four titles in five seasons (1996-2000).
The Padres let Bochy walk after the 2006 regular season despite four division titles in 12 years, and that World Series hadn't even concluded when Sabean — shocked that Bochy was available — hired him on Oct. 27.
What has blossomed in the ensuing years is one of closest manager/general manager relationships in the game. Bochy and Sabean are friends off the field, live in the same condominium building a block from AT&T Park, and talk often about the game, and their team.
"We spend a lot of time talking baseball,'' Bochy said. "It's something special for me because I have somebody I can talk to about the game, and he always asks about players. We're not always in agreement, sure, but it's nice to have the availability of your general manager on a consistent basis, which I do.''
That communication was invaluable this season, when the Giants faced a handful of personnel challenges and obstacles, bringing out arguably Bochy's best managing job.
Closer Brian Wilson made only two appearances before being lost for the year, forcing Bochy to run through Santiago Casilla, a closer-by-committee arrangement, and then Sergio Romo down the stretch in the closer role. But then again, handling a bullpen always has been Bochy's specialty.
The nation grieved for those hurt, killed and affected by the Boston Marathon bombings. After one of the suspects was caught on Friday — following a day-long lockdown and manhunt — sports returned to Boston over the weekend.
So what are Bochy's chances for a third World Series title in the near-future — one that would put him in the managerial pantheon with Casey Stengel and Joe McCarthy (7); Connie Mack (5); Joe Torre and Walter Alston (4); Sparky Anderson, Miller Huggins, John McCraw and Tony La Russa (3)?
The Giants' payroll climbed to a record $131 million this season, and that doesn't include the $12 million they had to pay Aaron Rowand. Fortunately for them, that deal has expired.
Just as their was much turnover between the 2010 and 2012 titles, there are certain to be changes made this winter. But the core will remain intact.
Matt Cain is signed to a six-year, $127.5-million long-deal that will keep him in place through at least 2017. Madison Bumgarner's six-year, $35-million deal kicks in next season. Pablo Sandoval has two years and $14 million left on his deal.
Ryan Vogelsong has a year and and a 2014 option at very reasonable prices. Tim Lincecum has one year left at $23 million. Barry Zito has one year left at $20 million. And you have to think a long-term deal is coming for likely NL MVP Buster Posey.
Potential free agents whom the Giants are likely to try to re-sign include Hunter Pence, Angel Pagan, Marco Scutaro, and Jeremy Affeldt. Those who aren't likely to return are Cabrera, Aubrey Huff and Freddy Sanchez.
Brian Wilson's career also will be at a crossroads next season, when he tries to return from his second major surgery. But there is little doubt that barring major injuries, the Giants' pitching-and-defense model will make them serious playoff contenders again in 2013.
DPS: MLB executive Joe Torre talks to Dan Patrick about instant replay in baseball. Torre says that the game isn't perfect, but there are limits as to what instant replay should be used for. He draws the line at using it for balls and strikes.
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