ARLINGTON – In his short time as a baseball executive, Rangers General Manger Chris Young has found a tried-and-true sales pitch. They talk a lot about pillars in Arlington, and Young’s sales pitch is built on two of them: transparency and honesty. About where the Rangers are and, more importantly, about where they aspire to go.
The pitch – along with massive salary figures – sold the likes of Jon Gray, Corey Seager and Marcus Semien last offseason. When Young hopped on a plane less than two weeks ago heading for Nashville, he planned to use the pitch again, hoping it would reel in its most important target to date.
For seven hours, Young pitched to Bruce Bochy, a three-time World Series champion who hadn’t managed in three years. He also caught up with his former manager, shared some laughs, and then ate some sandwiches that Bochy’s wife, Kim, had whipped up.
“We talked for hours,” Bochy said, “and I was sold after that.”
For a career starting pitcher, Young’s not a bad closer.
The Rangers ushered in a new era on Monday when they introduced Bochy as the franchise’s next manager. He put on his No. 15 uniform for the first time and was handed a blue Rangers hat from Young. Bochy, nicknamed “Headly” for his size 8 1/8th hat size, joked about testing to see if the hat was a fit or not. Once he deemed it was, he smiled.
The moment was appropriate, considering the reason why Bochy decided to return to managing and put off a potential Hall of Fame induction in the near future.
“I said, ‘If I’m going to jump back in the fire, it had to be the right fit,” Bochy said.
Regarding Young’s meeting with Bochy, Rangers owner Ray Davis later said, “If it didn’t light a fire for Bochy, then it fanned it and got it burning.”
From the moment the Rangers decided to move on from former manager Chris Woodward, speculation turned toward Bochy. The Rangers had already poured money into a new stadium and an updated roster. After nearly 200 losses the last two seasons, there was urgency around the franchise to find a manager who could help them win now, and Bochy seemed like a logical fit.
Being a former player of Bochy’s, Young knew firsthand that Bochy had the capabilities to get the most out of his players, which was a core ability Young and the rest of the Rangers front office wanted to identify in their next manager. He had spoken fondly of Bochy in interviews before this past season had ended. Still, Young wanted to ensure his first managerial search was thorough and not blinded by past experience.
They developed a short list of candidates, Young said, but there was one name at the top.
“It was one of the things I told [Bochy] when I offered him the job: I said I’m not doing this because I loved you when I played for you, I’m doing this because we believe you’re the right person to lead us into the future,” Young recalled.
“That’s what this decision was about.”
The only question: would Bochy want it? The 67-year-old had been around the game the last three years, working as a consultant for his former club, the San Francisco Giants. He even told 105.3 The Fan [KRLD-FM] on Monday that other teams had checked his managerial “appetite,” but the fire didn’t match the fit.
When Young first called this offseason, inquiring about Bochy’s potential interest, Bochy admitted that his interest immediately perked up. Then they started talking more, leading to the pitch in Nashville.
“We talked many hours about the team and the culture he wanted to create,” Bochy said of his visit with Young. “And I was in. I could see and feel the passion and commitment that he has to building a winning culture here and bringing winning baseball back to Rangers fans, and I was all in on that.”
Bochy signed a three-year deal to manage the franchise he once beat in the 2010 World Series to win his first championship as a manager – a fact he tried to dodge until it was brought up. The terms of his deal weren’t disclosed, but for context: he earned $6 million in his final season in San Francisco, which is more than Woodward earned in four years with the Rangers combined.
With Young as an executive – initially alongside former President of Baseball Operations Jon Daniels, and now solo – the Rangers have shown no hesitation when it comes to buying pieces they believe can help them win.
Baseball transactions, however, have proven to be a two-way street. A sales pitch has to come with a purchase, and in acquiring his top managerial target, Young’s tried-and-true pitch worked again.
“I’m very, very grateful that he chose us,” Young said of Bochy.
On Twitter: @JoeJHoyt