Detroit — One lesson learned quickly this year about Ron Gardenhire is that he is as buttoned-down as any manager who ever has run the Detroit Tigers.
He grasps every facet of a complex job. He comes from a military family and understands the inviolate, linear applications of rank, assignment, duty, and fulfillment.
It made his dependency upon pitching coach Chris Bosio particularly fascinating.
And it made Bosio’s firing Wednesday more than the usual baseball news bomb, especially when it was revealed Bosio lost his job because of something he said internally that crossed any boundary the Tigers could accept.
This was news that turned a difficult season for which a team was bracing into something more unsettling. This was different from past years when Chuck Hernandez, or Rick Knapp, were shown the door for the reasons pitching coaches normally are fired.
It goes with the territory when dealings between them and their manager, or the front office, no longer make for comfortable clubhouse life.
But with Bosio, this wasn’t close to reality.
Gardenhire loved him. And, from all evidence and testimony, Tigers pitchers who had begun working with Bosio during the offseason positively adored the guy.
One after another the guys on the mound said that they sensed this was a man of vocation. Bosio knew his craft and knew how to teach. He had pitched 11 seasons in the big leagues and had experienced every moment they were confronting in a game, or in coming back from injury, or in battling hitters when seasons and careers all were at stake.
This is what you most thought about Wednesday as the Tigers fought to shake a seven-game losing streak. Their bullpen and starters have been crushed of late, and Bosio was something of a life buoy for pitchers who loved this bear of a man’s soothing way.
It’s safe to say the same feelings were shared by a manager.
“Boz,” as Gardenhire always referred to him, was clearly as close of an ally and lieutenant as Gardenhire could have in a new pitching coach. He of course knew of Bosio’s reputation even before Bosio pulled into Wrigley Field for a long stretch with a team on the rise. And he wanted him in his new adventure at Detroit after Bosio left the Cubs last autumn following a stint that was lengthy in the actuarial of pitching coaches.
So, they bonded, Bosio and his new manager. Rapidly. Gardenhire is commander-in-chief and, while good at delegating, he is too savvy to trust anyone with any task the skipper might better handle.
He instead leaned totally on Bosio’s eye for sizing up a pitcher during a game or in bullpen sessions. You saw it again during Monday’s duel with the A’s at Comerica Park when Jordan Zimmermann was pulled after five innings even as he was tossing a four-hit shutout.
Bosio knew Zimmermann had pitched 15 innings in two months and that 79 pitches was probably the limit as Zimmermann made his second start following a long layoff.
"I turn to Boz in these situations,” Gardenhire said again Tuesday as the anatomy of a pulled starter, and a late-innings collapse by the Tigers bullpen, were reviewed a day later.
Gardenhire now will lean on Rick Anderson, who moves from bullpen coach to become the Tigers’ pitching overseer. Bosio is gone, his career perhaps finished in the big leagues, because of something he said that in 2018 cannot be said. And for every necessary reason.
Whatever was uttered, either playfully or out of irritation, or whatever, had to have been clearly out of bounds.
The Tigers apparently decided there wasn’t a lot of gray area here and acted, quickly from what can be deduced, in taking a stance that offered no second chances.
This is brutal stuff, these dismissals spawned by bad words, or bad acts, that can be an affront to gender, or ethnicity, or simple human dignity.
It’s a somber moment for a man and for a team. And for the Tigers’ pitchers, as well as for a manager, all of whom came to understand quickly that Chris Bosio was one terrific pitching coach.