Giants Come Up Big

29 10 2012

 

Guest writer: Josh McSwain

“I wanna get back, to my city by the bay…”

That’s what the World Series trophy would sing if it could. Maybe not. But Steve Perry would.

In all seriousness, though, last night the San Francisco Giants won the fourth championship for a team named “Giants” since February 3, 2008. Of course, on that night the New York Giants toppled the 18-0 New England Patriots. The San Francisco Giants won their first of two World Series’ on November 1, 2010, then the New York won their second Super Bowl on February 1, 2012 and finally last night, San Francisco finished the job.

When you look at these two teams, they share more than just a name and current dominance in their sport.

One of the things they share is the ability to make certain niche players into greatly productive roles. For instance, take a look at Marco Scutaro and Chase Blackburn. Both were last season acquisitions by the respective teams, and Scutaro delivered time and time again in the postseason for San Francisco after being acquired from the Colorado Rockies in July. Blackburn hadn’t played at all in the 2011 season, then the Giants picked him up on November 29th. He played a few games, and then in the Super Bowl, he made a crucial interception that helped the Giants grab the victory.

Both were resilient in the face of hostile crowds and being down. New York was 7-7 after 14 games, then won their last two to make it into the postseason, then won in Green Bay and San Francisco to make the Super Bowl. They went on to overcome a 17-9 deficit in the Super Bowl to win 21-17. San Francisco lagged behind the Los Angeles Dodgers during the first half of the season, but after distancing themselves to win the division, they lost two home games against the 97-win Reds, the second best team in baseball, before winning three straight on Cincinnati’s home field to take the division series. In the NLCS, after falling down 3-1 against the reigning champion St. Louis Cardinals, Barry Zito pitched the game of his life in Busch Stadium to send the series back to San Francisco, followed by Ryan Vogelsong sending it to game seven, where Matt Cain slammed the door. More on Cain later.

Both also have players that understand their roles. There are stars on both teams (Eli Manning, Matt Cain, Jason Pierre-Paul, Buster Posey, etc.) But then the role players (Ahmad Bradshaw, Pablo Sandoval, even Justin Tuck and Tim Lincecum) know what is expected of them and are willing to play second fiddle if it benefits the team.

In the World Series, the Giants flipped the script. Instead of coming from behind, they decided to jump out in front and just not relinquish the lead. Their pitching once again was dominant, allowing only six runs in four games.

I’m not even going to say that the Tigers played badly in this series. They allowed only 16 runs, which averaged out to four runs a game, including eight in one game. They just got overpowered by the hotter team. (Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?)

Interestingly, four of the last nine World Series have ended in sweeps. In 2004, the Red Sox swept the Cardinals. In 2005, the White Sox swept the Astros. In 2007, the Red Sox swept the Rockies. And now 2012. Three of them have ended in five games – In 2006 when the Cardinals beat the Tigers, in 2008 when the Phillies beat the surprise Rays and in 2010 when the Giants beat the Rangers.

So where do the teams go from here? San Francisco won this title without Brian Wilson, their All-Star closer who went down early in the season and Melky Cabrera, the All-Star CF who was suspended for PEDs. Cabrera is free agent, as is Angel Pagan, and it’s questionable if either will be re-signed. But you know this team find someone who will be productive. At this point, they have to be among the favorites to win it again, even though the NL has a lot of good teams – Cincinnati, St. Louis, Washington, Atlanta and potentially Arizona, who is young and talented, and Philadelphia, who was ravaged by injuries this season, because their pitching is so dominant, including the man who now has to be considered the best pitcher in all of baseball – Matt Cain.

For the last year or so at least it was almost heresy to suggest anyone but Justin Verlander was the best, but Verlander seems like Peyton Manning before 2006. A guy who is great, but can’t deliver in the big moments. Cain delivered with great performances in game 5 of the NLDS, game 7 of the NLCS and then in the closeout game last night.

Detroit started slowly, but the long layoff before the World Series seems to have hindered them again. With their rotation and powerful lineup, they will be back. I’d expect them to be better next season and win 95-100 games. Their road to repeating looks slightly easier, with what figures to be massive changes coming to New York, the lingering inconsistency of Los Angeles’ rotation and questions about the makeup of the Rangers next season. Oakland and Baltimore look to be their biggest threats at this point.

But with both of those predictions, remember it’s a long offseason. And unfortunately it’ll be a long time before we get the chance to potentially see Steve Perry rally the crowd at AT&T park again.

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