Giants give baseball world something to talk about

Comment: The San Francisco Giants found a way to beat the heavily favored Tigers in the World Series in a four-game sweep.

San Francisco Giants 370 (photo credit: REUTERS/Jim Young)
San Francisco Giants 370
(photo credit: REUTERS/Jim Young)
The chatter at my weekly pick-up softball game in Petah Tikva on a recent Sunday night focused on the demise of the New York Yankees.
Everyone seemed to have an opinion on Derek Jeter’s injury, ARod’s future with the Bronx Bombers, and how the Yanks got swept out of the ALCS in four games by the Detroit Tigers.
Nobody, it seemed, was talking about my hometown team, The San Francisco Giants.
“I hope they win,” a teammate patted me on the back encouragingly after our game, but his tone was far from optimistic.
At the time, the Giants trailed the St. Louis Cardinals in the NLCS, just one loss away from elimination.
But the Giants completed an improbable NLCS comeback by winning three consecutive elimination games to knock off the Cardinals and advance to the World Series against the Tigers.
The Cardinal series was preceded by an even more improbable Giants comeback in the first round of the playoffs against the Cincinnati Reds, which saw the Giants win three straight road games while again being one loss away from elimination.
Much has been written about the Giants’ ‘team-first’ attitude, their clutch hitting, dominant pitching and stellar defense. But what is really amazing about this 2012 club is how different it is from the 2010 World Champion Giants.
The Giants starting outfielders (Gregor Blanco, Angel Pagan, and Hunter Pence) are all in their first season with the club, having been acquired by trade or free agency this year.
Their starting infield features two young players, shortstop Brandon Crawford and first baseman Brandon Belt, who were not yet in the big leagues during the Giants championship run in 2010.
Second baseman Marco Scutaro, who went 14-for-28 in the NLCS for a .500 batting average, garnering him the series MVP, was a late July trade deadline acquisition for the Giants this season.
Only third baseman Pablo Sandoval (who was awarded the World Series MVP this year, mainly for hitting three home runs in Game 1) was on the roster back in 2010, but he did not start in the playoffs two years ago, getting benched in favor of the now departed Juan Uribe.
The only Giants position player who started in the 2010 postseason to still be starting with the club in their 2012 postseason run is catcher Buster Posey. But remember, Posey was a rookie in 2010 and suffered a terrible injury last year that wiped out most of his 2011 season. This year, Posey led the league in batting average, won the 2012 Comeback Player of the Year Award and may also win National League MVP award as well.
Well, certainly the stellar starting pitching is the same as it was in 2010? Not exactly.
Matt Cain remained ‘the horse’ of the staff, winning two clinching games (Game 5 of the NLDS against the Reds and Game 7 of the NLCS against the Cardinals,). But Tim Lincecum, who excelled in the 2010 playoffs, was relegated to the bullpen (where he excelled) due to his erratic control. The same can be said for young lefty (and 2010 Game 4 World Series winner) Madison Bumgarner, who lost his first two playoff starts this year before bouncing back with a stellar shutout victory in Game 2 of the World Series.
Fortunately, the back end of the rotation, starters Barry Zito and Ryan Vogelsong, picked up the slack recently. Vogelsong, a journeyman pitcher, was toiling in the minors back in 2010, but won two huge games for the Giants in the NLCS this year and one in the World Series; while Zito, who was on the Giants starting pitching staff in 2010, but was not placed on the postseason roster two years ago due to his poor pitching down the stretch, threw a shutout in Game 4 in St. Louis in the NLCS and beat Tigers ace Justin Verlander in Game 1 of the World Series, putting his awful 2010 season far behind him.
Even the bullpen was not quite the same as it was two years ago. Brian ‘the beard’ Wilson closed all the games in the 2010 World Series, but he had Tommy John surgery earlier this season so Sergio Romo has been effectively closing games in his place.
But there is one constant between the 2010 Giants and the 2012 version, and that’s the man in the dugout, manager Bruce Bochy.
Bochy has pulled all the right strings throughout the playoffs, kept his team fighting (the Giants won 6 straight elimination games this year where a single loss would have ended their postseason dreams) and he guided them to wins in their last seven postseason games (including the four-game World Series sweep of Detroit).
The San Francisco Giants found a way to beat the heavily favored Tigers (the same Tigers who manhandled the Yankees in the ALCS) in the World Series in a four-game sweep.
Now that the San Francisco Giants have shown themselves to be a real baseball power, I hope it’ll give the guys at my weekly softball game something to talk about – besides the Yankees.
The writer is a life long San Francisco Giants fan who now lives in Israel.