Who Are These Giants?

October 25, 2012

So what planet did these San Francisco Giants come from?

The land of magic and schizophrenia? Yes.

In the playoffs, they first lose two to the Cincinnati Reds, then take 3 straight on the road winning the last with a grand slam home run.  Then, they go down 1-3 to the St. Louis Cardinals only to pummel them over the next 3 games, outscoring the powerful Cards 20 runs to 1.

The slugger version of the Giants survived for another game when they pounded the Detroit Tigers 8-3 on Wednesday in Game 1 of the World Series. This is a team that usually is happy to score four runs in a game.

As I write this, I wonder which version of the Giants will appear for Game 2 on Thursday.

Pablo Sandoval

The first true sign this season that this Giants team was special came in mid-August after they learned that Melky Cabrera, their most dynamic player on his way to an MVP season, was gone for the season due to a positive drug test.  The Giants went 10-4 over the next 14 games.  They barely flinched when the Dodgers pulled a blockbuster trade to bring in slugger Adrian Gonzalez and pitcher Josh Beckett from the Red Sox.  It was an apparent late bid to challenge for the division title.   That was the Giants’ “so what?” moment.

Then, in early September, the Giant were a few games ahead of the Dodgers.  Over the next 11 games, they went 10-1 until they clinched their division with a 10 game lead over the Dodgers.  As the Giants increased their lead by 6…7…8 games so that only an unprecedented collapse and Dodger surge would foil them, they continued to play like they were in Game 7 of the World Series.  Scrabbling for every run every night.  Bringing in four or five relievers in some games.  Giving no starters extra rest.  That’s how they achieved that 10-1 run – relentless focus and effort.  It was the same way they took three straight against the Reds and again against the Cardinals.  The fact that they didn’t really have to do this in September with their big lead over the Dodgers made it more impressive.  Everyone understood it was a dry run for what they’re doing now.

This is not the 2010 team.  Of the starting position players, only Buster Posey remains just two years later.  Pablo Sandoval – he of the 3 homers in Game 1 – was on the team but was benched almost the entire 2010 World Series for lackluster play.  All 3 starting outfielders as well as their primary backup are  new this year as is second baseman Marco Scutaro.  The last two position starters, shortstop Brandon Crawford and first baseman Brandon Belt, were minor leaguers in the Giants system.

The pitching is the same as two years ago but not really.  The core starters are the same but the roles are much different.  Barry Zito was kept off the roster in 2010 as only the fifth best starter.  Now, he saved the Cardinal series and dominated the World Series Game 1, confounding all the experts.  The 2010 ace Tim Lincecum has only been successful as a reliever. Matt Cain is really the only starting pitcher close to having the same role.  An ace in 2010 and still strong in this post season.

The other constants are manager Bruce Bochy and general manager Brain Sabean who once again seem to be hitting .650 in bringing on new players and keeping everyone focused and contributing.  And, the team again has that sense that they are having a wildly fun time, appreciating the moments, enjoying each other, and playing now with house money and having nothing to lose.

My prediction?  Giants in 5.

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