Sunday, November 2, 2014

Yes! Yes! Yes!

To quote the sometimes profane Hunter Pence: Yes (2010)! Yes (2012)! Yes (2014)!
I'm more at a loss for words when I think about the 2014 San Francisco Giants, World Champions for the third time in five years. It's almost too good to think that the team I follow has been that good for this period of time. I was just so thankful to finally see the Giants win it all in 2010. 2012 was great and this one was in some ways the best. I guess it just doesn't get old.
I think also of all of the little stories that make each team compelling. To win a championship, you must have great players, good players who play great and to be honest a little luck. When you have a string like the Giants have had, you have to have great management as well.

There's no question that Larry Baer, Brian Sabean and Bruce Bochy have proven to be great management. They have created a great atmosphere in a great ballpark; acquired important players and have managed them in a way that they find success. I also think of the stability they have at the coaching positions with Tim Flannery, Hensley Meulens and perhaps most importantly, Dave Righetti and Mark Gardner. In the case of Righetti, isn't it interesting to think that when he signed as a free agent late in his career and was pedestrian in terms of his effectiveness as a player for the Giants, that it would open the door to him becoming one of the best pitching coaches for a championship team? I finally give a shout out to Dick Tidrow (director of player development) who was instrmental in the raising of players like Lincecum, Cain, and Bumgarner. A management team has its own set of unsung heroes.

The list of good players playing great: Juan Perez had a few big hits and several brilliant defensive plays; Brandon Crawford with his steady defense and big hits of his own; Yusmeiro Petit pitching lights out in just about any role thrown at him; and finally Travis Ishikawa. His hitting in the NLCS could have easily earned him the MVP of that series. Of course he know lives on forever in Giants' lore with his walk off home run in Game 5. It couldn't happen to a nicer guy. I hope that he can savor that moment for the rest of his life.

As for the great players, there are talented players who can play well in the regular season. Then there are the true greats who can elevate their play under the pressure of playoff baseball. These are the ones who are remembered most fondly. The terms winner and champion takes their play legacy to the highest level. In seasons past we think of Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, and Buster Posey (who didn't hit great in this World Series). As for Posey, he appears to be a Giant for life and has been handed the mantle of the face of the franchise. From what I've seen of him, he is a worthy successor to Mays, McCovery and Clark. There's much to say of a catcher that backstops three championships and doing it with humility and class.

The stars of this series were first the jubilant Pablo Sandoval. Appropriately nicknamed Kung Fu Panda, his size and shape belies his great athleticism. The MVP of the 2012 series, he continues to be a hitting machine in the playoffs. Willie Mays (who rarely makes public comments about players) said that he think that "Panda" has the best hand-eye coordination he's ever seen in a player. His praise for the greatest Giant of all. It is so fitting that he caught the final out.

Hunter Pence is for me in so many ways the Will Clark of this era of Giants. He's a passionate player who's desire to compete and win is at another level. With the wild beard and hair; the twitchy way he carries himself (Vin Scully once said that "He makes coffee nervous"); sometimes profane and impassioned game speeches; and those eyes of serial killer. It almost makes you forget he's a great hitter and defensive outfielder. He seems to always be in the middle of a big rally.

Of course, this series belonged to Madison Bumgarner. 25 years old and possessor of a 0.25 ERA in the World Series (read that a few times to take that in). He's the polar opposite of Pence in terms of demeanor. He has the look of a guy who doesn't have a care in the world as he mows down hitters on the biggest stage looking like he's reading the morning paper. With a pitching staff that was scuffling, he put up scoreless inning after scoreless inning with frightening efficiency and command. When writers and commentators start reaching back to compare him with the great pitchers from the dead ball era it gives you some perspective on what we witnessed.

I feel that I would be remiss to not give just a small shout out to Joe Panik (best defensive play in the Series), Michael Morse (big time R Brandon Belt (hitting over .300), Jeremy Affeldt (winner of Game 7) and so many others. This was a team effort from top to bottom. Speaking of the franchise, perhaps the best example is equipment manager Mike Murphy. He is nicknamed the franchise as he has literally been with the San Francisco Giants since the beginning (he was a bat boy in 1958). When Panik broke his belt on his sparking game changing double play, the Murph was ready to get a clearly used replacement belt. Everybody pitches in for the win.

As Lou Brown of the movie "Major League" fame said, "My kind of team, Charlie. My kind of team."

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