For the first time in my life, a team I have rooted for has won the championship. The New York Rangers won when I was three years old so I don’t remember it, and just when the San Francisco Giants were three innings away from glory in 2002, they would find a way to blow it and cause me to wait even longer. To be honest, I did not think this day would ever come. If the Giants could not win with McCovey and Cepeda; Clark, Williams, and Mitchell; Bonds, Kent, Aurilia, Schmidt, and Nen; how on earth could they possibly win with this team of misfits?
As John Kruk said on ESPN following the win, perhaps the fact they were a group of low-caliber guys, and not stars, played into their win. They did not have a solid cleanup hitter, or a number-three hitter, or any real threat of offense whatsoever. But what they did have was pitching, and as the experts always say, pitching wins championships. That moniker echoed in my mind for the last few years as Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum came into their own. But the Giants had no offense and I figured these pitchers would wind up wasting their careers in San Francisco, always pitching great, but never accomplishing anything meaningful.
But the fact is, the Giants found a way to win this season, all while acquiring many nicknames and slogans. The team of “misfits” is what is being marketed right now, but manager Bruce Bochy initially started that theme when he called his hitters the “Dirty Dozen”. Fans also bestowed on the team their mantra for this season: “San Francisco Giants baseball. Torture.”
Well, if this is torture, it never felt so great, and I can say now that it was worth it. The Giants have waited 56 years for this World Series title, and the first since they moved from New York to the city by the bay. We will now take a look at these misfits, and they how they came to win the championship.
Andres Torres (16-58; 1 HR, 3 RBI; .276)
The player who would come to be a reliable leadoff hitter played over a thousand games in the minor leagues before getting a decent shot. He was up and down in the majors, playing some with the Detroit Tigers and Texas Rangers. Before he came to the Giants last season, he had 99 games of Major League experience in more than ten years of professional baseball. Last year he got some time with the Giants and was nothing spectacular, but this year, he cranked 16 homeruns, stole a team leading 26 bases, and was near the top of the league in doubles with 43. He won the Willie Mac award at the end of the year, as a reward for his hard work, but that would pale in comparison to this World Series. In the five games he bat .318 with one homerun and three RBI’s; this after struggling mightily in the NLDS.
Pat Burrell (6-14; 1 HR, 4 RBI; .143 AVG)
Less than thirty games into this season, the Major League career of Pat “The Bat” Burrell was teetering on the brink of non-existence. After struggling last season with the Tampa Bay Rays and being unable to correct his play and adapt to the American League this year, he was designated for assignment. The Giants, who desperately needed some punch in the lineup, took a chance and claimed Burrell, and the risk paid off. Burrell would hit 18 homeruns and drive in 55, but more importantly, he served as a mentor to the young players and was an excellent presence in the locker room. Though he struggled mightily in the playoffs this year, the Giants would not have gotten where they were without him as he was instrumental in this championship.
Cody Ross (15-51; 5 HR, 10 RBI; .294)
No player more epitomizes this Giants team than Cody Ross. After struggling on the Florida Marlins this season, he was waived in late August, destined to be picked up by a team who needed to add depth to the bench. Not even truly wanting him for what he brought to the table, the Giants grabbed Ross solely because the San Diego Padres were rumored to be interested in him. With the Giants chasing their division rival, they could not take a chance and put in a claim for him. He hit only three homeruns in 33 games with San Francisco, proving to be solid, but not a standout player. But that would all change in the playoffs: Ross would hit three homeruns in the NLCS alone, including one each in the NLDS and World Series. When they needed a clutch hit, there he was. Ross won the NLCS MVP against the Phillies and proved to be one of the Giants most valuable hitters down the stretch.
Aubrey Huff (15-56; 1 HR, 8 RBI; .268)
The Giants desperately needed a first baseman this season when they courted Nick Johnson and Adam Laroche for the job. Both of them turned down offers and the only player left who was capable of playing that position was Aubrey Huff. Forced to take a pay cut, which resulted in a bargain-contract of $3 million, the Giants signed huff and made him their number three hitter. They also made him work on his defense, and early on, he played both first base and outfield. Well, Huff would prove to be the most intelligent signing in Brian Sabean’s career, as he hit 26 homeruns and drove in 86. Huff had also never made the playoffs before this year, and with the help of a certain “good luck thong”, he was able to put up decent playoff numbers and help the Giants win this championship.
Edgar Renteria (10-35; 2 HR, 6 RBI; .286)
When Edgar Renteria finished his first season with the Giants, he was anything but loved by the fan-base. The one time clutch player and outstanding shortstop was nothing but a washed up shadow of his former self. That all looked to change early on this season, when he started the year hot. But three trips to the DL would quiet any chance of a breakout year, and force him to play in only 72 games. After sitting out the entire NLDS, Bochy inserted him into the lineup against the Phillies, where he would stay for the remainder of the playoffs. Renteria, who had the game-winning hit in the 1997 World Series that gave Florida the victory would come up clutch again and again for the Giants. He hit two homeruns in the World Series (after hitting three all season) including the game-winning homerun in Game Five, that gave the Giants a 3-2 victory. His World Series batting average would be .412, and the man with the short-swing would win the series MVP award. The only question is whether or not the 34-year-old will retire. If he chooses to do so, how many players came into the league with a championship clinching hit, and ended it in the same way?
The Giants also got key contributions from Freddy Sanchez, who won the batting title in 2005 with the Pittsburgh Pirates before experiencing a fall from grace that saw him traded to San Francisco for Tim Alderson last season. Buster Posey continued to look like a veteran, and perhaps he will win the NL Rookie of the Year Award. Not only was his hitting spectacular, but his defense and handling of the pitching staff was as well. Juan Uribe, who was awful during the playoffs, only had two hits in the World Series: one of which was a three-run homer, and the other was an RBI single. He also hit the series clinching homerun against Philadelphia, and a game-winning sacrifice fly two games before that.
Pablo Sandoval brought in his regular season struggles to the playoffs, and Barry Zito became the highest paid cheerleader in history by not being placed on the roster, but all will be forgiven now. Tim Lincecum’s performance was also spectacular. In this post-season alone he defeated Derek Lowe, Roy Halladay, and Cliff Lee (twice). Matt Cain’s performance will also go overlooked as he did not allow a run in the 21.1 innings he pitched this post-season. But perhaps the quiet hero was Madison Bumgarner, who won the clinching game in the NLDS, pitched two ultra-important relief innings in the clinching game in the NLCS, and finally, won game four in the World Series. He would finish this post-season with a 2-0 record and a 2.18 ERA.
Finally, this season could not have ended this way without the bullpen. Brian Wilson and his magnificent beard were key in shutting down their opponents. He ended the NLCS with a strikeout of Ryan Howard and the World Series with a strikeout of Nelson Cruz. Lefty specialist Javier Lopez also proved to be invaluable, as he handled the batters he faced with ease.
Overall, I never in a million years thought that the Giants would win it this season. I cannot express how happy I am at this, but not just for myself, but for my dad, who has waited more than fifty-six years for this championship. And also, for the many greats who never won in San Francisco, you can finally smile. The ghosts of 1962, 1989 and 2002 are dead and buried!