San Francisco Giants are built to succeed for the future
By Barry Svrluga,
DETROIT — Bruce Bochy’s office off a hallway in the visitors’ clubhouse at Comerica Park overflowed with people at 1 a.m. Monday. The man who preceded Bochy as manager of the San Francisco Giants, Felipe Alou, stood in the doorway, smiling. The World Series trophy, secured less than two hours before, rested on a small table in the corner. Visitors, holding beers and soaked in champagne, ducked in and out.
On Sunday night into Monday, everybody wanted to be a Giant. “I’m numb, really, the fact that we’ve won two World Series in the last three years,” Bochy said after his team swept away the Detroit Tigers. Given his stumbling answers to fawning questions about his own place in the game — more championships than Bobby Cox or Davey Johnson, the only active manager besides Terry Francona with two — numb sounded about right.
But baseball has now woken up to the Giants. One title can be an aberration, and the 2010 championship — with unforeseeable contributions from unpredictable sources — could have seemed so. It meant everything to the city of San Francisco, which hadn’t won a World Series since the franchise moved from New York in 1958. The rest of baseball, though, could logically say, “That won’t happen again.”
Now, it has. The Giants finished their season on a seven-game winning streak that showed not only the bond they built this fall, but the franchise they have built for the future. No one in the clubhouse was predicting more titles in coming years. “In this game, a couple injuries here and there, and that’s the end of it,” pitching coach Dave Righetti said. But there was and is a quiet confidence about what just transpired, and what might come next.
“You never know what’s going to happen, performance from year to year,” said General Manager Brian Sabean, standing just outside Bochy’s office. “How you start or finish the season, or injuries or what-not. We’re happy that a lot of these guys are going to go forward with us. We’ll certainly try to get some of the free agents to be back. We’re sitting in a good spot.”
He said it not brashly, but almost sheepishly. That appears to be the Giants’ way. Quiet is just fine, though it might not be realistic in the future.
“I don’t think we’re off the radar anymore, which will present its obstacles,” catcher Buster Posey said. “But I think it’s a challenge that we’re all looking forward to.”
The challenge will be met by a group of players who figure to be around awhile. The Giants completed their sweep of the Tigers when Marco Scutaro hit a two-out single that scored Ryan Theriot in the top of the 10th inning on Sunday night. Both of those players, infielders, are free agents. Veteran reliever Jeremy Affeldt, who recorded five key outs in Game 4, is also unsigned for next year, as is fellow reliever Guillermo Mota and starting center fielder Angel Pagan.
But there is so much else in place. Posey is 25, the presumptive National League most valuable player after he won a batting title, and has won two World Series in his first three years in the majors. No central character has done that since Derek Jeter in 1996 and ’98. And he did it while handling a pitching staff that became the backbone of the seven straight wins to close the season.
“Nobody talked about how Buster put down the right fingers,” Sabean said. “There weren’t many times when he was shaken off. There weren’t many visits to the mound. He’s an offensive player. Obviously, he’s a batting champ and maybe an MVP. This young man, to do it as a catcher, is amazing.”
Posey was the starting catcher in the All-Star Game. The starting pitcher was right-hander Matt Cain, who also started Game 4 of the World Series. Cain is 28 and signed through 2017, with a team option for the following season. Madison Bumgarner, who started and won Game 2, is 23 and already signed through 2017 as well, with two option years. Pablo Sandoval, the Series MVP, is just 26 and is now beginning to understand what he can do if he keeps his weight under control. Shortstop Brandon Crawford and first baseman Brandon Belt are coming off promising rookie seasons, just 25 and 24, respectively. Right fielder Hunter Pence, 29, is signed for at least one more year.
Even Barry Zito and Ryan Vogelsong, the older men in the rotation, are locked up. Tim Lincecum, the two-time Cy Young winner who dominated out of the bullpen in the postseason, will return to the rotation and try to right himself in 2013, the last year of his contract. But they’ll all be together — again.
“The whole organization’s been built on continuity,” Sabean said. “We have a mutual respect. As crazy as it sounds, we enjoy pulling on the same rope, and the journey.
“At the end of the day we’ve got full support of the ownership group. We have a great working relationship with the manager and the coaches. There is no division in any shape or form. The players really feel at ease knowing that they’re the focal point. We’re going to put them in positions to have success.”
And leading the way will be Bochy, once cast off by San Diego, now embraced by San Francisco.
“He’s a Hall of Fame manager,” Sabean said. “Enough said.”
Bochy wasn’t comfortable with such assessments after the win. “I count my blessings,” he said. Among them, now, are that he has a stable organization supported by rabid fans with good, young players who know what it takes, and what it feels like, to win.
“After you get that first one, you want to go through that whole experience again,” Posey said. “You want to feel the pressure situations. You want to feel the excitement when you come out on top. It only drives you to keep working harder.”
That’s the feeling the Giants had two years ago. It’s the feeing they had Sunday night, into Monday morning. And now, all of baseball realizes, it’s the feeling they’ll have in 2013, when they’ll be back for more.