The superstar slugger is a loner who operates in a different sphere than the rest of his teammates. The second baseman resents his second-class status. The manager chafes over the owner's public boasts. The general manager and manager have been known to bicker publicly.

Oh, and the second baseman, manager and general manager have contracts that will expire at the end of the weekend.

And yet, the San Francisco Giants are one victory away from a World Series title, which they can clinch Saturday night when they meet the Anaheim Angels in Game 6 -- if the whole thing doesn't implode first. The Giants are a family with major issues, but one that nonetheless knows how to put them aside for the common good.

"We may not be the friendliest team," veteran outfielder Shawon Dunston said. "But it really doesn't matter."

Funny how winning makes that easier to do. As the team shot up the standings, eventually making the playoffs with the National League wild card, and as everyone began to realize what they could accomplish, those public squabbles became fewer and fewer until they just stopped.

It has been four months since slugger Barry Bonds and second baseman Jeff Kent had their shoving match in the dugout, three months since Bonds accused the Giants' pitchers of failing to protect him from bean-ball throwers, eight months since Manager Dusty Baker fumed over owner Peter Magowan's well-intentioned boasts about the team's championship aspirations.

The Giants' success, it turns out, stems from the understanding of roles and the realization that each person needs the other to fulfill his role.

Despite the obvious flaws, theirs is a family that other teams might do well to emulate.

Start with the owner. Magowan's outspokenness has irked Baker, who claims Magowan put undue pressure on him and the players, and he is still resented in ownership circles for paying for gorgeous Pacific Bell Park with private funds -- which has left the team with a $20 million annual debt service payment.

However, to General Manager Brian Sabean -- the owner's direct line to the team -- Magowan is a model boss. Their relationship is simple: Magowan sets the budget, Sabean allocates the money. There is none of the meddlesome, hands-on ownership power plays that have torpedoed other organizations.

For example, asked if the Giants would be able to re-sign Kent this winter, Magowan said: "That's not up to me. That's up to the general manager.

He makes those decisions. All I do is give him a budget. Once he gets that number, how he puts the team together is up to him."

Likewise, Sabean's relationship with Baker is based on a clear understanding of where each person's role and influence begins and ends.

Unlike some notable GM-manager relationships, Sabean does not tell Baker how to manage a game, and Baker does not tell Sabean how to evaluate talent.

"The best thing he does is he never complains," Sabean said. "He never makes my job hard. A lot of [managers] would be on the phone saying, 'Get this guy out of here,' or 'Where's my left-handed reliever?' or 'Can't we do something about this?' [Baker] has never done that, and that's really the bottom line.

"As long as he's doing all he can possibly do with the players you've given him, to have them play hard and be in the best position to win, I don't know what more you could ask for."

As for the ill will between Baker and Magowan, Sabean called it "a bunch of tabloid bull -- -," and added, "I don't see it, and I don't get it."

Perhaps that is a bit of revisionist history made possible by the Giants' overwhelming success this fall.

And perhaps so is the suddenly heartwarming relationship between Bonds and Kent. Bonds may not have looked like an advocate of Kent's when he shoved the second baseman against a dugout wall in June. But listen to Bonds talk about Kent now: "Jeff Kent is one of our leaders," Bonds said. "Jeff Kent carries himself very professionally. Jeff Kent is an outstanding hitter. I think Jeff Kent and I complement each other very well. If one's not doing it, the other wants to do it. If one's doing it, the other wants to do it better. I think that's outstanding."

Kent has acknowledged that the physical confrontation with Bonds in June helped the team in the end, since it led to a team meeting and airing-out session that had the end result of bringing everyone closer.

In the months since, there has been hardly a peep of discontent within the Giants' family. In fact, the silence has been downright disturbing. There has been no discussion about contract extensions for Sabean, Baker or Kent, although a new contract for Sabean is expected to be announced within days of the end of the World Series.

The winning has made it easier to keep the Giants' family together, and in the case of Kent it is literally so.

By making it to the World Series, the Giants could collect up to $9 million in extra revenue, according to Magowan. And the longer the Series goes, the more revenue they receive.

Since Magowan vows to use that extra revenue -- minus expenses -- toward next year's player payroll, isn't it true that, in a strange way, the Giants' ability to re-sign Kent could depend on whether the World Series goes to a seventh game?

"In a strange way," Magowan said with a smile, "that's right."

High-fives in the World Series have replaced shoves in the dugout for Jeff Kent, left, and Barry Bonds.