San Francisco Giants Fans: It Didn't Matter...
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In case you hadn't heard, the Giants clinched the National League West division title.
Down 7.5 games in May and dealt a serious on-field and psychological blow late in the season, this collection of "misfits and castoffs" (if that still applies) chose not to retreat into its protective shell. Rather, they caught fire like a Sabre printer, not only overtaking the re-tooled Dodgers, but leaving them miles behind in the dust, wondering what the hell happened.
It didn't matter that their popular, best all-around offensive player, who shall remain unnamed for the duration of my writing career, turned out to be a fraud. And an unintelligent one at that.
Losing that player to suspension on August 15 could have sent the Giants into a fatal tailspin. Instead, it sent them into the postseason.
It didn't matter that Tim Lincecum's performances weren't much better than Tim Donaghy's would have been over the first three-fifths of the season. He more or less righted himself when the team needed it most and should hopefully produce at minimum, quality starts against Washington/Cincinnati/wild-card winner come October.
It didn't matter that the Kung Fu Panda Sandoval missed six weeks (again) with a broken hand (again) or that he was a walking rolling blackout for weeks afterward with no power to speak of.
With a sudden burst of four bombs in three days (the middle two of which I was fortunate enough to witness in person), it appears all that can stop Pandoval from offensive devastation is himself. Or railings. What a catch that was.
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It didn't matter that Brian "The Beard" Wilson threw all of 56 pained pitches in 2012. I think back to that Colorado game in which he got the save on almost all sliders (and guile); not to play hindsight visionary, but it was clear to me something was wrong with him.
Twenty-four hours later, he was ruled out for the year, and I may well have been the only Giants fan who didn't deflate or combust. For all Wilson's excellence, the Giants bullpen is stacked and run by a manager who almost never seems to push the wrong buttons.
It didn't matter that the man who powered the team to its most recent postseason, Aubrey Huff in 2010, has been reduced to the second-most expensive pinch-hitter in baseball history (behind the disabled Jeff Bagwell in '05).
At the September 20 game, which I attended, the scoreboard flashed a nostalgic "HUFF DADDY" after he ripped a pinch-hit double; the fans gave him a nice cheer upon his removal for a pinch-runner. We will never forget, Huff Daddy. Never.
(I'd considered a quick Huff retrospect at this point in the article, but I'm not here to talk about the past.)
It didn't matter that the Giants' fielding fell somewhere between nauseating and atrocious for the first half of the season; there was less defense in San Francisco than in liquor stores during the L.A. riots.
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Once the club ceased fumbling away outs, their winning percentage rose. Coincidence? Uh...no. Brandon Crawford, arguably the most frequent early offender, ended 2012 as a defensive star.
It didn't matter that Buster Posey's leg had been snapped in half a year ago. He got up, dusted himself off and healed. In case you didn't see any Giants games this year, Posey can HIT. Hard. It is easy to forget that while 2012 marked his fourth major league season played, he only had 160 career games and 585 career at-bats coming into 2012.
Between his hype and impact, it seems Buster's been a Giant as long as Matt Cain.
It didn't matter that Willie Mota, unheralded but valuable relief arm, got an unwanted 100-game vacation.
It didn't matter that Freddy Sanchez, a key contributor to the 2010 team's late vault into postseason, never took the field in 2012.
And lastly, it didn't matter that Magic Johnson and his deep-pocketed friends took over the Dodgers. The acquisitions of Hanley Ramirez, Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, etc. looked fantastic on paper, but ultimately worsened what had been a first-place team.
None of that mattered. The 2012 Giants, perhaps even stronger than the 2010 championship edition, are the NL West champs.
And the Dodgers aren't.
That is what matters.
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