Marco Scutaro has been carrying the San Francisco Giants since the beginning of September, and after the baseball gods revealed their existence once and for all with some of the most karma-leveling justice of all time, he very deservedly won the NLCS MVP.
Scutaro, 37, is in his 11th year in the big leagues and his second postseason. He rebounded from what could have been a ligament-shredding, career-ending collision in Game 2 of this series to hit .500 and secure the final out amid the raindrops at AT&T Park.
Much has been made of the Giants dedicating their postseason to this man, this trade-deadline pickup that was at the time overshadowed by the acquisition of Hunter Pence. Even Pence said that it's for Scutaro, who had a line of .362/.385/.473 since joining the Giants on July 27, and who had never made it to the World Series in his career.
Eleven years. Six teams.
One other time in the playoffs, incidentally with the cross-Bay rivals of his current team, the Oakland Athletics, who lost in four games in 2006 to the team the Giants are about to face in the World Series (who defeated the A's in the 2012 ALDS to get there).
But Marco Scutaro is not the only person on this team who has never been to the Fall Classic before.
And when comparing this year's squad to the one cruising triumphantly down Market Street in 2010, there are some familiar faces, but some glaringly different and new faces as well.
A dozen new faces, to be exact.
Ryan Vogelsong pretty much has the "Comeback Player of the Decade" wrapped up.
I mean, his story is tired. So tired that for a while there in the 2012 season, he believed it, and decided that he was tired of coming back to be amazing as well.
Then he realized that you can't truly have a comeback story without some impressive games.
Since Johnathan Sanchez already threw a no-hitter in 2010 and Matt Cain called dibs on the perfect game here in 2012, Vogelsong decided that he was just going to pitch the best baseball of his already best-comeback story in the best postseason of the last 10,000 years.
Vogelsong has been the best pitcher in the postseason for the San Francisco Giants.
In 2012. Not Lincecum, Cain or Bumgarner.
And now he's playing in the World Series.
Barry Zito was technically on the team in 2010.
But—and I don't know if you remember this—there was the little technicality of him being left off the postseason roster in all three playoff series.
So does he get a ring? Yeah, he does. But was he really there?*
This season, people have remarked about how his numbers are starkly similar to those that he put up in 2010, but what makes 2012 different is relativity. It's always relative.
Zito had 15 wins this year, his most with the Giants. He also pitched a gem to stave off elimination in Game 5 against a potent St. Louis lineup, and made everyone look like fools.
I mean seriously, 126-7 with 4-plus runs of support in his career. Fun fact: that 126-7 matches up with his $126M, seven-year deal.
Zito's been to the postseason six times including this year. Four straight playoffs with the A's back from 2000-03, and then again in 2006.
He's 5-3 all time with a 2.96 ERA in the postseason.
He has just one bad start. Just one! And it was a long time ago! And against the Tigers...but still, this is the NEW Zito.
The one that we don't have crazy expectations about, and who has continued to amaze us since we lowered our standards for him.
*Photo evidence confirms Zito's presence at aforementioned games in question.
Hunter Pence is in his sixth year in the Major Leagues. For the first four-and-a-half, he played for the Astros.
Unfortunately, Pence played for the bad Astros, not the Killer Bees Astros. He was promising, he had many tools, and he was a weirdo who was clearly the best player on a bad team.
Then last year, he was traded to the Phillies, hitting .324 for Philadelphia and going to the playoffs for the first time. To lose. To the Cardinals.
And then Philly went all kinds of rogue and was terrible in 2012, which opened it up for the Giants to acquire him at the deadline.
To which Pence responded by reminding us just how weird it was to be Hunter Pence without the production.
When you're weird and productive, it's kind of fun. When you're weird and striking out all the time, it's not fun at all and makes me miss Tommy Joseph and Nate Schierholtz.
And all of a sudden Pence is up with the bases loaded and the chance to insert a dagger and twist, and do it nice and slow, and he hits a broken-bat double to the shortstop that miraculously clears the bags.
And that's how you get to the World Series.
Angel Pagan was an underrated trade this offseason, and the Giants had a lead-off man that caught fire at times throughout the year.
He also did a really good job distracting the San Francisco from to the fact that Melky Cabrera was gone AND that their fourth outfielder was a Brandon Belt/Aubrey Huff/Xavier Nady hybrid.
All for Andres Torres and Ramon Ramirez.
A starting center-fielder. A real lead-off hitter!
And if you swap Ramirez with George Kontos, I'm a happy fan.
Pagan, who was with the Mets and the Cubs before that, two teams that have not been to the World Series in a while. Pagan, who fist-pumps while diving for balls in the outfield. Pagan, who leads off big games with home runs.
Good pickup, Sabean.
Brandon Crawford is a rookie. Not really. But he was too young to be on the team in 2010.
Sorry, did I say too young? I meant blocked by Edgar Renteria and Juan Uribe. Which in 2012 just sounds funny.
At the beginning of the year, we were told to accept his offensive feebleness because of his defensive prowess. Then that wasn't there, and everyone was asking if Renteria was available.
Then he wasn't, and Crawford got those young-shortstop-told-that-he's-the-future-of-shortstop-for-now jitters out of the way and started making plays like he knew what he was doing. And also hitting above the Mendoza Line.
Technically, Crawford's not a rookie. And technically, there are only two rookies on this roster (both later on this list).
But he's in his first full year, and Bochy stuck with him down the stretch. And now he's making leaping catches and being young and making us fans feel content with the middle infield.
Remember when the Giants won the World Series in 2010, and then we got to see them on TV, and then we got to see Brandon Belt get added to the roster in 2011, and then get sent down, and then do horribly all that year?
Now look at that picture. Doesn't Brandon Belt look comfortable hitting bombs in the playoffs?
Get used to it. I am.
You can't get to the World Series without defense.
Joaquin Arias and Gregor Blanco are on this team because that's what they do.
Except both Joaquin Arias and Gregor Blanco have come up with key hits in the last month that have helped the Giants get to where they are now.
In Moneyball, they talk about how they don't have to replace Jason Giambi, they just have to replace his production.
And after a long drought that prompted Xavier Nady experimentation, Gregor Blanco and Marco Scutaro pretty much picked up where Melky left off, with Blanco showcasing a little bit more range in left field, and also showing a penchant for making Matt Cain look like a wizard.
Joaquin Arias is not Juan Uribe. Just saying. But he can play third and short, and for some reason caught fire near the end of the season, and he's the perfect late-inning defensive replacement for Pablo Sandoval.
In Cincinnati he also hit .500 with a pair of doubles, three runs and three RBIs. But he's not Juan Uribe. He's a little bit of what Uribe became in the power department, and a lot more of the defense and throwing and clutch play.
Neither of these guys ever went to the postseason.
Blanco came to Atlanta just as they were deciding not to be competitive anymore, and Arias left Texas a couple months before they decided to play the Giants in the World Series.
These two make up the middle of the bullpen, and are probably the most underrated non-Scutaro pickups that Brian Sabean made this year.
Chris Stewart for Kontos. Nothing for Jose Mijares. Both were fantastic playing for the Giants.
Kontos: 43.2 innings, 2.47 ERA, 44 K, 12 BB, 1.053 WHIP.
Mijares: 17.2 innings, 2.55 ERA, 20 K, 8 BB, 1.245 WHIP.
And more importantly, their presence allowed Bruce Bochy to move everyone back a slot.
Mijares made it easier to have Javier Lopez available late and Jeremy Affeldt moving around in the middle.
After a not-so-fun experience with the Twins, Mijares headed to the Royals, and now back into playoff contention with the Giants.
Kontos was Guillermo Mota before Guillermo Mota got over his cough, and has stayed on to be better at being Guillermo Mota than Mota has been.
Again, he allowed Casilla and Romo to move back a little bit. He's also one of two rookies on this team.
And, most importantly, George Kontos kept Brad Penny off the postseason roster.
Xavier Nady and Hector Sanchez round out the bench.
Xavier Nady and Hector Sanchez are both going to their first-ever World Series.
Hector Sanchez is the youngest player on the Giants this year, and the only true rookie. He's also the backup catcher, which is important.
Xavier Nady is like Aubrey Huff, but right-handed. He's like Aubrey Huff, but slower. He's like Aubrey Huff, but without that 2010 to fondly look back at.
And seven years after his first playoff appearance as a member of the Padres in 2005 (under Bruce Bochy), he's back and is going to his first World Series.
So the Giants can do it for Marco, because he's the oldest. But don't forget all these other guys! More than half of that 2010 World Championship team is gone.
The ghost of Freddy Sanchez is also there in the dugout. Brian Wilson the organist is there in the dugout, too, but they're not on the field.
No Burrell, no Uribe, no Renteria, no Ross.
That means new blood for sacrifice to the baseball gods.
And instead of guys (like Burrell, Renteria, Uribe) who had already been to the World Series, the Giants are making the sequel with a new cast.
And this time around is just as fun as the last time.
So let's do it again.
Because hey! That parade? That was fun!