The San Francisco Giants are World Series Champions for the second time in three seasons—not bad for a franchise that hadn't won a World Series since it moved west in 1958.
In 2010, the World Series MVP was Edgar Renteria, who had only reclaimed his job because Pablo Sandoval was ineffective throughout the postseason.
Manager Bruce Bochy inserted Renteria back at shortstop, shifted Juan Uribe to third base from short and moved Sandoval to the bench. Renteria delivered the series-clinching three-run homer off of Texas Rangers ace Cliff Lee to give the Giants their first title in the San Francisco era of the franchise.
Two years after losing his job in the postseason, Sandoval has now earned his own World Series MVP award.
Sandoval won MVP honors by blasting three homers in an 8-3 Game 1 rout of Justin Verlander, the Tigers ace and the best pitcher in the game.
For the series, Sandoval went 8-for-16 with a walk, a double and the three home runs in Game 1—two of which came off of Verlander. He hit .500/.529/1.125 for the series, and became just the fourth player in World Series history to hit three home runs in a game, joining Babe Ruth, Reggie Jackson and Albert Pujols.
For the postseason, Sandoval hit a robust .364/.386/.712 with six home runs and five doubles. He battled a broken hamate bone and a hamstring injury during a mediocre regular season in which he hit .283/.342/.447 with only 12 home runs in just 108 games played.
Yet, Sandoval delivered when it mattered most two seasons after his postseason flop.
The 26-year old third baseman is coming into the prime of his career now. If he can ever get his weight under control permanently, he has a chance to join Buster Posey in the regular season MVP chase in future seasons. If not, he'll always have this World Series MVP award, plus two World Series rings on his resume.
Flags fly forever, and Sandoval's postseason heroics were the key to getting the Giants their second flag in two years.
Two full seasons in the big leagues, two World Series titles for Buster Posey.
His bat was dragging during the NLCS and World Series after he hit a key grand slam Game 5 of the NLDS to propel the Giants forward.
Still, his ability to call the game behind the plate and frame pitches helped the Giants sweep the final three games of the NLCS and the entire World Series while holding the Cardinals and Tigers to only seven combined runs over those final seven wins.
Even though he clearly looked exhausted at the plate, he hit a clutch two-run homer to give the Giants a 3-2 lead in the deciding Game 4 of the World Series.
He hit .267/.313/.467 for the series, nowhere near his outstanding .336/.408/.549 regular season line that will probably earn him an MVP award two years after winning Rookie of the Year.
Still, when you factor in his defensive contributions, it was an outstanding effort from the man who is fast becoming arguably the best player in the game.
Sandoval, the 26-year old No. 3 hitter, and Posey, the 25-year old clean-up man, already have two World Series rings together. Given their youth, it isn't hard to imagine those two coming back for another October run in future seasons.
Tim Lincecum lost his postseason spot in the rotation after enduring the worst regular season of his career.
The man with a World Series ring and two Cy Young awards on his resume could have moped about his demotion; instead, he saved the season with an outstanding relief outing in Game 4 of the NLDS with the Giants facing elimination in Cincinnati.
In the World Series, he threw 4.2 innings of no-hit, shutout ball out of the bullpen with eight strikeouts against just one walk.
In Game 3, he squelched the Tigers last, best scoring opportunity by getting Jhonny Peralta to fly out to end the sixth inning rally. He threw two more shutout innings after that to get the ball to Sergio Romo, the Giants closer.
He also struck out Peralta with two men on and a run already in to end a Tiger rally in Game 1. The Giants won that game 8-3, but without Lincecum's dominant work in relief of Barry Zito, the game easily could have been much closer.
More than his dominant work out of the pen, Lincecum's selfless ability to embrace a new role demonstrated the Giants one-for-all and all-for-one team approach to this season.
It's impossible to quantify the value of Lincecum's selflessness, Hunter Pence's pregame speeches,the obvious team chemistry of this group and the other intangibles that helped them overcome a 2-0 deficit in the NLDS and a 3-1 deficit in the NLCS.
However, just because we can't measure those things the way we can measure batting average doesn't make them unimportant.
Lincecum didn't pitch the clinching game of the World Series like he did two years ago as the ace of the rotation. However, he gave Bochy an ace up his sleeve out of the Giants outstanding bullpen, which also received great work from Romo, Santiago Casilla, Jeremy Affeldt and Javier Lopez this October.
Just like you could argue Romo was more vital to the bullpen than Lincecum, you could also argue that any of the Giants four starters, who combined to allow only four runs during the World Series, was the key to this series.
However, Bumgarner delivered the best start of the bunch in the pivotal Game 2 of the series.
After getting pounded for an 11.25 ERA in the first two rounds of the playoffs, losing his rotation spot in the process, he threw seven shutout innings while allowing only two hits and two walks. He struck out eight to lead the Giants to a 2-0 win, giving them a commanding lead in the series.
Bumgarner's ability to come back from his demotion one night after Zito bested Verlander put the Giants on their way to a sweep.
Two years after pitching eight shutout innings in the World Series against the Rangers, Bumgarner delivered again on the biggest stage. The 23-year old now has 15 scoreless innings to open his World Series career.
Zito threw 5.2 innings of one-run ball against Verlander, Ryan Vogelsong continued his postseason dominance with 5.2 innings of shut-out ball against Anibal Sanchez and then ace Matt Cain finished it off with seven strong innings in the finale.
The rotation looked gassed at the end of the regular season and through the first two rounds of the playoffs. However, Zito threw the game of his life in Game 5 of the NLCS with the Giants facing elimination, and the Giants never lost again.
Zito, Vogelsong and Cain beat the Cardinals with outstanding starts to close out the NLCS, then the pitching momentum carried forward into the World Series sweep of the Tigers.
The Giants outstanding pitching staff has been the foundation to their outstanding run which includes four straight winning seasons. With the season on the line, the pitching staff put the clamps down to give the Giants a championship once again.
Marco Scutaro, the NLCS MVP, only hit .250 in the World Series. However, he had two hits and a walk in the deciding game, including the game-winning hit in the tenth inning to give the Giants the title.
The Giants struggled to get production out of second base all season, but the acquisition of Scutaro turned a weakness into a huge asset.
He hit .362 after the trade to help the Giants cover for the loss of the suspended Melky Cabrera. He then hit .328 throughout the postseason, and .500 during the NLCS.
His game-winning hit in Game 4 of the World Series was classic Scutaro. He worked the count to 3-1 before lining a single back up the middle to give the Giants the game, and the championship. His patient, relaxed approach, and short swing to the ball allows him to be same hitter no matter how important the situation is.
The acquisition of Scutaro not only helped the Giants cruise to the NL West title, but it also was vital to the postseason run.
The San Francisco Giants are World Champions of baseball for the second time in three seasons. How unbelievable is that?
It might be premature to call this a dynasty, but with Posey, Sandoval, Pence, Blanco, Cain, Bumgarner, Lincecum, Romo, Vogelsong and many others coming back next year, it wouldn't be a shock to see this team make another deep October run next season.
Whether the Giants are a dynasty or not, they're the model franchise in the game right now.
It was an incredible October run with two miraculous comebacks and then a sweep of the AL Champions. It's been an unbelievable journey to two titles in three years, and there could be more October magic in the franchise's future.
This is a San Francisco Giants world, and the rest of us are just living in it, along for the wild ride.