Pablo Sandoval came into the World Series nicknamed the Kung Fu Panda. After his San Francisco Giants swept the Detroit Tigers to win their second World Series in three years, it might be time for a new nickname.
How does Most Valuable Panda sound?
OK, so Kung Fu Panda is definitely more catchy. But Sandoval was huge in this postseason for the Giants, especially in the World Series, where he earned MVP honors. For the series, he hit .500 with three home runs, a double and four RBI in 16 Series at-bats.
His signature moment came in Game 1, when he blasted three home runs. Two of them came against baseball's best pitcher, Justin Verlander, and there was the sense after the Giants knocked Verlander around that they weren't going to be beaten in this series.
They won the next three games playing Giants baseball, with excellent starting pitching, a rock-solid bullpen, excellent fielding and timely hitting. It wasn't always pretty, but once again it proved quite effective.
Sandoval paced the offense. Overall, he finished the postseason hitting .369 with five doubles, six homers and 13 RBI. It was a far cry from his accomplishments in the 2010 postseason.
Then, Sandoval played just six games in the playoffs and hit just .176. He was benched for four of the five World Series games that year. It was a disappointing season on the whole—a year after breaking out with a .330 average, 25 home runs and 90 RBI in 2009, he hit just .268 with 13 home runs and 63 RBI during the 2010 season.
But Sandoval didn't blow his chance to shine on the big stage this year. Not by a long shot.
Perhaps it is only fitting that a man nicknamed the Kung Fu Panda should win the World Series MVP on these Giants. They are a motley crew with more than enough personality to go around, after all.
They call Tim Lincecum "The Freak," and for most of his pitching career he lived up to the billing as one of the game's best aces. He struggled this year, however, but he shined for the Giants in the World Series coming out of the pen in relief.
Hunter Pence came over from the Philadelphia Phillies midseason and all he brought was a solid bat, heaps of hustle and a few inspirational speeches before each game in the postseason.
Brian Wilson and his beard weren't around to save things in the ninth inning, but it didn't matter, since Sergio Romo and his beard handled the job quite well.
Heck, even Barry Zito played his part. The much-maligned lefty with the enormous contract had a 1.69 ERA and 13 strikeouts in three postseason starts, finishing 2-0. Not too shabby.
Yes, the stars handled their business as well. Buster Posey continues to be one of the brightest young stars in baseball. Matt Cain locked it down.
But the Giants derive their charm from the players who aren't stars but always seem to play like stars in the biggest moments. Brandon Crawford. Marco Scutaro. Gregor Blanco.
And of course, the man they call Kung Fu Panda. He missed his chance to play a major part in 2010.
In 2012, he made amends in the biggest of ways. For now, MVP stands for Most Valuable Panda.
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