Giants GM Brian Sabean has built a dynasty.
The San Francisco Giants have won the World Series twice in the last three seasons. During that span, they've won six consecutive postseason series, making them only the third team to accomplish that feat in the division-play era.
The Giants dynasty has been in the making for ten years now. General manager Brian Sabean, the longest tenured GM in the game, began preparing for life after Barry Bonds back in 2002 when the slugger was at the apex of his abilities.
It should be noted that Sabean is far from alone in the executive offices at AT&T Park.
Front office executives, including Dick Tidrow, John Barr, Bobby Evans, Tony Siegle, Jeremy Shelly, Yeshayah Goldfarb, Paul Turco, Fred Stanley and scouts like former players Pat Burrell and Brian Johnson, form a team of high-level baseball people that Sabean has relied on to acquire championship talent.
The coaching staff, led by manager Bruce Bochy and pitching coach Dave Righetti, have done an excellent job of getting the most out of what the front office has given them to work with.
Bochy does a tremendous job of communicating with his players, managing the bullpen and allowing the personality of his team to shine through. His lack of ego has been a key in getting his players to accept their roles and put the team first regardless of their personal satisfaction.
In 2008, when Fred Lewis was the team's best hitter, Brian Bocock was the Opening Day shortstop, Jose Castillo was the third baseman, Aaron Rowand and Barry Zito were albatross contracts and the team was enduring a fourth straight losing season, talk of a future dynasty would have been insanity.
Alas, the Giants haven't had a losing season since that miserable 2008 season. Though they missed the playoffs in 2009 and 2011, they still managed 88 and 86 wins in those two seasons. In 2010 and 2012 they won the NL West, the pennant and the World Series.
While there are many transactions that have pushed the Giants to two World Series titles, this article will focus on 10 key transactions in the order in which they took place.
With the 25th pick of the 2002 draft, the Giants selected Matt Cain, a burly right-hander from a Tennessee high school.
Cain has become the ace of the staff and a key to both postseason runs. He threw 21.1 innings without allowing an earned run in the 2010 postseason, and he threw the clinching games of the 2012 NLDS, NLCS and World Series.
The 28-year-old Cain signed a contract extension to anchor the staff before the start of this season. In his eight-year career with the Giants, he's put up a 3.27 ERA.
In addition to throwing the three clinching games of the postseason, he threw a perfect game, started the All-Star Game and set career-bests in walk rate, strikeout-to-walk ratio, ERA and wins.
In May of 2003, the Giants signed a 16-year-old Venezuelan named Pablo Sandoval.
Sandoval, now the Giants No. 3 hitter, has hit .303/.353/.490 since coming to the big leagues in 2008. He earned World Series MVP honors this season when he became just the fourth player ever to launch three home runs in a World Series game.
The Panda hit .500 for the series to lead the Giants to a sweep of the Detroit Tigers.
Brian Wilson was selected in the 24th round of the 2003 draft after undergoing Tommy John surgery at LSU.
The Giants converted him to the bullpen, and he established himself as the team's closer in 2008. He had a tremendous two-year run as the closer from 2009-2010 when he saved 86 games and put up a combined 2.27 ERA.
Injuries derailed the end of his 2011 season, and a second Tommy John surgery wiped out this year for The Beard.
Still, he not only was a key cog in the championship run of 2010, but he's also established himself as the most recognizable face on a team that's as well known for its outsized personality as it is for its on-field success.
No Giants player embodies the spirit of this franchise as well as Wilson. The team, and winning, comes first, but baseball is just a game after all, so it's okay to have as much fun as possible along the way. No one on the planet appears to be embracing life quite as much as the Giants' bizarrely bearded closer.
It's also easier to forget him because the Giants won the World Series without the man he was traded for, Melky Cabrera. Cabrera was a key component to the Giants offense through mid-August, when he was suspended for the remainder of the season due to a failed drug test.
Still, Sanchez pitched very well for the Giants in 2010. He pitched the final game of the regular season, which clinched the NL West, and he also pitched very well in a key Game 3 victory over the Atlanta Braves during the NLDS. For the 2010 season, he put up an outstanding 3.07 ERA while striking out 205 hitters in 193.1 innings.
The Giants cut bait with the enigmatic lefty this past winter, netting them Cabrera, who hit .346 before his suspension. Regardless of Cabrera's methods, his abilities on the field helped the Giants stay in contention throughout the summer before they took off in his absence.
The Giants drafted Sanchez in the 24th round of the 2004 draft out of an NAIA school. Getting six seasons of a pitcher with a 4.26 ERA, then dealing him for a great hitter, is a tremendous return on investment for that late of a draft pick.
The Giants had tremendous success again late in the 2005 draft when they took Sergio Romo in the 28th round out of Mesa State College.
Romo was a key setup man for Wilson in 2010, then he became the closer this season after Wilson's injury and Santiago Casilla's subsequent struggles in that role.
Romo has had an incredible five-year run with the Giants. He's put up a 2.20 ERA and a nearly six-to-one strikeout-to-walk ratio during his career by using a frisbee slider to stifle righties and a darting sinker against lefties.
For comparison, Romo's career strikeout-to-walk ratio of 5.77 bests that of Mariano Rivera (4.04), who is only the greatest reliever of all-time.
He's been a key cog in Bochy's outstanding bullpens for several seasons, and he's now proven that he can handle the biggest stage by throwing 10.2 innings of one-run ball this postseason as the Giants closer.
Not bad for a short righty who rarely cracks 88 MPH on the gun.
One year after drafting a short right-hander who would become a key to the bullpen, the Giants drafted another short righty with the 10th pick of the draft out of the University of Washington.
That pitcher, Tim Lincecum, has gone on to win two Cy Young awards and two World Series rings with the Giants.
The 28-year-old Lincecum pitched the clinching game of the 2010 World Series, then went on to play a key role in the Giants bullpen during this postseason after enduring the worst season of his career during the regular season.
Despite his struggles this season, Lincecum has thrown the ball exceptionally well for the totality of his Giants career. He's gone 79-56 with a 3.31 ERA and 1,317 strikeouts in 1,214 innings of work (9.8 K/9).
He's been even better in the postseason, going 5-2 with a 2.47 ERA and 63 strikeouts in 54.2 innings.
The Freak, along with Cain, Romo and The Beard, has been the key to turning the Giants from an offensively dominant team in the Bonds era into a pitching-oriented team during the current reign of dominance.
Another key to the pitching rejuvenation has been Madison Bumgarner.
One year after using the 10th pick of the draft on a short, college righty, the Giants used the 10th pick of the 2007 draft on a tall teenage lefty from North Carolina.
The 23-year-old Bumgarner has now thrown 15 scoreless innings in the World Series after shutting down the Tigers in Game 2 this season.
In his first three big league seasons, Bumgarner has gone 36-30 with a 3.23 ERA and a 3.87 K/BB ratio. Along with Cain, he signed a long-term contract extension before this season to anchor the rotation through 2017.
Two full seasons in the big leagues, two final strikes caught to win the whole thing for Buster Posey, the fifth pick of the 2008 draft.
All Posey has done for the Giants besides anchor the pitching staff and the lineup from the clean-up spot is hit a combined .314/.380/.503 while winning two championships, a Rookie of the Year award, a Comeback Player of the Year after breaking his leg and tearing tendons in his ankle last season, a batting title and probably the NL MVP award for his work this season.
Posey hit .336/.408/.549 with 24 home runs and 39 doubles this season, one year after suffering the catastrophic leg injury that put his career in doubt.
The 25-year-old now heads into this offseason with the only question being whether or not he can maintain his Hall of Fame pace after putting up one of the best offensive seasons from a catcher in the history of baseball.
Prior to the 2009 season, the Giants signed minor league free agent Andres Torres. He hit .270/.343/.533 in limited duty that season before taking over for Rowand as the starting center fielder in 2010.
Torres helped propel the Giants to their first World Series by hitting .268/.343/.479 with 67 extra base hits, 26 steals and outstanding glove work in center field.
Like Sanchez, he showed signs of collapsing last season, so Sabean flipped him to the Mets for Angel Pagan.
Pagan rewarded the Giants by hitting .288/.338/.440 with 61 extra base hits, including a league-leading 15 triples.
Signing a minor league free agent in Torres, riding him to a championship, then flipping him for another very good outfielder to help win another title is an example of how Sabean has turned undervalued players into huge assets.
His ability to find minor league free agents like Torres, Casilla, Juan Uribe, Gregor Blanco and Joaquin Arias has made up for the ill-advised contracts given to Zito, Rowand, Mark DeRosa and other veteran free agents.
More than a decade after drafting Ryan Vogelsong and then trading him to the Pirates for Jason Schmidt, the Giants reacquired him as a minor league free agent last winter.
Once again, the Giants struck gold in an area of player acquisition that usually yields nothing of value.
Vogelsong had undergone multiple arm surgeries, a trip to Japan and two pink slips from Triple-A teams in 2010 since leaving the Giants organization.
With Sanchez and Zito struggling in 2011, Vogelsong established himself in the rotation by putting up a 2.71 ERA and making the All-Star team.
He was having another outstanding season this year until a brutal seven-start stretch towards the end of the season put his postseason rotation spot in jeopardy. However, he finished the year with three straight solid starts and then was the ace of the staff during the playoffs.
He went 14-9 with a 3.37 ERA in the regular season before posting 1.09 ERA in four postseason starts, all of which culminated in Giants victories.
He pitched five strong innings to save the season in Game 3 of the NLDS, the first of six straight elimination games the Giants would win this postseason. He then threw seven more outstanding innings in Game 6 of the NLCS, another elimination game.
After being out of Major League Baseball since 2006, Vogelsong has gone 27-16 with a 3.05 ERA in two seasons with the Giants.
The drafting of Brandon Crawford and Brandon Belt, the initial free-agent signing of Aubrey Huff, the waiver wire pickups of Pat Burrell and Cody Ross, the trade deadline acquisitions of Ramon Ramirez, Javier Lopez, Hunter Pence and Marco Scutaro and the free-agent signing of Jeremy Affeldt warrant mention as well.
Through the draft, minor league free agency and trades, the Giants have built the foundation of a dynasty.
Cain, Bumgarner, Lincecum, Vogelsong, Romo, Wilson, Posey, Sandoval, Belt, Crawford, Pence and others will be back in 2013 to defend the title.
The 2011 title defense was tragically cut short when Posey's season was annihilated in that brutal collision. The Giants held strong through the end of July, but the trade of promising prospect Zack Wheeler for Carlos Beltran was not enough the keep the team afloat through the long summer grind without Posey.
Sabean did the right thing by going for broke to try to defend the title. This offseason, he'll have a chance to build another championship team around the core he's already shrewdly put together.
If he can surround that core with additional assets, Bochy can lead the troops back to the promised land.
Even if another title run isn't in store, winning two in three years is pretty darn good for a franchise that hadn't won it all since moving to San Francisco in 1958. It's been quite a run over the past three seasons, but it doesn't make you greedy to want to experience this again soon.