San Francisco Giants' 2nd World Series Ring in 3 Years Completes Surreal Journey
In certain circles, however, the memory of the organization's seventh world championship and the road traveled to win it will linger for a bit longer. Understand that what looked surreal from the outside was downright unreal for those who've suffered with the team for years.
That's because the San Francisco Giants haven't been the apple of the baseball gods' collective eye since before I was born. Probably since the franchise moved West.
Baseball lore is rife with stories of Willie McCovey's World Series-ending line drive that was a breath away from winning the 1962 Fall Classic, which instead found Bobby Richardson's leather to seal those Giants' fate and crown the New York Yankees champion. Likewise, you can read all about the doldrums which followed between that hard-luck loss on baseball's grandest stage and the next one, but it was the '89 World Series that really started the misery in earnest.
The Bay Bridge Series gave the carnage of the Loma Prieta earthquake an immediate national stage.
Consequently—and justifiably—nobody talks about what happened on the diamond. Even San Francisco's most faithful were too numb from the loss of life and shocking damage to care about the insult added to grievous injury.
But it was added nonetheless in the form of a sweep at the hands of the Oakland Athletics.
A sweep expedited by the fact that Oakland was able to pitch ace Dave Stewart and No. 2 Mike Moore a total of four times in four games. Those were the Bash Brother A's, and they were the favorites anyway, but the Gents' chances went from slim to none when the back ends of the rotation were removed from the equation.
Again, though, the real-life tragedy unfolding around the Series reduced the baseball to a mere footnote.
So how about the 1993 season.
That's when the Giants, fueled by the offseason acquisition of an accomplished left fielder, blasted out to a commanding 10-game lead in the National League West. Then, the Atlanta Braves traded for Fred McGriff, Fulton County Stadium literally burst into flame, and the Braves came storming back.
Atlanta ultimately took the NL West pennant on the last day of the season, when the hated Los Angeles Dodgers destroyed both the Giants' postseason hopes and the promising future of Salomon Torres (as a starter) in one fell, 12-run swoop.
In the so-called Last Pure Pennant Race, San Francisco was the bitterest of losers, and the trend was just getting started.
In 1997, the NL West-champion Giants were unceremoniously dumped from the postseason by the best team money could buy, and it wasn't even the Yankees. The Florida Marlins were big spenders for the first and only time in their history and were dismantled and sold for spare parts immediately thereafter, but the spree lasted long enough to sweep away Los Gigantes and capture the '97 World Series.
In 1998, the Giants lost a one-game playoff to Sammy Sosa and the Chicago Cubs. Granted, the franchise that enjoyed the fruits of Barry Bonds' labor for so long can't really throw any chemically-enhanced stones, so let's move on.
In 2000, the Gents authored baseball's best record in the inaugural season at AT&T Park (nee Pac Bell), took Game 1 of the NL Division Series, and came back to tie Game 2 on a three-run homer in the bottom of the ninth by J.T. Snow. Of course, they would lose Game 2, and Games 3 and 4 as the New York Mets advanced.
Seriously. The Mets.
The 2002 World Series can be found in the well-read "Cruel and Unusual" chapter of Major League Baseball's annals, so no need to revisit the Game 6 meltdown and Game 7 fait accompli.
It was those damn Marlins again in the 2003 NLDS, bouncing the good guys in four games despite Jason Schmidt tossing a complete game in the opener and the offense stoking Sidney freakin' Ponson to a three-run lead in Game 2. The Gents spent every single day of the '03 season in first place, won 100 games and were done before the champagne from the regular-season celebration had gone flat.
Bonds started to deteriorate in 2004 and the fortunes of the club built around him followed suit. The Barry Zito contract was another massive step in the wrong direction, but then the narrative began to change.
Matt Cain turned into the horse everyone expected. Tim Lincecum didn't break down as so many baseball insiders predicted but instead won two Cy Young Awards in his first two full seasons. The front office grabbed Madison Bumgarner and Buster Posey in back-to-back drafts, and the planets aligned to deliver the 2010 World Series.
However, as tortuous as the '10 season was at times, there was an inevitable air to the City's first World Series title.
Those Giants weren't expected to compete in that Fall Classic, much less win it, but the notion didn't seem outrageous to those who had been following the team closely.
San Francisco had been rolling in September and the team's most dominating asset, its pitching, was one that historically paid big postseason dividends. Sure enough, the pitchers led the charge, and, though the team got some help along the way—here's to you, Brooks Conrad—the entire postseason seemed almost too easy.
The Giants grabbed the lead in each series by winning all three openers, didn't face an elimination game and never even faced a series deficit (in terms of games). They lost four contests in the entire postseason, needing only four games to finish off the Braves, stopping the Philadelphia Phillies in six NL Championship Series games and polishing off the Texas Rangers in five for the Commissioner's Trophy.
Given that historical context, you'll have to forgive Giants fans if they're still sleepwalking through a surreal fog.
Because the Giants are not the team that rides the improbable to glory.
They are not the team that gets a season-saving error from a Hall of Fame-caliber defender on arguably his signature play. Or that gets a thrice-hit, bend-it-like-Beckham double in the biggest game of the year. Or that gets a critical double courtesy of the third-base bag.
They are not the team that sees a hurler who wasn't good enough to make its postseason roster two years ago save the season and outduel Justin Verlander. Or that sees its much-maligned third baseman join Babe Ruth, Reggie Jackson and Albert Pujols as the only men to hit three home runs in a single World Series game (fun fact: that was only the second time in the history of AT&T Park that a single player had hit three taters in one game). Or that sees a journeyman retread morph into the most dominant pitcher of the postseason.
They are not the team that emerges from a winner-take-all Game 7 (that had never happened in the history of the Giants franchise). Or that rattles off six straight games facing elimination then sweeps its way through the team with the best pitcher and hitter on the planet.
Except, now the Giants are all of those things.
The Giants of my youth were swept out of the World Series on my birthday; these Giants did the World Series sweeping 23 years later to the day.
If that's not the stuff of dreams, I don't know what is.
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