Ranking the Best Giants Teams of the Last 30 Years
San Francisco's second World Series victory surprised a lot of baseball people—at least outside of the Bay Area. But considering it is the Giants' second title in three years, it should be becoming clear that San Francisco is a great team.
In fact, a four-game sweep of a team that featured a Triple Crown winner and arguably the best pitcher in the world makes for a strong argument that the Giants deserve to be considered the best team in Major League Baseball.
But how does the 2012 team measure up to past Giants squads? Is it better than the 2010 team, when Tim Lincecum and Brian Wilson were the stars of the pitching staff and Aubrey Huff anchored the offense? Or what about teams featuring Barry Bonds, Jeff Kent, Matt Williams and Will Clark?
San Francisco has reached the postseason seven times in the last three decades. In another season, it missed the playoffs despite topping 100 wins. Could the best Giants squad be one that wasn't crowned world champion?
Here is a rundown of the five best Giants teams of the last 30 years, along with some honorable mentions.
The Giants reached the postseason in 1987, 1997 and 2003, but in none of those years did they advance past the first round (though while the 1997 and 2003 teams were only in the NLDS, the 1987 team was already into the NLCS based on the previous MLB playoff format).
The 2003 team, led by Felipe Alou, was favored in the NLDS against the eventual champion Marlins, but something about that team—despite winning 100 games—didn't scream "champion." The 1997 team, which was the first Giants squad Dusty Baker led to the postseason, had a few offensive weapons, but the best pitchers in Shawn Estes and Kirk Rueter.
The 1987 team is probably more memorable for iconic secondary stars and role players such as Robby Thompson, Jeff Leonard, Chili Davis and Mike Krukow, as well as Atlee Hammaker, Joel Youngblood, Chris Speier and Rick Reuschel. And let's not forget Mike Aldrete or Jose Uribe.
The Giants missed the playoffs in 1993, despite winning 103 games—the second-most wins in MLB that year. That's because then-division foe Atlanta won 104 games, and a wild card didn't exist in baseball yet. Only the four division winners (two in each league) made the playoffs.
Despite missing the postseason, it was one of San Francisco's best teams in recent memory. It was also an interesting year in San Francisco baseball history, as it was a crossroads of Giants icons. It was Barry Bonds' first year with the Giants, Will Clark, Matt Williams and Robbie Thompson were still with the team, and Dusty Baker took over managerial duties from Roger Craig.
Also, Bill Swift and John Burkett both had 20-win seasons.
Giants fans had plenty of reasons to be excited about this team.
Excluding Steroid-Era seasons, Kevin Mitchell's 1989 MVP campaign was probably the most dominant offensive season by a Giant in the last 30 years. With apologies to Marco Scutaro's fantastic NLCS against the Cardinals, Will Clark's performance against the Cubs in the 1989 NLCS was more impressive.
The pitching staff, which featured starters Rick Reuschel, Don "Caveman" Robinson, Scott Garrelts and Mike LaCoss, was highly effective.
But this squad was overshadowed by its American League counterpart across the bay in Oakland, where the A's were in the midst of perhaps the most dominating stretch by a franchise since the Big Red Machine of the 1970s and before Derek Jeter's Yankees of the late 1990s.
Once the Bay Bridge Series resumed, following a 10-day delay caused by Northern California's worst earthquake in 83 years, the A's resumed their sweep of the Giants.
The pitching staff wasn't great, but it was solid—especially considering it posted a 3.55 ERA in the middle of the Steroid Era. Offensively, Barry Bonds and Jeff Kent were monsters, and solid contributions came from Reggie Sanders and David Bell.
After a tough battle with Atlanta in the NLDS, San Francisco disposed of St. Louis in a five-game NLCS and appeared to carry its momentum into the World Series against Anaheim.
Up five runs on the Angels heading into the bottom of the seventh in Game 6, the Giants were nine outs away from a World Series victory. Then their American League opponent rallied for three runs in each of the next two innings to force a Game 7, when, once again, San Francisco's hopes of a title were crushed.
Instead, Giants fans had to suffer through eight more years before throwing a parade in San Francisco.
As a cohesive unit, this team is as good as any team the major leagues has seen this century. The stars weren't highly paid big names, but rather characters known for their beards, rally thongs and likenesses to animated animals. Those who were winning awards and seeing their stars rise were too young to be making the big bucks.
Despite bringing San Francisco its first ever baseball championship, this team doesn't rank at No. 1 because, frankly, its success still doesn't make much sense.
The 2010 Giants had arguably the best starting rotation in the league, but the offense was not championship-caliber. Aubrey Huff was a nice player, but not great. As energizing as Buster Posey's promotion was, the rookie didn't exactly put up Ruthian numbers. The team's best hitting talent, Pablo Sandoval, had a horrible season. The postseason hero? Cody Ross, whom the Giants inadvertently acquired while trying to block the Padres from acquiring him off waivers.
Had this team not made the playoffs, let alone win the World Series, they would not have fallen short of expectations.
Still, the 2010 Giants won the World Series, which, of course, is all that really matters in the end.
Statistically, much could be argued about this being San Francisco's top-ranked team of the last 30 years. No team hit fewer home runs in 2012, while the $37 million paid to Tim Lincecum and Barry Zito hardly proved to be money well spent.
However, the talent was better than the numbers indicated. Pitching in relief during the postseason, a clear-headed Lincecum proved to be overwhelming for opponents. Pablo Sandoval is an All-Star talent who will eventually start hitting 30 home runs a year, perhaps as soon as 2013. But his season was interrupted by his second hand injury in as many years. So once his hand regained strength, it shouldn't have been a surprise to see the Panda mash in the postseason.
Plus, the team featured the likely NL MVP Buster Posey, All-Star pitchers Matt Cain and Ryan Vogelsong and a stellar bullpen. Even without Brian Wilson and going much of the year without a distinguished closer, this collection of relievers was as effective as any in recent memory.
Manager Bruce Bochy has a lot to do with the franchise's recent success, but so does GM Brian Sabean's crafting of a team that entered the postseason with no glaring weaknesses. Even where offense seemed to lack, such as shortstop and left field, the defense was first-rate.