Giants fans have plenty of love to go around.
Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner and—to a lesser degree—Ryan Vogelsong are the future of San Francisco's starting rotation, and fans couldn't be happier.
Since blowing out his elbow, Brian Wilson and his beard have somewhat fallen out of favor, but fans still respond to him. Sergio Romo, with his own custom beard and bravado as a closer, is a poor man's Wilson.
Young infielders Brandon Belt and Brandon Crawford are working their ways into the hearts of Giants' fans, while veteran outfielders Angel Pagan and Hunter Pence are appreciated for their intensity.
On most teams, any of these players could be among the more popular figures. Yet, coming off their second World Series victory in two years, the Giants are overflowing with fan favorites. The top four includes two of the game's most decorated players of the last few years, baseball's best monikered player, and an unlikely playoff hero.
Here's a look at San Francisco's top four fan favorites.
The panda mystique has persevered, despite Pablo Sandoval’s disappearing act during the 2010 World Series run, a sexual assault charge (which was dismissed), and consecutive seasons interrupted by hand injuries.
With panda hats dotting the grandstands throughout AT&T Park, it's clear that fans can’t resist Sandoval’s infectious personality and boyish love for the game. His popularity soared even more with his brilliant postseason performance, when he posted a 1.098 OPS and was named World Series MVP.
If Sandoval stays healthy and carries the momentum of his 2012 postseason into next season, he could cement himself as a must-keep in San Francisco for years to come.
Matt Cain may now be the team’s ace, but he has yet to attain Tim Lincecum’s popularity in San Francisco.
Despite an awful 2012, Giants fans have not forgotten Lincecum’s two Cy Young awards, nor have they grown wary of his cavalier persona. The mere suggestion of trading him or letting him go in free agency next offseason stirs a frenzy among Lincecum loyalists.
Of course, trading him right now would be difficult, considering he will make $22 million next season and that he appears to be most effective as a middle reliever at this point. That's okay with Giants fans, who welcome an opportunity for Lincecum to redeem himself next season and possibly compel the Giants to offer him a long-term contract.
Trade deadline acquisitions don’t often become instant favorites with their new teams—especially journeymen such as Marco Scutaro. But Giants' fans only know him as a hitting machine who played an integral role in San Francisco’s second World Series title in three years.
The love for Scutaro became evident when the Cardinals' Matt Holliday slid late at second base and rolled over Scutaro’s leg during Game 2 of the NLCS. The disdain for Holliday didn’t quite match that for Mariners' Scott Cousins when Cousins ended Buster Posey’s 2011 season, but the protectiveness fans showed for Scutaro indicated that they had embraced him as one of their own.
Now, fans are clamoring for the Giants to re-sign the 37-year-old free agent for at least two years. If Scutaro stays, that will stabilize San Francisco's second base situation and ensure the infield has a veteran presence.
While no baseball player is more nationally popular than Derek Jeter, Buster Posey is as loved by his hometown fans as any player in the major leagues.
When Posey was called up to San Francisco in May 2010, he transformed the team into a contender. When he was lost for the 2011 season with a broken ankle, it effectively eliminated the Giants from playoff contention. Finally able to play a complete season in 2012, Posey emerged as the likely NL MVP.
San Francisco’s fate is pretty much tied to its all-world catcher.
Though Posey is still a few years away from free agency, the Giants already have to be figuring out how to lock him up for the next decade or so. Losing him could be disastrous on the field and in the stands.