Nobody predicted that the San Francisco Giants would conquer improbable playoff series deficits to climb atop the baseball world for the second time in three seasons.
The same critics that doubted the Giants last October claim the rival Los Angeles Dodgers are the team to beat in the National League entering the 2013 season. It's a supposed safe bet, given name-brand products and a payroll big enough to eclipse half of Hollywood.
Bad business decisions don't render champions, though. Big money is a flawed formula, proven to be fallacious in professional sports; it's tried and tired. Just ask the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees.
The Dodgers didn't buy themselves a championship team. Instead, they bought a heaping landfill of bad contracts and wanna-be success. It's not that the so-called new blue won't compete with the reigning champs this summer, but checkbooks have never won championships, nor have clubhouse cancers, like Adrian Gonzalez, Hanley Ramirez and Josh Beckett.
No sleek slogan is necessary for the Giants. The new season represents business as usual.
Baseball-hungry fans, who have sold out picture-perfect AT&T Park for 180 consecutive contests, including the postseason, will build on an already-established reputation as the loudest fans in the game. The gentlemen in the clubhouse will pour grit and tenacity onto the diamond with one goal in mind: three titles in four seasons.
A team's image is worthless when it doesn't win. The Giants don't have that problem. They have rings on their fingers to prove it.
It's not even about beating the Dodgers. It's about dominating October to climb atop the baseball world and prove critics wrong, again. It doesn't matter that the Giants are chalked as average on paper, because no team has ever won a championship on a legal pad.
The Giants return 21 of 25 players from last season's triumphant team. The pitching staff is entirely intact and arguably better than ever, considering the resurrection of crafty lefty Barry Zito (15-8, 4.15 ERA, 114 Ks) and the potential revival of two-time Cy Young award winner Tim Lincecum, who surrendered just five runs in 17.2 innings pitched in the 2012 postseason.
Who will win the NL West in 2013?
The cornerstone of the franchise, and defending NL MVP, Buster Posey (.336 AVG., 24 HRs, 103 RBI) is officially signed up for the next nine seasons after inking a $167 million contract.
Rising stars Brandon Belt (.275 AVG., 7 HRs, 56 RBI) and Brandon Crawford (.245 AVG., 4 HRs, 45 RBI) consistently flash signs of steady improvement, demonstrated in outstanding performances this spring.
Savvy veterans Angel Pagan (.288 AVG., 8 HRs, 56 RBI) and Marco Scutaro (.306 AVG., 7 HRs, 76 RBI) lock down the top of an order consumed in the old-fashioned idea of simply getting on base, instead of blasting home runs.
The Giants sustain the most solidified team concept in baseball. On-base percentage (.327 in 2012), combined with stellar pitching (3.68 ERA in 2012), is the acumen behind two championships in three seasons, and the reason why they stand a chance to repeat in 2013.
There isn't hype engulfing the Giants into unrealistic expectations, but they're aware of what they're capable of. The same critics dubbing the Dodgers preseason favorites claim the Giants can't do it again.
It's an old mantra that the Giants continue to prove wrong.
Paul Swydan of FanGraphs (via ESPN Insider) chalked the Giants as unfit for October before the playoffs last season, pointing to a surplus of wins against "inferior competition."
The irony in that standpoint is that no team has proven themselves more capable of dominating October than the Giants. They've done it twice in three seasons, recording an astounding 8-1 record in two World Series appearances.
Why would 2013 be any different?
The big-money Dodgers are ignorantly considered the favorites in the NL West this season, but the Giants are ready to reclaim their role as world champs.