Why the San Francisco Giants Won't Repeat as Champions
In 2010, it took the San Francisco Giants the last game of a grueling 162 contest marathon to wrap up the NL West Crown.
This photo finish mentality would assist them well in a sensational playoff run that would land them their first title since moving to the City by the Bay over a half century ago.
The good news for Giants fans is that they won’t have to wait for the last day of the season, or for a collective Heimlich to be applied to a Punch and Judy lineup (Padres) to abet them. The bad news is that the Giants will be well out of it by then. There are many factors that support this prediction.
Repeating as a World Series champion these days has become akin to attempting an encore of the Titanic sailing.
The 1999 New York Yankees were the last franchise to accomplish the feat, although with the late George Steinbrenner's $92 million payroll, you can argue that it might not have been all hard work, good management, superb scouting, and Derek Jeter’s good looks.
The last team before that to repeat? The 1993 Toronto Blue Jays, who—spoiler alert—had the highest payroll in the majors that year.
Is there a pattern here?
Rewind even more and you will find the New York Yankees repeating in 1978. Let’s go out on a limb here and take a wild guess who might have led the major leagues in payroll that year.
Bottom line—and that’s what it literally comes down to—while it might not be necessary to rank at the top of the MLB payroll list, history suggests (in kind of the way the IRS suggests that you should turn in your W2’s before the tax deadline) this might be a swell idea. Tragically, poor-mouth clubs like the Pirates, A's, or Royals need not even apply for one World Series these days.
This is just human nature. Just imagine:
You are a Major League Baseball team that has just won the World Series.
You have played 30 games in spring training, 162 games in the regular season, and 10-20 more in the playoffs.
You have reached the pinnacle of success, and the quest for the Holy Grail that you can achieve as a team is complete.
You’ve popped the champagne corks, puffed on the Cubans, and stood in the city parade's confetti downpour...only for management and the fans, those ungrateful wretches, to expect you to start the ascension of Mount Everest again a measly three months later? Exactly. Let’s see them do it. Let’s not get too greedy here.
Remarkably, the top four Giants’ pitchers averaged well over 200 hundred innings and 33 starts during the regular season alone. Even more remarkable is the fact that this pitching staff prevailed despite $126 million man Barry Zito’s worst efforts at times.
Add the innings pitched in the postseason, and you will know why Las Vegas doesn’t bother to offer any odds for the dates when pitchers might hit the disabled list.
In all, six pitchers started 161 games, with reliever Joe Martinez accounting for the remaining start. That is nothing short of phenomenal. It is also just as unlikely to be repeated.
This is where younger pitchers like Madison Bumgarner might need to step up. This is asking a lot of a kid who’d barely reached drinking age before he was legally able to partake in the champagne laden postseason celebrations.
Game after game, the Giants’ opposition must have been wondering why the sun had set so early or who was accountable for all of those power outages.
Yet that’s how lights out this unit really was.
Led by über-kook and closer extraordinaire Brian Wilson, the Giants’ opponents were frequently compelled to plan their limited offensive output over six innings against an equally dominant rotation.
Whereas late addition relievers like Ramon Ramirez and Javier Lopez contributed ERA’s that barely registered, it remains to be seen what they can do if given a heavier workload, especially when you consider their history of spectacular mediocrity.
The health of the arms of guys like Sergio Romo, Santiago Casilla, and Wilson will be key here. To expect another combined 190 innings of an ERA hovering below two from them is as unrealistic as the Feds reprising Alcatraz.
Among baseball’s greatest mysteries are whether Babe Ruth called his shot, how many players were really juiced, and just how the Giants’ water gun offense was able to prevail with a team .257 batting average last year that was far more anemic than it looked.
If the offense repeats the 16 shutouts of last season, then I will take the snowball’s chances in hell over the Giants repeating as division, let alone as World Series champs.
To compound matters here, this is a geritol ridden team, with only Posey and Sandoval in their 20’s penciled in as starters.
Late season addition Cody Ross was the unlikely offensive force that carried the Giants against the likes of Halliday and Cliff Lee in the postseason, but how this will translate into regular season success is anybody’s guess. My guess is that he will remain true to form and be a reliable $6 million utility player.
Bruce Bochy is one of a few active managers who have won two pennants for two different clubs.
The pennant winning Padres in 1998 and the Series winning Giants in 2010 had one thing in common: their playoff runs were as sudden as they were unexpected, not to mention improbable.
Those two years aside, Bochy has consistently gained the respect from a clubhouse that has just as consistently underachieved.
Funny also how quickly Giants fans have tripped over each other to remove that knife embedded in GM Brian Sabean’s back following years of subpar performances despite a payroll firmly established in the top 10. With the title winning season of 2010, Bochy and Sabean have built up a credit line that can and will be revoked at the fans’ discretion.
A stinker of a season following the franchise’s greatest success since 1954 is not recommended.
Although the experts seem to be unanimous in the assertion that the current imbalance of power within Major League Baseball has been detrimental to the game, they also agree that repeating as a World Series champion is more difficult in this sports league than in any other.
The Yankees learned that last year, along with the acknowledgment that $200 million just doesn't buy you what it used to.
The San Francisco Giants at only half that payroll won the World Series in 2010.
For that to happen, the franchise needed a perfect alignment of the stars.
This time around, they will need far more than that.
Nobody in baseball outside of Los Angeles could really begrudge San Francisco's long awaited championship, although people were also well aware how slim the chances of a parade on Market Street in November really were.
They have only shrunk this season.