Sports dynasties have certain perceptions about them.
They are dominant. They brim with consistency and stability. You can see them coming from years away, knowing that if things continue uninterrupted, that franchise can clear mantle space for multiple championships in a short period of time.
Then, there are the San Francisco Giants, a baseball team on the verge of laying the final brick to one of the strangest dynasties professional sports has ever seen.
The Giants are about to start their third World Series in the last five seasons, two of them already culminating in championships. A third win, this time over the Kansas City Royals, would solidify their dynasty in one of the most improbable five-year runs in the history of America's pastime.
"It's the even year," catcher Buster Posey told The New York Times after these 2014 Giants clinched the National League Championship Series last week. "I think that's what it is."
Ah, yes. The Even-Year Theory. It's great for uninformed conversation, is it not? And when you look for reasons why the Giants have been to three Fall Classics in five years, it's one that casual fans, and players, now cite on a regular basis as if the final digit in the year is as important as the bullpen or No. 3 hitter.
There is a reason for that. Sort of. It is because the three World Series appearances can be considered so random that the year they occur in suddenly becomes why they happened at all. Aside from digging through rosters and statistics for hours upon hours, it is really difficult to find consistent, substantial reasons for the Giants playing in their three World Series.
And it's not just when you ask players. When you ask men who are supposed to have those kinds of answers at the ready, you still get nothing when it comes to these Giants teams.
Shoot the questions at general manager Brian Sabean or manager Bruce Bochy. They are full of buzzwords and generic phrases like "unselfish" or saying their players "love to compete" and "concentrate," as Sabean told the San Francisco Chronicle recently.
As if the Giants teams in 2011 and 2013 were selfish, hated competition and lacked concentration. They were not that way. They were actually constructed the same way the even-year rosters were constructed. The same kind of signings and trades happened in the odd years as in the even ones. The difference is in the even years they weren't able to get into October's tournament, where teams are usually so evenly matched that randomness and luck—gasp!—play a major role in single-game outcomes, and eventually series.
Then there is the injury argument, which is mainly led by the 2011 injury to Posey. But once again perception does not match reality. The Giants had injuries in each of the World Series runs too. None were as significant as Posey's, but this year's crop of Matt Cain, Angel Pagan and even Mike Morse—he is playing now but severely limited—is nothing to dismiss. Those were players expected to make big contributions when the team broke camp in March.
The fact is, the Giants' three World Series teams were quite close to being instantly forgotten in each of those October stories, or even before then, nearly a bump in the path to some other team's glory. They either barely made the postseason or were a pitch or play away from being eliminated before the final test.
As for team chemistry, a factor Giants fans, and Brandon Belt, love to throw at the rival Los Angeles Dodgers, let's not be fooled. Winning produces chemistry, and that is also to then say the Giants lacked chemistry in two of the last four seasons.
Roster consistency is another buzz phrase that just doesn't hold water when the Giants are the ones filling it up. Their first two championship runs were tagged with the misconception that their "core" of players remained intact.
Ready to have that theory blown to bits?
That "core" was a shapeshifter, with Posey being the only consistent pillar in the three runs. Aside from him, in the team's three World Series pushes, it has had three different second basemen, left fielders, center fielders and closers. It has had two first basemen, shortstops, third basemen and right fielders.
Edgar Renteria won a World Series MVP as a below-average player in 2010, and Marco Scutaro won the NLCS MVP in 2012 as a midseason acquisition who had a 74 OPS-plus with Colorado over 95 games but a 144 OPS-plus in 61 games, not counting the postseason, with the Giants.
Each run has been entirely different, with different heroes and circumstances.
In 2010, they were down as many as 6.5 games near the end of August, but they went 19-10 to close the regular season in September and October. The San Diego Padres, meanwhile, finished 14-17 and lost on the final day of the season in San Francisco, eliminating the need for a one-game playoff for the division.
Bochy benched Pablo Sandoval during the postseason because of poor production, and Barry Zito was left off the postseason rosters for the same reason. Matt Cain did not allow an earned run in three appearances, and Tim Lincecum had a 2.43 ERA and 43 strikeouts in 37 innings.
In 2012, they won the division going away but had the worst record of any of the other National League division winners. They also played an ungodly six elimination games in that postseason just to make it into the World Series, where they rolled through the "rusty" Detroit Tigers. Sandoval was the World Series MVP and hit three homers in Game 1, and Zito allowed one earned run over 13.1 innings in the NLCS and World Series.
Also, the team played October without Melky Cabrera, one of their best hitters during the regular season, because he was busted for PEDs.
This season, the Dodgers were clearly the most talented team in the division and won the NL West by six games. Meanwhile, no playoff team had a worse record than the Giants at 88-74, although the Pittsburgh Pirates and Oakland A's matched it.
The Giants won a sudden-death Wild Card Game and an 18-inning game, both on the road. Then Travis Ishikawa, on the roster only because of Morse and Pagan's injury situations, hit the walk-off home run in the NLCS to send the Giants to this third World Series. Cain and Lincecum have not pitched.
Aside from Posey, who has caught every game during these runs except for two when he played first base, the other constant has been San Francisco's pitching.
In 2010, their rotation was arguably one of the best postseason groups ever, as detailed by Bleacher Report's Andrew Brining. In 2012 and 2014, their bullpens have been lights out. This season Giants relievers lead all playoff teams with a 1.78 ERA, and if not for the 'pen pitching 10.2 shutout innings against the Washington Nationals in Game 2 of the NLDS, the NLCS might have had a different participant.
It is also Bochy, whose bullpen management, noted by B/R's Zachary D. Rymer, has helped him into the group of future Hall of Fame managers.
"You look at what we've done, it's special and impressive," reliever Sergio Romo told Ann Killion of the San Francisco Chronicle. "Some guys spend their whole career not even making it to the playoffs, and here we are dancing again."
For as different, infused with randomness/luck and spaced out as these World Series appearances have been, if the Giants can bookend them with another championship, this is undoubtedly a baseball dynasty.
All they have to do is win four more this fall, and these Giants will have their dynasty—about as strange and unexpected as any ever, but a dynasty nonetheless.
Anthony Witrado covers Major League Baseball for Bleacher Report. He spent the previous three seasons as the national baseball columnist at Sporting News and four years before that as the Brewers beat writer for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Follow Anthony on Twitter @awitrado and talk baseball here.