KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Oh, what a perfect place for the San Francisco Giants to expand their burgeoning Dynasty, yes, capital D Dynasty.
In a baseball city that calls its team the Royals, underneath a center field scoreboard that read “Giants 3, Royals 2” and stands more than four stories high and is capped by a giant crown, Madison Bumgarner cemented his status as October royalty and the Giants again stormed the throne room.
Crown them, World Series champs for the third time in five seasons.
Anoint them, just the second National League club ever to win three World Series in a five-year span, joining the St. Louis Cardinals (1942, 1944 and 1946). And the first team to win three in a five-year span since the Yankees of 1996 through 2000.
“I don’t know,” said the architect, Brian Sabean, the game’s longest-tenured general manager, amid the champagne, thick cigars, jubilant families and thumping rock music in the winning clubhouse. “When I think of dynasty, I think of the Yankees’ days gone by, and the Yankees’ last run.
“What we’ve done certainly is historic for this organization. We have to enjoy it and take it for what it is.
“We’ve got a great culture here. We love and appreciate everyone’s loyalty and commitment, their work ethic. We feed off of each other, and we have a hell of a time together. We’re fully invested.”
The Giants flew three planes here for Games 6 and 7 in about as classy a gesture as you will find.
One, of course, carried manager Bruce Bochy, his coaching staff and the players. The other two transported a traveling party of more than 500, members of the Giants front office and their families.
What they saw here will stay with them for the rest of their lives.
The Giants played 63 World Series innings. Bumgarner, after five exquisite (and stunning) innings of Game 7 relief, had pitched 21 of them.
One-third. No wonder, as the ace answered reporters’ questions afterward, Bochy looked at him admiringly, as if seeing an original Chagall for the first time.
“Truly amazing,” Bochy said. “Incredible, what he did through all this postseason.”
The laconic left-hander with the assassin’s repertoire worked 52.2 innings this postseason, surpassing Curt Schilling’s 48.1 in 2001 as the most ever in a single playoff run.
His 0.43 ERA was the lowest in a single World Series among pitchers with at least 15 innings since Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax produced an 0.38 ERA for the 1965 Dodgers.
And with 36 career World Series innings that helped carry the Giants to titles in 2010, 2012 and 2014, he’s surrendered just 14 hits, fanned 31, walked five and produced an ERA of 0.25. Which, among pitchers with at least 25 World Series innings, is the best ever.
Wow, wow and whoa.
“It’s remarkable,” said Tim Hudson, who was bailed out by Bumgarner after he lasted only 1.2 innings in Game 7. “Truly amazing.”
Yes, the “truly amazings” were flowing like the champagne on this night.
“As soon as we had the lead and I saw him warming up in the bullpen, I knew it was over,” Hudson continued.
Bumgarner, along with the roly, poly Kung Fu Panda himself, Pablo Sandoval, and Buster Posey, are among the few threads weaving through this most improbable run of domination.
When the Giants won in 2010, Tim Lincecum, fresh from Cy Young Awards in 2008 and 2009, was their ace. Then Matt Cain led them in ’12 and, now, Bumgarner.
In ’10, Sabean acquired outfielders Cody Ross and Pat Burrell, and setup man Javier Lopez as midseason reinforcements. In ’12, it was Hunter Pence and Marco Scutaro. This summer, when Cain went down with an elbow injury, it was Jake Peavy.
“I don’t know,” Pence said. “Both times I’ve been here were completely apart. Credit Sabean and Bochy. You don’t get here without great minds.”
The great mind in the dugout, whose third World Series title surely solidifies his status as a Hall of Fame manager, couldn’t have plotted out Game 7 any better with a draftsman’s table and a ream of graph paper.
All along, his plan was to summon Bumgarner somewhere around the fifth inning. The only thing that went off the rails was Hudson. Nobody planned on just 1.2 innings from him. But in his worst-case-scenario plan, Bochy had Jeremy Affeldt and Tim Lincecum on call.
“I told Jeremy, ‘Be ready. You’re the first guy up,’” Bochy said.
So 11 batters into the game, suddenly, it was Affeldt time. With Lincecum warming. When Affeldt lasted 2.1 innings, that scotched Lincecum for the evening. It was all the Giants needed until Bumgarner entered to finish what he started in Game 1.
Bochy's short leash and Bumgarner's heroics have now put the Giants in rarified air—including putting the cherry on top of what is now being called MLB's latest dynasty.
“We’re honored to hear that,” said Bochy, who becomes just the 10th manager with three or more World Series titles (the other nine all are enshrined in Cooperstown). “I know we had a couple of hiccups between them, but that’s pretty cool.
“You look at the Bulls…and the 49ers…and the Lakers…and the Yankees, obviously. It’s an honor even to be mentioned like that. I think we’ve got a little ways to go, but we’re honored.”
To a man, the Giants who have been around for a time said this run was the most difficult of all. They lost Cain in July. They lost their leadoff man and center fielder, Angel Pagan, to a back injury. They didn’t fill a hole at second base until installing rookie Joe Panik there in June after summoning him from Triple-A Fresno.
“The journey, that’s what it’s all about, right?” said Ron Wotus, Bochy’s bench coach. “I’ve never seen a team love meetings, love inspiring each other, more. Hunter’s the leader of that.
“You know what? They’re as together as you can possibly be.”
Before the game, Bochy spoke to them. You bet he knew that nine consecutive road teams, going back to 1982, had lost Game 7 of the World Series. You bet he knew that the last club to win a Game 7 on the road was the Pittsburgh Pirates way back in 1979.
You bet he brought all of this up during his talk, and reminded the Giants of the extraordinary steps they already had taken just to position themselves for this Game 7, and why couldn’t they finish it off?
“They’re all good,” Wotus said of Bochy’s speeches. “But I think this was one of his best. I do.”
Especially after enduring a 10-0 Game 6 drubbing.
“On the road, in Game 7,” Wotus continued. “We’ve never been in a Game 7 [in the World Series]. It got everyone refocused.”
So they struck gold. Again. Despite the fact that, to complete their latest masterpiece, they scored 20 runs this postseason without the benefit of a base hit. Sacrifice flies (two more Wednesday), wild pitches, errors…the Giants pried every run out of every creative opportunity they could find this month.
“That’s what I hear,” said third base coach Tim Flannery. “It’ll take me a while to figure this one out. It was different from the other two.”
Resourceful? Check this out: At 2-2 in the fourth, Sandoval moved from second to third on Brandon Belt’s fly ball to left field, which set him up to score what turned out to be the winning run on Michael Morse’s base knock to right.
“Pablo, who can’t run a lick, decides he’s going to tag up and come to third,” Flannery said, shaking his head, eyes twinkling, still disbelieving. “I told him, ‘You’ve been holding out on me all year, haven’t you? You’ve been trying to get me fired!’”
The Panda just smiled, as he so often does, then motored home a few moments later with what would be the winning run in what could have been his final game as a Giant (he’s a free agent this winter).
“The mentality of spirit and heart that this club has,” Flannery said. “It comes from the front office, from Brian and his people, from the manager’s philosophy, the coaching staff in here that knows how to handle it.
And it’s golden. Crown them. Third time in five years.
The latest ticker-tape parade will be held Friday in San Francisco, absolutely perfect timing. The orange and black, the Panda masks and all that goes with it, rolling through the streets of San Francisco one more time, on, yes, Halloween.
“It’s incredible,” Pence said and, do you know what?
He could not be more right.