After sticking to their “never-say-die” attitude on and off the field, the San Francisco Giants have broken the mold for the archetypal play-off team on the club’s way to capturing the greatest victory a team can win for each other and its city, the World Series title.
And it’s not the first time in less than a decade we’ve seen this club take it all. Just two seasons ago, the 2010 incarnation of the team shocked the world and showed everyone without a doubt, that pitching beats good hitting.
But even with the two extraordinary post-season runs the club has now pulled off twice in the last three years, should the Giants be welcomed into the fold of team’s that many would consider a “dynasty” ?
Well, you’d be hard pressed to find anyone in the Bay Area who wouldn’t say yes without hesitation, myself included. But when bringing the term dynasty to the plate, one must stop and consider what a dynasty actually is.
In baseball’s colorful, storied history, many teams have come together and pulled off amazing feats to capture championship after championship.
From the Oakland Athletics (who won the World Series from 1972-1974), to the St. Louis Cardinals and Stan Musial, who, in his twenty-two year career with the club, helped the team win three of St. Louis’ eleven titles in 1942, ’44, and ’46.
And then of course, there’s the New York Yankees, who sit at the top of the title class with a ridiculous twenty-seven championships. In fact, during Mickey Mantle’s seventeen seasons with New York, the team won seven titles. And if you count the year he was drafted (1949), they won nine titles while he was part of the team. They also hold the MLB record for most World Series championships won in a row, winning consecutively from 1949-1953 (they actually almost did it a first time when they were champions from 1936-1939). And it doesn’t hurt that besides the 1980’s, they are the only team in the MLB to win a title in every decade since the 1920’s, where New York won it all for the first time in 1923.
So what determines a dynasty?
A dynasty is commonly referred to when speaking of monarchs, handing down the torch of crown from heir to heir. Fathers and sons belonging to the same college fraternity, or even a political family that spans generations.
Well, it’s kind of the same thing in baseball, only the difference is that things are changing all the time. Players rarely stay with the same team for more than a few years, often making it impossible to classify many winning teams as dynasties due to the many moving pieces, and how different one championship team of the same franchise could look different from another even the next year.
This was half the case for the San Francisco Giants this time around.
In 2010, the team featured a lights-out pitching staff, bullpen included. The one through five rotation was as such:
Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Barry Zito, Jonathan Sanchez, and Madison Bumgarner.
Position players such as:
Aubrey Huff, Freddy Sanchez, Edgar Renteria, Juan Uribe, Cody Ross, Nate Schierholtz, and Andres Torres headed the team’s offense, which didn’t turn any heads. But as most are aware, the clutch and timely hitting of these players proved to be just enough to go all the way.
And then 2011 came along, a season full of high expectations for San Francisco. Unfortunately, despite keeping most of the team in tact (bye bye Juan Uribe and Edgar Renteria), the offense took a turn for the worse during most of the season. Players like Aubrey Huff, Miguel Tejada, Eli Whiteside, Cody Ross, and Andres Torres just weren’t getting it done.
So what did the team do? They brought up a couple of minor leaguers, Brandon Belt and Brandon Crawford, a first base-man and short-stop, respectively.
In addition, they also gave a former organizational pitcher, Ryan Vogelsong, a second chance to pitch with the club, something he hadn’t done since the 2001 season.
This helped the team stay afloat despite a lack of offense, and the Giants pitching was still as dominant as ever. But with Buster Posey out with season ending injuries, and the heroes of the previous year not stepping up, the teams playoff hopes quickly vanished and finished eight games behind the Arizona Diamondbacks in the National League West.
Fast forward to 2012. With Ryan Vogelsong joining the team for a second consecutive year and replacing Jonathan Sanchez, the revamped rotation looked poised to dominate yet again.
During the off-season, the team cleaned house, getting rid of the likes of Aaron Rowand, Cody Ross, Andres Torres, Carlos Beltran, Miguel Tejada, Jeff Keppinger, and Orlando Cabrera. This enabled the club to bring back rookies Belt and Crawford, as well as bring in the highly-anticipated switch-hitting outfielder Melky Cabrera, and speedy center-fielder Angel Pagan.
Also joining the squad was outfielder Gregor Blanco and infielder Joaquin Arias, with Hector Sanchez re-joining the club to back-up a healed Buster Posey behind the plate.
And it didn’t stop there. Brian Sabean surprised the critics and fans alike when at the July trade deadline, he traded Nate Schierholtz to the Philadelphia Phillies for fellow outfielder Hunter Pence, finally tossing his aging-vet recruitment philosophy to the side.
What did this teach us?
It shows that the team might be headed in a different, more promising direction, as bringing in talented, young, fast players with high ceilings is definitely a turn-around from what we’ve seen of this clubs players during the last decade or so.
Not everyone on the team is a youngster, and shouldn’t be, as having veteran leadership on a club is always important. And the club absolutely had it this year. One of the best, possibly THE best, pickups of the season, saw second base-man Marco Scutaro join the ranks of the Giants, a move most thought nothing more than a typical acquisition for Sabean. How wrong they were.
They also brought in veteran Ryan Theriot, who had just won the World Series with St. Louis the previous season.
In 2012, the Giants looked very different when comparing them to their 2010 incarnation. Most of the pitching looked exactly the same, with some tweaks here and there, but it was their offense that had changed drastically, and for the better. Instead of holding on to aging vets, the team opted to go for youth and speed.
This didn’t mean they got rid of everyone, of course. Returning at third base to prove himself once again, Pablo Sandoval manned the corner in-field position with stunning range, despite his size. Buster Posey put together one of the most impressive seasons a young player has ever had. And of course, you had pitchers Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, and Madison Bumgarner, all of whom (besides Sandoval in 2010) played key roles in the teams 2010 and 2012 post-season runs. These five players (but not limited too) are this teams cornerstones, and when you add in a budding super-star first-baseman (Brandon Belt) with the potential to be a perennial home-run king, along with the short-stop of the Giants future in Brandon Crawford, the word dynasty definitely starts sounding more and more realistic.
So maybe you don’t have to have the same players on the team year in and year out to be considered a dynasty. What the Giants are doing – I think, supports the idea of what a “dynasty” should be in baseball.
It’s not about buying the biggest, baddest, most expensive free agents, or having the biggest payroll in all the land.
It’s about developing young players. Playing as a team. Doing your research, and not always going along with what everyone else is doing. It helps when your city is also one with a rich history in the game, and featured many of the greats like Willie Mays, Orlando Cepeda, Willie McCovey, Barry Bonds, and Gaylord Perry.
San Francisco’s style is anything but traditional, and has proven they can get things done. Two World Series championships in a span of three years is pretty good, and both under manager of the year finalist Bruce Bochy, who has been a integral part to this teams recent success. But when you add in the fact that the franchise had not seen a title since 1954, it makes things a little clearer when realizing just what this team is doing.
Besides, they are tied for the fourth most World Series titles in major league history (7), and that sounds pretty good to me.