Thursday, October 30, 2014

A Giant accomplishment

Buster Posey and Madison Bumgarner
celebrate the final out Wednesday night.
Nicely done, Madison Bumgarner. Nicely done, San Francisco Giants.

This makes three World Series titles for the Jints in five seasons, and while I don't think they're a great team, they've had a knack for finding the right people for the right roles in October in even-numbered years.

This year it was Bumgarner, the lefty slinger who stopped the Royals pretty much dead in two starts, then gave manager Bruce Bochy five shutout innings of relief in Game Seven.

We can wonder why Kansas City skipper Ned Yost never let Josh Willingham out of the dugout against Bumgarner -- the purpose of having the Hammer on the roster was to hit lefties, after all. We can wonder what would have happened had Alex Gordon run out of the box on his ninth inning hit that Gregor Blanco and Juan Perez misplayed into three bases. Might he have scored? We can wonder why Yost had Alcides Escobar bunt on an 2-0 count in the fifth inning after Bumgarner opened his outing by allowing a base hit. Giving Bumgarner a free out there certainly didn't hurt him.

We can wonder and what-if, but what happened happened, and what happened was the Giants winning the title.

One aspect of the Giants' staggered string of championships -- 2010, 2012, 2014 -- is how few pieces have been consistent from title to title. Buster Posey behind the plate, certainly. Bumgarner in the rotation -- although in 2010 he was in the back of the rotation and now he's in the front. Sergio Romo, Santiago Casilla, Jeremy Affeldt and Javy Lopez in the bullpen, although the first two have changed roles repeatedly and the latter two are essentially lefty specialists.

The Giants have had three different center fielders for their World Series runs, and three different second basemen. Twice, in fact, the Giants changed second basemen in midseason and went on to win the title. Pablo Sandoval sat for most of the 2010 World Series and hit cleanup in 2014. Tim Lincecum was a rotation mainstay in 2010, a useful reliever in the 2012 postseason, an afterthought this year.

What we have in the Giants, then, is a multiple-time champion that has had to retool on the fly, each champion sharply different than the one that preceded it. This is rare. Baseball history is filled with dynasties (or at least pretenders to such status) that relied on the same core. Few have had to rework the puzzle as completely as these Giants have. Casey Stengel's Yankees, perhaps. It's no small accomplishment.

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