mlb: world series in perspective

“There’s a long drive… it’s gonna be, I believe…THE GIANTS WIN THE PENNANT!! THE GIANTS WIN THE PENNANT! THE GIANTS WIN THE PENNANT! THE GIANTS WIN THE PENNANT! Bobby Thomson hits into the lower deck of the left-field stands! The Giants win the pennant and they’re goin’ crazy, they’re goin’ crazy! HEEEY-OH!!!”

In case you didn’t already know, that’s Russ Hodges’s call of Bobby Thomson’s “Shot Heard ‘Round the World” in the 1951 National League Championship. Couple this with the 1954 World Series that included “The Catch” by Willy Mays and you have the top two moments in San Francisco/New York Giants history. Well, you can add the 2010 World Series to those moments. No, there wasn’t any defining spectacular play that will live on in the annals of sports, but this series represented a momentous occasion in the world of baseball. A once-storied franchise seeking its first title in over 50 years finally gets it. And what’s more, it represents the end of a dark period for that franchise.


For a franchise that was marred by the steroid cloud that came with Barry Bonds, this championship means more than a ring or a trophy. It means the club has moved on, forgetting what happened in the early 2000s. Led by a trio of fantastic starting pitchers in Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner, the San Francisco Giants closed the door on the upstart Texas Rangers in a series that was never really even close.


How did they do it? As a team. Not one player in the Giants’ lineup is considered a superstar. Buster Posey, the team’s 23-year-old rookie catcher, bat .300 in the World Series. Edgar Renteria, a 35-year-old shortstop in the twilight of his career, smacked the series-clinching three-run homer off of arguably the best pitcher in baseball, Cliff Lee. Tim “The Freak” Lincecum struck out 10 Texas Rangers in Game 5, tied for the most ever in a clinching game. Madison Bumgarner, only 21 years old, pitched eight shutout innings in Game 4. Cody Ross, a castoff from the Florida Marlins, bat .294 with five home runs and 10 runs batted in over the course of the entire postseason. Brian Wilson, an openly Christian and oddly eccentric closer, had six saves with a 0.00 earned run average.  No, one person did not carry the team. It was a coherent team effort.


There’s a saying that the best team always wins. There’s a truth to that, but it’s also misleading. Over the course of the season, the Giants were not the best team in the league. They weren’t even the best team in their division. This was a case of a team getting hot at the right time. In recent history, though, no team has ever sustained that kind of play for as long as the Giants did. They defied all odds – a team built around youth with only a few veterans – and believed in themselves. Now, as World Series Champions, the San Francisco Giants can call themselves the best team in the league.


The path to the World Series was long and arduous for the Giants. First, they had to face an Atlanta Braves team that was fighting for their manager, a legend set to retire. Then, they had to take on the three-headed monster of Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels and Roy Oswalt along with the potent Philadelphia Phillies offense. And to top it off, they squared off with the Texas Rangers, a team that had beaten arguably the best two teams in baseball in the Tampa Bay Rays and the New York Yankees. Through all of this, they came out on top, realizing the dream that fans and players alike have shared for so many years.


Now to be fair, there was another team in the World Series. The Texas Rangers, under the ownership of pitching great Nolan Ryan, showed a never-say-die attitude. That attitude stems from star center fielder Josh Hamilton, who has become the proverbial face of redemption. The Rangers can’t be upset with their failure. It was the farthest the team has advanced in its 38-year history. Granted, anything short of a championship is considered a failure by many, but the Rangers can go into next season knowing what they are capable of. A few tweaks to the roster and they can contend for a title again next season.


But here’s to the San Francisco Giants. Enjoy the moment, you’ve earned it. Never forget how it feels, because once you are content, you lose the will to go to the next level. The defense starts in a few short months.


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