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Leading Men: Giants enjoy another title

The longest, most difficult time of the year for me is the stretch between the end of the baseball season, and the start of spring training.

It just seems to drag on for far too long. Does it make a difference that the San Francisco Giants won the 2012 World Series? Absolutely!! I love having bragging rights as a fan of a World Series championship team, and only one group of fans has this right curently, Giants fans.

I grew up in San Francisco in the 1980s. (Why does this seem like ancient history to everyone else, except me?) I grew up watching the 49ers football team led by Coach Bill Walsh, and quarterback great Joe Montana. They won four Super Bowls in a decade, a true sports dynasty. I care whether or not the 49ers win or lose, but I will always love baseball more. Following the 49ers is just something I do to pass the time between the end of one baseball season and the start of another. I used to tell my friends that I would trade the Super Bowl victories for a World Series championship. And, now, I am truly blessed with two Series championships in three years.

A banner day at San Francisco City Hall awaited the World Series champion Giants.

A banner day at San Francisco City Hall awaited the World Series champion Giants.

Just to recap the end of the baseball season, the Giants beat the Cincinnati Reds and the St. Louis Cardinals in six on-the-brink-of-elimination games to go to the World Series to face the Detroit Tigers, who swept the New York Yankees in the American League Championship Series. The pitching of the Giants showed up, along with great defense and great clutch-hitting.

The Giants swept the Tigers, including back-to-back shutouts in games 2 and 3. They were the first back-to-back World Series shutouts since 1966. Tiger reliever Phil Coke, at the end of the World Series, said that it was a close World Series. However, the facts definitely do not bear this out. In four games, totaling 37 innings, the Giants had a lead for 21 innings, the teams were tied for 14 innings, and the Tigers only had a lead for two innings, and that wasn’t until the fourth game. This is dominance!!

The other thing that I absolutely loved about the 2012 Giants is how they won, as a team—all pulling for each other to do well. They knew that if their teammates did well that they would win, and that is the bottom line. This was apparent in their reaction to adversity, and how they managed to claw their way back from the brink of elimination. I don’t think that the teams the Giants faced knew what kind of heart this team had, or they seriously underestimated it.

The Giants were the first team since the 1982 St Louis Cardinals to win the World Series with the fewest number of home runs in the majors. Home runs, like stolen bases, are only a tool, but they do not necessarily guarantee wins. The 2012 Giants were custom built for their ballpark, AT & T Park, with solid pitching, good defense, good athleticism and clutch-hitting.

The World Series parade was spectacular — as it was in 2010!! Rather than cable cars, the Giants players were in classic cars. While it did seem to take a long time for the players to get to the podium at City Hall, I attribute most of this due to the fact that I arrived there at 6 a.m. It was a long wait, but so much fun hanging out with other passionately happy Giants fans.

Festivities were truly awesome with the introduction of dignitaries and celebrities, and then, the players. It was a love fest between the Giant players, and a million or so fans. Unreal!! One of the great moments was when Hunter Pence, one of the team’s inspirational leaders, brought the players together, and did a rousing cheer for the fans. The festivities ended with a surprise guest, Tony Bennett, who came out and sang “I Left My Heart in San Francisco.” Overall, it was a spectacular event on a spectacular day!

The next order of business for the Giants, specifically, and for other Major League teams then becomes looking at free agents, your own and others, as well as trade possibilities to shore up any weaknesses. It has become apparent that the Giants will not try to sign big name free agents, nor do they need to do so. The Giants have shown that they can win without them. It becomes a matter of keeping skilled players who all fit well together and who want to win – a Giants hallmark in 2010, and again in 2012.

Basebalreflection.com's Charles Fracchia basks in the glow of the Giants' championship.

Basebalreflection.com’s Charles Fracchia basks in the glow of the Giants’ championship.

The Giants did re-sign their three big free agents—reliever Jeremy Affeldt, infielder (and National League Championship Series Most Valuable Player) Marco Scutero, and outfielder Angel Pagan. The Giants also made one other roster move, which I absolutely love. They signed free agent Andres Torres, who played for the Giants in 2009-11, and who was traded to the New Yprk Mets for the 2012 season for Pagan. Torres, like Giant pitcher Ryan Vogelsong overcame adversity to have a decent Major League career. Torres finally started taking medication for Attention Deficit Disorder, and was able to get his baseball career on track. Aside from this, Torres is one of the nicest ballplayers out there. It looks like left field will be a platoon situation with time split between Gregor Blanco and Torres. I was thrilled that the Giants did not re-sign Melky Cabrera. I cannot believe that a team, the Toronto Blue Jays, was willing to give him a two-year contract for $8 million a year. I am tired of the San Francisco Bay Area being ground zero for sports steroid abuse. I do not think that all the blame should be placed on the athletes who used performance enhancing drugs. There is more than enough blame to go around; it should be spread around to include baseball owners and the commissioner, who turned a blind eye to this growing problem, only hoping that it would boost attendance and put more fans in the seats.

Other teams in the NL West, primarily the Los Angeles Dodgers, made big moves, as well. The Dodgers signed free agent pitcher Zack Greinke. However, signing a big name free agent, like making a big trade, is no guarantee of success or wins. A lot of team success depends on overall team health, and who knows what will happen in the upcoming baseball season?

So, what am I looking forward to? The World Series trophies are on tour, traveling around the Bay Area, and even going to New York, the original home of the Giants. On Jan. 26, it is Society for American Baseball Research Day in America, a fun day for baseball lovers to get together and talk about the upcoming season, and just spend time together. Unfortunately, I might have a scheduling conflict, and may not be able to attend, but these are still great events. On Feb. 9, the Giants will hold their annual Fanfest. I can’t remember the last time I missed one of these events. With the Giants’ recent success, these events have become so crowded that they are almost zoo-like, but they are still great fun. After this, the next thing that I look forward to is the start of spring training. Of course, what I really love the most is that for 2013, I get to keep saying “the 2012 World Series champion San Francisco Giants.”

 

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