Eight years ago, I would have scanned the newspaper headlines, made a note of who had won the latest top prize in sports and not given it another thought. Today, when it comes to baseball, my indifference to which team has made it to the playoffs has evaporated. I’ve married into a family that has rooted for the Giants since they and the team were New Yorkers. And now, as leaves sprout, flowers begin to bloom and the sun stays longer in the sky, I join my husband in looking forward to the start of the season. We begin listening to the rumblings going on in Arizona heralding spring training. We giddily anticipate what the new season will yield in talent, passion, entertainment and torture (Duane Kuiper famously said “Giants baseball: torture” during 2010, on route to the team’s first world series win in this century). We look forward to the regular season featuring our favorite local commentators (Kruk and Kuip, John Miller and Dave Flemming) teaching us a thing or two about the game. And we chew our nails down to nubs towards the end of summer and into fall as we worry whether or not our beloved orange and black team will survive to play into October. The last weeks of the regular season necessitates lots of speculation as to what other teams need to do and what our team needs to do to secure a spot in the playoffs.
What I love most about the game is the back story behind the players and the team. That’s what drives my interest. In 2010, I began following Travis Ishikawa. I tend to like underdogs. He wasn’t a regular starter. He was a good defensive first baseman, had a good eye in reading the ball during his at-bats but could not produce enough offensively to keep his position. Even though he played a critical role in the post season in 2010 (in my humble opinion), he was eventually released. Even with two outs and two strikes on him, Ishi got on base during critical games. Other teams came calling but it was a wintry experience starting with the Milwaukee Brewers and then with three other teams and bouncing to the minor leagues before returning back to the Giants this past April. When Morse hurt his oblique, Ishi came up from the minor leagues as a left fielder during the playoffs. How sweet it was to see Ishi’s perseverance and efforts finally rewarded in a walk-off three-run home run to give the Giants their third National League pennant in five years by defeating the St. Louis Cardinals.
This year as in years past, there were so many story lines to enjoy and follow with this dynamic team comprised of veterans and rookies, all characters. Reliable Matt Cain needs surgery, he’s out. Who can replace him? Angel Pagan is injured; who will fill in for him and play lead-off hitter? Tim Hudson plays in his first world series appearance at 39 years of age. Jake Peavy has the chance for back-to-back world series wins for two different teams. Which bull pen will survive in the battle of the bull pens between the KC Royals and the SF Giants? How long will the starters last before having to go to the relievers?
How will the rookie members of the Giants handle the pressure of their first post season? Answer: Ice in their veins cool. See Joe Panik. Will Panda’s (Pablo Sandoval) weight affect his fielding and batting? Answer: The big boy needs a little heft to bolster his strength. No loss of athleticism as far as this fan can see. How many more Brandons besides Crawford and Belt do we need? Despite looking a bit like an uncoordinated scarecrow on the field, can Hunter Pence continue to produce offensively, defensively and inspire his team? Emphatically yes. Can Buster Posey endure the long season and continue to motivate his team to win another title? Yep. Twenty-something Captain Posey has done it again with quiet strength, confidence, humility, respect and belief in himself and his team. Can this team push back the waves of history and Royals momentum to come back from a 10-0 tsunami in Game 6 to win Game 7, on the road in Kansas City? Can Madison Bumgarner possibly pitch well as a reliever after two days rest? Yes, yes and triple yes.
This win seems extra special. The SF Giants really battled all season to get here. Each of their competitors in the post season were tough, good teams: Pittsburgh Pirates, Washington Nationals, St. Louis Cardinals and Kansas City Royals. They faced tremendous highs and lows and somehow stitched together a a tight, cohesive team where everyone contributed. What a team! What a year! It’s been a privilege to follow their World Series journey, again.