"Together We're Giant" -- That was the San Francisco Giants theme this season. At first, I wasn't very fond of the slogan but as the season wore on, I bought into it. Apparently, so did Manager Bruce Bochy's Giants, as they went on a wild ride through the National League playoffs, defeating the "best team" in the National League, the Cincinnati Reds, picked by the so-called experts to win it all.
With their backs against the wall, the Giants came back from two games down, facing elimination in each of the following three games to advance to the National League title series.
Next in line, the defending World Champion St. Louis Cardinals, a team stacked with sluggers on the bench and flame throwers on the mound. The Giants stuck "together" and again came back to roll off an amazing, brink of elimination four-win run to steal the National League title from the defending Champions.
Picked by few of the "baseball experts" to challenge for the title, these Giants came "together" once more to pull off one of the most stunning World Series sweeps in history. This series could very well change the way baseball players are evaluated in the future, from little league to the pros.
Every coach, scout and manager refers to the "5 Tool Player" -- One that has great speed, can hit for average, hit for power, has a great arm and is excellent defensively.
This Giants team may now have scouts considering two more "tools" -- Heart and Character. Those are the tools that set the 2012 Giants apart from all the others. Throughout the season this team has rebounded from the face of adversity, losing All-Star closer Brian Wilson to his second Tommy John surgery. Playing without World Series MVP Pablo Sandoval at the hot corner for five weeks after breaking a bone in his hand. And possibly the biggest loss, the Giants All-Star Game MVP Milky Cabrera suspension for 50 games following testing positive for performance enhancing drugs.
Some teams may have packed it in right then, but not the Giants. They again came "together" and went on a second half run to win the National League West Title by eight games over the Dodgers.
The Giants pulled off a block buster deal when they acquired Marco Scutaro, the 36 year-old infielder that had jumped from team to team, (the Giants being his 8th), until finding a home and bringing his "heart" to San Francisco. The career .275 hitter went on a tear through the final six weeks of the season as well as the National League playoffs. The Venezuelan went on to win MVP honors for his outstanding play in the N.L.C.S. series.
Scutaro was just another of the piece of the puzzle that General Manager Brian Sebean and Bochy put in place to make a run down the stretch. There was the addition of Hunter Pence, one of those players that makes the bigs in spite of his fundamentally unsound habits.
Not to be over looked is the Giants two-time Cy Young award winner Tim Lincecum, a hero in the Giants 2010 World Series. The starter had a rough year and when asked by Bochy to work middle relief through the play-off run said, "what ever I can do to help this team win." He went on to stymie hitters in his relief roll.
Then there is pitcher Ryan Vogelsong. The 35 year-old toiled in minor and major ball for 10 years and played in Japan for three years. Then at the request of his young son to give the majors one last shot because he never saw his dad play in the big leagues, Vogelsong spent two years in a Venezuelan league before the Giants gave him one last shot. Sounds like a Hollywood script.
How about Sergio Romo, the Giants small in stature, big in "heart" relief pitcher that was thrust into the closing role following the loss of Wilson. The 150 pounder mowed down some of the games biggest names and most feared batters. Romo's secret grip was taught to him by his father who played professional ball in Mexico.
What this team lacked in home run hitting, they made up for with character. Look no further than Giants left handed Barry Zito. Once the highest paid pitcher in the game, the lefty had struggled with the Giants from day one. Never once did he act anything but professionally as he was criticized in the media and booed from the stands. The low point, being left off the playoff roster for the 2010 playoffs in which the Giants won it all. Today, he sits upon the mountain, redeemed and credited by many as being the key to the rotation and shutting down the mighty Cardinals.
There are too many equations to list that factored into the Giants second World Series title in three years. The biggest two -- Heart and Character -- Can be used as examples to every bright-eyed kid that has ever dreamed of playing in the big leagues.
We use local hero Ted Lilly as a positive example to many of our little leaguers -- now coaches have a team to point to. A World Series winner, that despite the odds, reached the pinnacle of success by playing for one another instead of themselves. The unselfishness that this team demonstrated should be used as an example by coaches from T-ball, to high school, to the majors.
Former Giants skipper, Roger Craig called them "Hummbabies" -- A player that will give his all, unselfishly, to be the best he can be.
Not to be lost in this magical season, is the fun these players had with one another. The smiles on their faces, as they played prank after prank on each other, something that Bochy said he "tolerated." The guys jumping up and down, feeding on the dugout frenzy. These guys often looked like children having the time of their life. So often we concern ourself about the "win" and forget to enjoy the journey. It's about the journey, not just the end result. Embrace it, live it, enjoy every moment of it.
Personally, being a Giants fan from birth, I was hoping the team would clinch it game six, in San Francisco, in front of their orange clad fans. But the more I witnessed these men play, and the character they demonstrated and heart they exhibited, I hoped for a sweep that would further cement their place in baseball history.
Together they proved to the world, they are Giant.