Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The New World Series Symbol is a Broom

Does anyone doubt that momentum is big in sports? Well, there was further proof this postseason. The Series was a sweep for the sixth time in the past fifteen years. It was a contest of loose and confident characters against a tense team of Tigers.

Giant manager Bruce Bochy had surprising success in San Diego before moving up the left coast to San Francisco. Now he has a second championship in three seasons - with a group that features no Willie Mays or Juan Marichal or Barry Bonds. Those big names did not won championships. 

Bochy's role in the victory cannot be overstated. He got the most out of what he had and enjoyed himself doing it. As a school manager, that is as a principal, I always felt that if the boss isn't having fun nobody is, and that was clearly the case in the Giants' dugout. "I've been told I have a dry sense of humor," said Bochy. "You know, I have fun ... We have fun in there. I want these guys to be loose and relaxed." It worked. While the big salary Tigers were squeezing the sawdust out of their bats - as had the Yankees in the ALCS - the Giants' no names came through. 

In spite of a 70% turnover in personnel since their 2010 win, the Giants had just the right pieces - and Bochy let 'em play. "I keep coming back to how unselfish these guys are. It's amazing what a club can do when they play as a team and have no agendas."

Perhaps the sacrifice bunt by Gregor Blanco, the one that refused to go foul, was emblematic of what went wrong for Detroit and right for San Fran. Blanco, whose salary is $480,000, had bounced around from team to team without success. He played much of 2011 with an injured hand while toiling for the Syracuse Chiefs. But when Giants hitting coach Hensley Meulens was managing the Bravos de Margaritas in Venezuela last winter he saw Blanco and noted that he was hitting more line drives than he had before. He thought he'd be a good fit for AT&T Park's big outfield and the Giants signed him.  

In spite of Pablo Sandoval hitting those three home runs would the Giants still have won Game One without Blanco's two diving catches? Then the sac bunt in Game Two. Then a triple over Austin Jackson to drive in the first run in a 2-0 Game Three win. And then the running catch against the wall in the 9th. 

The Giants overcame a 2-0 deficit against the Reds and a 3-1 deficit against St. Louis. Much earlier they had overcome the loss of Melky Cabrera to the MLB penal system. 

After a great regular season Buster Posey kept right on going in the postseason with nine RBIs. His grand slam in Game Five against the Reds was the difference. He homered in the sixth inning on Sunday night. 

After striking out three times in Game One Hunter Pence delivered a single and a sacrifice fly late in Game Two, all the Giants would need. After starring in the NLCS Marco Scutaro knocked in the winning run in Game Four. 

Pablo Sandoval earned the Most Valuable Panda award after hitting .500 thanks mainly to three homers in one game (the fourth time in history), a double and six runs batted in. His 13 total bases in Game One tied the record set just last year by Albert Pujols.

Backed by great defence, the San Francisco pitching staff was top-notch. They had held the Cardinals to just one run in the last three games of the NLCS. 2008 and 2009 Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum struggled as a starter this year but unselfishly accepted a move to the bullpen and helped save Game Three for the Giants. Madison Bumgarner had struggled mightily in the playoffs but, after Dave Righetti worked on his mechanics, he shone in Game 2. 

Ryan Voglesong may have been the biggest story for the Giants. Released by the Giants, Pirates, Phillies, and Angels before being bought back by the Giants (he even struggled in Japan for three years) the 35-year old was 3-0 with a 1.09 ERA in the postseason. You could argue that Sandoval's homers off Justin Verlander and Blanco's catches late in Game One were turning points in the Series but what about Voglesong fanning Quinten Berry and inducing an infield pop up from Miguel Cabrera in the 5th inning of Game 2?

Unfortunately for Fox Sports, who pay handsomely for the rights to the Series, it appears that the only fans watching the Giants and Tigers were their parents and neighbors. The Series set a record for fewest viewers and Saturday night's Game Three was the least watched game in Series history.

It is a disturbing trend for baseball that three of the least watched Series have occurred in the last five years. The 2008 Phillies vs. Rays and the 2010 Giants vs. Rangers had shared the bottom rung until last week. A lot of people were happy not to see the huge salaried Yankees or Dodgers in the Series but at least some of those people might have watched the games. 

1 comment:

Rick Blechta said...

Thanks, Will. Great piece!