DETROIT – It was after midnight in the San Francisco Giants’ broom closet of a clubhouse deep within Comerica Park and the celebration was in full swing early Monday morning. Then manager Bruce Bochy came into the room, tried to briefly calm down the chaos and got his players in a tight circle.
Bochy had just a couple words, unintelligible to those jammed on the other side of the clubhouse, then thrust the World Series trophy over his head in true Stanley Cup style.
His players responded with a huge roar, bursts of champagne and chants of “Bruuuce, Bruuuce” and Bochy beamed as the mayhem resumed. It was an appropriate tribute.
While everyone in the East spends most of the summer paying attention to the daily drama that is the Yankees and folks in the West were suddenly spurred by the Dodgers’ massive check writing, the Giants have become baseball’s model franchise.
They have a ballpark most cities can only dream of, a crazy fan base and now they have another championship courtesy of a postseason run unlike almost any in history. And in Bochy, they have a calm leader who has joined a small list of men to win two titles.
“To be world champions in two out of the last three years, it’s amazing,” Bochy said after the Giants completed a stunning sweep of the Detroit Tigers with Sunday’s 4-3, 10-inning victory. “Believe me, I know how difficult it is to get here, and I couldn’t be prouder of a group of guys that were not going to be denied.
“It’s amazing what they accomplished. I think when you look at this club, the terms ‘teamwork,’ ‘team play,’ ‘play as a team,’ that’s used loosely, but these guys truly did it. They set aside their own agenda and asked what’s best for the club. And we put guys in different roles, nobody ever said a word, complained or anything, and that’s the only way it got done."
Since 2000, the only teams to win the World Series twice are the Yankees, Red Sox, Cardinals and now, the Giants. San Francisco, however, is the first team to win as many as two championships in three years since the Yankees won three straight from 1998-2000. And the Giants are the first National League team to do it since Cincinnati’s Big Red Machine went back to back in 1975-76.
Which managers have won two titles since 1980? Joe Torre has four. Tony LaRussa has three. Tommy Lasorda, Tom Kelly, Cito Gaston and Terry Francona have two. And now there’s Bochy, a longtime former backup catcher with Houston and San Diego who has become one of the game’s best at keeping his team on the task at hand.
“To even be mentioned with those guys, I revere all those managers,” Bochy said. “I’m numb, really, to the fact that we’ve won two World Series in the last three years. This will sink in, but right now, I’m kind of speechless on that.”
Think of the distractions the Giants had this year. There was closer Brian Wilson’s season-ending injury in April. Melky Cabrera’s steroid suspension. The Dodgers’ blockbuster deal with Boston that had most observers assuming they would leapfrog the Giants in the National League West.
The Giants overcame them all to get to the playoffs. Then they were down two games in the division series to Cincinnati – and had one hit through nine innings of Game Three. They survived in the 10th on a Scott Rolen error and went on to win three straight and take that series. They were in a 3-1 hole against St. Louis and won the final three games of the NLCS.
Then came the World Series. The Giants outscored the Tigers, 16-6, in the four games, had a 1.42 team earned-run average and held Detroit to a .159 team batting average. That was the worst in Series play since the 1969 Orioles batted .146 against the Amazin’ Mets and is the third-lowest all-time.
Overall, it was a seven-game winning streak to wrap up the postseason. We’ve seen a lot of that lately when you consider the 2004 Red Sox (eight), and the ‘05 White Sox and ‘07 Red Sox (seven apiece). But the Giants won six elimination games and the only other team to do that was the 1985 Kansas City Royals. And no one has ever won four win-or-go-home games on the road in a single postseason.
“When you look at the clubs that we played, and having our backs to the wall, it’s pretty remarkable what these guys have done,” Bochy said.
The Giants are built on the pitching of Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner. Tim Lincecum struggled as a starter this year but flourished out of the bullpen in the postseason. Sergio Romo stepped in for Wilson at closer. The middle relief was almost unhittable.
But oddly enough, they made major changes to their lineup from just two years ago. Only catcher Buster Posey was on the field the night they wrapped up the 2010 Series in Texas.
There were huge trade acquisitions like Marco Scutaro, Hunter Pence and Angel Pagan, and World Series MVP Pablo Sandoval was relegated to the bench for most of that series before taking this one by storm with his three-home run game in the opener.
“Guys are loose and relaxed, and it just seemed like all the pieces fit together,” Cain said. “A lot of us kind of had the same mentality about the game. Nobody really stood out and wanted to steal the spotlight, and I think that’s what helped us. And what benefitted us is to be able to work together.”
The last seven games, just about everything went right for the Giants. Their pitching was solid. They got just enough clutch hits, including the 10th-inning single from Scutaro that drove in the winning run. And for a team that struggled defensively during the season at times, the Giants were air-tight when it counted.
“I’m blessed to be in a situation where we can win,” Bochy said. “I’m thankful for [General Manager] Brian Sabean bringing players in to put us where we’re at right now. There’s ownership, of course, our fans and these players. It’s all them. And for me to be the manager, I know how lucky I am and how blessed I am.”