Giants are the new platinum standard of modern baseball

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Giants are the new platinum standard of modern baseball

BOX SCORE

DETROIT -- Brian Sabean looked at the champagne-soaked players come and go behind him through the crowded hallway that connected the Giants clubhouse to the outside world, and he looked bemused.

He looked, frankly, like a guy, who had celebrated a great moment with one set of kids, and then celebrated the same moment two years later with another set. It was Groundhogs Day, with an unlimited amount of free beer.

And who doesnt think thats a good idea?

Im just sort of numb right now, he said, staring into space as though eye contact with the real world might somehow spoil the moment. Well take a step back, then well go to the parade and well be over the moon, and then . . . and then I guess well go back to work.

So it went, this second World Series championship. A more efficient, even bloodless victory than the one two years before, capped off by Sundays 4-3, 10-inning victory over the Detroit Tigers. And yet they were more exhausted than they were two years earlier, because this was not that year. There was less magic and more blow-trading more of what Tim Flannery, the third base coach, used to describe Sundays win.

These are our slingshots and rocks, he said. This is what we fight with.

Most Series sweeps lead to broad conclusions about a teams place in history, but to understand the Giants, it helps to understand one hard and cold truth.

This, their triumphant moment, was the worst game they played in the last seven. It was also the most dominant game they played when it mattered, in the final four innings, right after the Delmon Young home run that tied the game at three.

In other words, if youre keen on metaphors, this was it. Blow-trading.

And they became one of the genuinely special operations of the past 40 years. Only four franchises, Oakland, Cincinnati, New York (twice) and Toronto have won multiple World Series so close together, and if you want to quibble about the definition of dynasty, then by all means do.

But two in three means youre no longer lucky, and youre no longer merely grinders. Youre a team with a high profile, something that makes Sabeans teeth grind.

We do keep a low profile, and we just work together for the common goal, he said of his staff. But when someone asked him how he intended to keep that low profile with the wave of hyperbolic megapraise headed their way, he sounded less sure even when he said, We will.

Because he knows they wont. They cant. Other teams will start poaching their brightest minds. The changes that worked so well for them on the field (Buster Posey and an entirely new position group) will start to affect the front office, and who does what they have become so accustomed to doing as a unit.

You see, one championship is a party. Two in three years is a statement. In the new baseball, which looks more and more like hockey in this way, the real trick is not to dominate the regular season but to create some space by the start of September and then go foot-to-floor for as long as one can manage it.

This is the real Giants Way. The fundamental truth that stands the games principal dynamic on its head. Specifically, the postseason starts on August 1, and doesnt get serious until September 1. And it ends, or at least it could have ended, on November 1.

The Giants in 2010 and 2012 have won 61 of 90 games from September 1 forward. Thats how postseasons are owned.

And they got lucky, when Johnny Cueto lasted eight pitches in the National League Division Series. And when Lance Lynn threw a perfect strike right at the second base bag to trigger the rally in Game 5 of NL Championship Series that began the suffocating run that ensued.

And they overcame their own hitting struggles, working just enough good at-bats around the bad ones that were starting to worry Bochy as late as Game 4 of the World Series. They struck out a preposterous 40 times in their four games against Detroit, but trailed for only two of the 37 innings they played.

And they got very hard to deal with in the late innings. Never mind Tim Lincecum, of which much has, is, and will continue to be said. Taking out the one blowout game they lost, Game 4 of the LCS, their bullpen as a whole allowed seven HITS in 27 innings in the final 11 games.

And they took blows and gave one more every time, against every opponent. Anyone can dominate over a short piece of time, but to win a reputation for being a tough out is something that happens only with time.

They are a tough out now, these Giants. A piece of post-expansion history, with those As and those Reds and those Yankees and even those Blue Jays. They are the new platinum standard of modern baseball.

And yes, they have lost the low profile they so cherish. They will now learn what it is to be copied, and be chased, and be poached. Brian Sabean and the organization he assembled will now feel the slingshots and rocks, and he and they will have to become even more nimble and creative in not only ducking them, but building better slingshots and finding better rocks.

Bumgarner allows two runs, Giants start spring training with walk-off homer

Bumgarner allows two runs, Giants start spring training with walk-off homer

BOX SCORE

At Scottsdale, Arizona, Chris Marrero hit a three-run homer in the bottom of the ninth and drove in four runs as the Giants rallied after Madison Bumgarner gave up two runs on two hits in the top of the first.

Marrero, a 2006 first-round draft pick of the Nationals trying to revive his career as a non-roster invitee, had an RBI single in the fifth.

Kevin Shackelford, the seventh Cincinnati pitcher, walked Orlando Calixte to open the ninth and Christian Arroyo blooped a single into left field before Marrero hit a line drive over the wall in left centerfield.

Patrick Kivlehan had a two-run single off Bumgarner in the first and Hunter Pence doubled in a run off Reds starter Rookie Davis. Davis, acquired from the Yankees in the Aroldis Chapman deal, is likely to open with Double-A Pensacola this year.

Giants spring training Day 12: Pence hits early, Marrero crushes walk-off HR

Giants spring training Day 12: Pence hits early, Marrero crushes walk-off HR

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Bruce Bochy thought he might take it slow with Hunter Pence this spring. Pence, of course, had other ideas. 

Pence, who was held back by intercostal soreness during the first week of workouts, insisted on playing the Cactus League opener. He drove in the first Giants run of the new year with a double off the wall in the bottom of the first inning. 

“I just like to be out there Game 1,” Pence said. “It’s a message. It’s good to be out there. I have every intention of being ready to play every game of the season, so getting out there Game 1 is important to me.”

Bochy played plenty of regulars on the first day, but they were long gone when this one was decided in dramatic fashion. Chris Marrero, a non-roster invitee, hit a three-run walk-off homer as the Giants topped the Reds 6-4.

Marrero, 28, was one of the lead targets for a scouting staff that has made a habit of finding non-roster gems. The former first-round pick hit 23 homers for Boston’s Triple-A team and the Giants went after him hard when he became a minor league free agent. Marrero said his agent got a call within the first five minutes. It was an easy decision, in part because of the non-roster history here and in part because Marrero never got a call-up despite minor league success with the Red Sox. 

“If this team wants you, it’s a good thing,” Marrero said of the Giants. 

Marrero plays first base and the outfield, and while there are plenty of longtime big leaguers in camp, he certainly made a statement on the first day. The slider he hit went out to left in a hurry. 

“He’s a right-handed bat with power,” Bochy said. “He threw out good at-bats on the first day. We’re excited he signed with us. He’s going to get some at-bats here.”

THE ACE: Bochy gave Madison Bumgarner the option of skipping this game and making his debut next week, but Bumgarner — who typically doesn’t throw off a mound until he gets to camp — wanted to face hitters. “I thought it’d be good to get out there and get my feet wet,” he said. Bumgarner worked with Nick Hundley, who made some friends the first time out. 

PROSPECT WATCH: Clayton Blackburn delivered a bit of a message with two perfect innings: Don’t forget about me. 

Blackburn has been bumped down the depth chart by Ty Blach and Tyler Beede, but he was sharp while striking out three. “He was right on, wasn’t he?” Bochy said.

Blackburn was a big story last spring, coming off a season where he led the PCL with a 2.85 ERA. He had a 4.36 ERA last season and that led to some offseason changes. Blackburn said he threw off a mound 10-12 times before coming to camp last year, but he limited it to a handful of sessions this year, instead focusing on flat-ground throws into a net.

“You only have so many bullets,” he said, noting there was some fatigue last season. “You can’t waste them all in the offseason.”

Blackburn was called up last season but never got into a game. 

“There’s definitely a lot more hunger,” he said. “It’s always cool to get called up, but it was disappointing not to get in and not see any more time the rest of the year. It’s disappointing, but it’s part of the game.”

With a few more outings like Friday’s, Blackburn will get that second shot. His peripherals were just about the same across the board in 2015 and 2016, with the glaring difference being 12 additional homers in a hitter-friendly league. If he cuts back on the home runs, there’s no reason why Blackburn can’t get back in the mix here. 

NOTEWORTHY: Jimmy Rollins was 1-for-2 in his Giants debut, with a run scored … Wynton Bernard, the speedy outfielder plucked from Detroit’s system, scored on a double and two wild pitches … Jae-gyun Hwang didn’t have the best debut. He struck out twice and stumbled (for an error) on a slow roller to third ... Healthy Joe Panik had two hits in two at-bats ... Orlando Calixte played second and short and Bochy lit up when talking about his versatility. Calixte will see time in the outfield this spring, too. 

FAMILIAR FACES: It was 2010 Day at the ballpark, as Freddy Sanchez, Bengie Molina and Jeremy Affeldt were all on the field during BP. Molina and Affeldt were part of broadcast teams, but Sanchez was here with his under-9 travel ball team. Per Sanchez, the team is the best U9 team in Arizona. 

QUOTABLE: “We feed off each other and I know he feeds off of me. Hunter is a special cat. He’s the most positive person you’ll ever come across, but it’s hard because he plays with the team-first mentality and he puts himself second and sometimes that gets really hard on a person and can weigh a person down. I like to be there with him and bounce things off of him and try to keep him light and energetic. I’m not saying I take anything away from him, but don’t let him carry this big burden. Be that guy for him. He can be Batman, I’ll be Robin.” --- Mike Morse during an interview that airs on my podcast this week. You can stream it online here or download it on iTunes here.