SAN FRANCISCO -- Brian Sabean worked the fringes of the Giants clubhouse trying to avoid huge sprays. Hed done nine dogpiles before this one, and he knew the safest way to navigate a celebration.
Total veteran move, the San Francisco general manager said as he clutched a can of clubhouse beer. Besides, Ive had this viral thing I cant rid of.
And therein lies a central truth of all human endeavor: Bacilli do not honor the deeds of men.
Sabean, though, was not the only one to handle the NL West title with a measure of restraint. The team as a whole did what old fuds the world around always ask for that they act like theyve been there before. Because, well, they had.
Yeah, this was harder than it looked, Sabean said. We went through a lot this year in a lot of ways, and it really was a tale of two seasons. But they were pros when they needed to be.
Thats the thing, manager Bruce Bochy added while he choked his own beer can. They went through so much more than it looked like, but when it came time to stand up, they did. We couldnt win at home, but when it got to be crunch time, we did just that. And this was the hardest one, because it was 162 games.
BAGGS' INSTANT REPLAY: Giants are 2012 NL West champions
That last part is open to interpretation, since the Giants have played their last meaningful game against a team with a losing record. By slapping the San Diego Padres for the seventh time in playoff clinching situations, they also showed that they did not let up against their inferiors, going 54-30 against National League teams with losing records.
But it wasnt the victimization of the weak that Sabean, Bochy or the players will remember. It will be what they did when they were weakened. They adapted to the loss of closer Brian Wilson, the zany expulsions of Melky Cabrera, the struggles of Pablo Sandoval and Tim Lincecum and Brandon Belt and Ryan Vogelsong and Gregor Blanco and Brandon Crawford.
Indeed, this was not a clean win, but it was classically Giant. They ran into walls face-first, and then got up and sought out the next wall. They went about routing the field in an odd way, and they routed it anyway.
And maybe because of the way they won the division, they celebrated with a slight edge. There was much more beer than champagne, much more satisfaction than hijinks, and the temperature of the room was significantly lower than for any other clinching in the last 15 years. It was a celebration with purpose, a quick release of steam before the boilers are stoked again. They know what awaits, and they know how much harder it gets in 10 more days.
Between now and then, though, Bochy and Sabean will go over their rosters again and again (remember, they had Jose Guillen on the roster in 2010 until two days before the end of the season), and they will check their rotations against the two teams they most likely could play in the first round.
It will not be a series of sentimental choices, either. Barry Zito learned that two years ago, and so did Sandoval. This time, the decisions seem easier, but the amount of time they will spend examining the alternate permutations will be no less.
In an odd way, it is how the fans felt as well. They did not linger long in the ballpark, for they didnt need to savor every drop of a division title that had been over for all intent and purpose a week ago. They seemed to remember the lessons of 2010 as well, and determined not to peak too soon, revelry-wise.
I dont know about that, Sabean said. Every one is unique, and this one was different than all the rest of them, no question. But theyre all special, and you have to enjoy them all, because theyre so hard to get, no matter how many of them you have.
Then he coughed, swallowed a swing of beer, and sidled along a line of lockers to shake hands with any players, staff or shareholders he might have missed his first two times around. It was the veteran move.