EXTRA BAGGS: The fate of the final-out ball, etc.

October 30, 2012, 6:42 am
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DETROIT What happened to the ball from the final outSunday night, the one that Sergio Romo so daringly threw at 89 mph down themiddle past a baffled Triple Crown winner to win a World Series?

Buster Posey tucked it safely in his glove. And he didnt wantto be responsible for it.

So I gave it to Boch, Posey said. Let him make thedecision.

This ball might mean more to Bruce Bochy than anyone else.Hes spent a lifes work in this game, beginning in 1975 when he was a20-year-old in the Appalachian League, renting a trailer near the West Virginiaborder with four other guys for 10 a month.

A backup catcher who feared cut day every spring, Bochy nolonger has to fret over his place. He has arrived, in every sense. Hesfashioned an 18-year career as a manager that includes six NL West titles,three NL pennants and two World Series championships.

Hes the first manager to win two titles in a three-yearspan since the Yankees and Joe Torre three-peated in 1998-2000, and the firstNL manager to do so since Sparky Anderson and the Big Red Machine won in1975-76.

If you dont consider this two non-consecutive-titles-in-three-seasonsthing a dynasty, then look at it another way: If Buster Posey hadnt gotten takenout by a targeted hit at home plate in May of 2011, the Giants just might havewon last year, too. They wouldve gotten in the playoffs, at least. And asweve learned by now, you never underestimate Bochy in the postseason.

In the story I wrote after the Giants clinching victorySunday, I described 2010 as a happy accident and 2012 as more of amaster-planned community -- the younger, more athletic, contact-oriented, defensivelystrong team that Bochy and GM Brian Sabean always believed would fit theirballpark and division.
RELATED: These World Series champion Giants weren't lucky -- just good

To put it another way: Two years ago, the Giants were aGrateful Dead concert one long, rocked out, improvised, feel-good jam session.With some familiar wafting scents, too.

This time, it was, in the words of Motowns own Diana Ross,I Hear a Symphony.

But it was a symphony that required so many instruments tobe tuned along the way. And Bochy conducted better than Vivek Mehta, using TimLincecums tempo allegro to brighten the middle innings, believing that BarryZito could keep time on percussion and backing it all with deep, determinedreverberations from Matt Cain and Ryan Vogelsong.

When Brian Wilson couldnt provide the crescendo, Bochy wentwith cymbals by committee. It almost never works that way in a bullpen. Thistime, it did.

Bochy used his personnel expertly. He not only put them inpositions to succeed, but the respectful way in which he nudged them ledplayers like Lincecum to embrace those adjustments.

And Bochy joined Torre and Sparky in baseball lore.

I count my blessings, Bochy said. Im blessed to be in asituation where we can win. I know how lucky I am and Im numb really, thatweve won two World Series in the last three years. Im sure it will sink in,but right now, Im speechless.

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Tigers manager Jim Leyland went out of his way to give Bochyand the Giants credit for being the better team in the World Series.

This wasnt the first time Leyland has gotten bested byBochy. In fact, Bochy pretty much has career ownage on Leyland. Entering this series, Leyland had a 24-40 record against Bochy-managedteams:

The Pirates were 4-8 against the Padres in 1995 and 4-9against them in 96; the Marlins were 5-6 against the Padres in 97 and 4-5against them in 98; the Rockies were 4-9 against the Padres in 99, the Tigerswere 2-1 against the Giants in 2008 and 1-2 against them in 11.

And now, Bochy is 4-0 against him in the postseason.

Obviously there was no doubt about it, they swept us,Leyland said. So there was certainly no bad breaks, no fluke. I tip myhat to them. Simple, they did better than we did.

We just didn't do good enough.They were better thanwe were, and you can't say anything different.I mean, if it goes sevengames and you lose the seventh game on a freak play or something, you mightsay, well, we were as good as they were, but in this series we were not as goodas they were, that's simple, you tip your hat to them.

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From sweeping the Yankees to getting swept by the Giants Leyland summed it up in one word: Flabbergasted.

Hey, he wasnt the only one. I picked the Tigers in five,too, as some folks have delighted in reminding me.

My rationale: The Giants had expended so much energy in thefirst two rounds while winning six elimination games. They didnt have a chanceto set up their rotation, and they hadnt played well at home until those lasttwo games against the Cardinals in the NLCS.

Plus wed already seen what Justin Verlander did to kill theBernie-leaning As, who entered the postseason with more momentum than anyone.Along with a lot of others, I felt it wouldnt be smart to bet againstVerlander. (And if you want to chastise me for not believing, then you dontreally understand what a beat reporter does.)

You know what happened: Pablo Sandoval turned Game 1 intoPandamonium, and the entire tone of the series changed from there.

After the fact, the Giants werent shy about saying it: Theylet all those predictions fuel them.

I think some people have a foot in their mouth right now,Cain said.

Guilty as chmnnfnannhnhhrged.

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The Giants won the first extra-inning clinching World Seriesgame since the Florida Marlins won Game 7 in 1997. The two guys with thego-ahead singles in those games, both to right field?

Marco Scutaro and Edgar Renteria. Seems appropriate enough.

Well, maybe Leyland would see it differently. Renterias hitclinched Leyland his only World Series title as a manager. Scutaros hit deniedLeyland another.

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Posey is likely to become the first player to win an MVPaward and World Series title in the same season since Kirk Gibson in 1988.

Hed also become just the third Giant to pull off that doublefeat, joining Willie Mays (in 1954) and Carl Hubbell (in 1933).

The Giants could join the 1976 Reds as the only teams tohave a player win the All-Star MVP, regular-season MVP and World Series MVP inthe same season.

The NL MVP will be awarded Nov. 15. I was one of 32 votersassigned to that committee by the BBWAA. Regulations prohibit me from revealingmy ballot until the award is announced, but based on gathered intelligence, itwould be a huge shock if Posey doesnt win in a landslide.

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Not to make Dusty Baker feel any more miserable, but if theReds had gotten past the Giants in the NLDS, I really believe they wouldvegone all the way.

They had defense and a live-armed bullpen that was even moretalented than what the Giants displayed in the World Series, and dont forgetwhat Bronson Arroyo and Homer Bailey did in their starts. They might havegotten Johnny Cueto back for the World Series, too.

The Reds and Giants were the only teams in the majors indeed, the only teams since the 2006 White Sox to receive 30 starts fromfive different pitchers. Not to suggest Mike Leake couldve been Lincecum, butrotation depth can be such an asset to help you survive a postseason series.

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The Giants survived that grinding NLDS because they found away to win in extra innings when Bailey held them to one hit and struck out 10in Game 3. And when Jay Bruce couldve sent the Reds through with a home run inthe ninth inning of Game 5, Romo put the weight of the entire season on everypitch he threw. Incredibly, he did that 12 times as Bruce fouled away onepitchers strike after another. Finally, Bruce lifted a slider to shallow leftfield, and Romo won the battle.

I think that was the proof kiln moment for Romo the momenthe became what the Giants needed him to be.

His manager and his teammates already believed in him. Buttwo years earlier, hed given up that home run in Atlanta to another leftyhitter, Eric Hinske, which nearly cost the Giants everything. (The Giantsrallied in the ninth to win, leading Romo to exclaim over and over, I love myteammates.)

Romo suddenly had confidence that his ordinary, 88-mphtwo-seam fastball could be more than an honesty pitch to keep him from triplingup sliders. It could become a weapon a perfect little ploy when hitters werelooking for that sweeping breaker.

Even Triple Crown hitters.

The Giants wouldnt have made it to that final confrontationwith Miguel Cabrera, and the celebration that followed, if they hadnt squeakedpast the Reds just as they did in that torturous NLDS with the Braves in2010. Theres something to be said about that, I think.

First youve got to win your division and the biggestobstacle, as weve learned, is that first round, Sabean said. Whenever wevebeen able to punch through, weve gone to the World Series or won the WorldSeries.

In our case this year, Romos save in Cincinnati was thelightning rod. Thats where everything began to turn.

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I sometimes wonder why Santiago Casilla doesnt get more credit,love, ink, edible arrangements, etc. for converting 19 of his first 20 saveopportunities, which was so important to keep the bullpen from destabilizingafter Wilsons elbow couldnt make it through the first week of the season.

Well, Casilla was the winning pitcher in Sundays WorldSeries clincher, and he joins a very short list of Giants to make that claim:Tim Lincecum, Don Liddle, Dolf Luque, Art Nehf (twice) and Christy Mathewson.

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Just for kicks, I also looked up the list of Giants pitchersto throw the final pitch to clinch a World Series championship:

Sergio Romo, Brian Wilson, Johnny Antonelli, Dolf Luque, ArtNehf (twice again!) and Mr. Mathewson.

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It was Barry Zito, along with Hunter Pence, who took thefloor before Game 4, reminding the Giants that the Tigers had just swept theYankees in the ALCS. Zito also reminded his mates that there was a strongchance of storms and an even stronger chance of Justin Verlander in Game 5.

So there was no place for complacency.

It was one more, one final speech that reached its intendedaudience.

This is the Giants seventh World Series title in franchisehistory, trailing only the Yankees (27), Cardinals (11) and As (9).

Its the fifth time the Giants have clinched the title onthe road. They havent won a World Series in front of their home crowd since1921.

Youre just going to have to deal with that.

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Just landed in SFO and the World Series championship T-shirtsare in every store. The merchandisers mustve printed them in advance, whichmeans they didnt listen to the pundits, either!