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.

Giants spring training Day 44: Marrero caps huge spring with eighth homer

Giants spring training Day 44: Marrero caps huge spring with eighth homer

MESA, Ariz. — The Giants went 0-62 last season when trailing after eight innings. Chris Marrero wasn’t around for any of that, but it’s a stat that could help Marrero as he tries to lock up a bench spot. 

The first baseman/left fielder crushed a three-run shot in the ninth inning Tuesday, wiping out a two-run deficit against the Cubs. Marrero also has two walk-off homers this spring. 

“This kid, you see it when he goes up there. He’s got great focus,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “It’s intensity and determination. From day one, you could see it in his at-bats. Late in the game, he seems very comfortable. He wants to go up there.”

Tuesday’s homer, which shot out to right-center, was the eighth of the spring for Marrero. That ties him with a guy named Bryce Harper for the MLB lead, and the vast majority of Marrero’s bombs were no-doubters. 

“It’s been a great spring for him,” Bochy said. “The last game here, it seems fitting that he would do something like that. He’s already done it a couple of times. This kid has done all he can. I love his swing and the work that he’s put in.”

With Michael Morse down, Marrero is the best remaining option as a power right-handed bat off the bench, a glaring need a year ago. Justin Ruggiano, another one in the mix, followed Marrero’s shot with one of his own. The homer was Ruggiano’s second of the spring. 

Ruggiano is a better fit defensively in the outfield, but Marrero has been solid at first and Bochy said he’s fine with what he’s seen in left field. “He’s still working on it,” Bochy said, noting that Marrero will play left field during the Bay Bridge Series. 

LEADING OFF: Denard Span saw a wild pitch bounce off the bricks behind home plate, and he never slowed down. Span sped around third in the second inning and slid in ahead of the throw. The notable part of the play wasn’t that a quirky bounce allowed Span to take 180 feet on a wild pitch. It was that his legs did. The 33-year-old has been a different guy in his second spring with the Giants. Last year, Span was coming off hip surgery. This spring, his old game has returned.

“I’ve just been able to do the things I’ve always been able to do,” Span said. “I have more control of my body. I’m stronger. I had a full offseason and a full spring training to get my legs up under me. The last couple of weeks, I’ve felt much better and more confident.”

A healthy and spry Span would be a big boost to a lineup that often looked flat in the second half last season Span showed off every aspect of his game Tuesday. He blasted a leadoff homer on Jake Arrieta’s second pitch, and during their second matchup, he put a perfect bunt down the third base line for a single. Span stole second easily before his race home. 

“He’s playing terrific baseball and he’s been a real inspiration, being our leadoff hitter,” Bochy said. “That’s what we needed — energy at the top of the order.”

TRAINER’S ROOM: Eduardo Nuñez (shoulder) is feeling much better, and Bochy said he’ll play third base during the games at AT&T Park before getting four or five innings at shortstop on Saturday. Joe Panik (drilled in the back on Monday) said he’s feeling fine. 

POSITION BATTLES: Here’s the latest on Matt Cain, and here’s an update on Aaron Hill and Jimmy Rollins. 

ICYMI: Big news today from NBC Bay Area. Matt Williams, Javier Lopez and Cody Ross have joined out pre- and post-game shows. You can find stories about those guys on our homepage here. Those shows will also now be an hour long on both ends of the game, adding an extra hour of Giants coverage to your day. Which is good. 

That’s all on the way during the regular season. If you missed any of our spring coverage, you can find a bunch of features here, and podcasts here (spring pods included Mike Morse, Matt Cain, Mac Williamson, Jimmy Rollins and others, with one more coming this week). And in case you’re new to our coverage, the Twitter account is here and the Facebook page is here. Next stop, San Francisco … 

 

Giants appear to have decided between Hill or Rollins for roster spot

Giants appear to have decided between Hill or Rollins for roster spot

MESA, Ariz. -- Aaron Hill didn't play in the final Cactus League game, but he didn't need to. By simply being on the flight to San Francisco on Tuesday, Hill got good news. 

The veteran infielder was due a $100,000 bonus on Tuesday, and while the Giants haven't formally announced their roster, you don't pay a man that much money to come play three exhibition games against the A's. Hill appears to have made this club as a second backup infielder, along with Conor Gillaspie. Another veteran, Jimmy Rollins, got the news that the Giants are headed in a different direction. 

Team officials spoke with Rollins this week about their future plans. He was not on the travel roster Tuesday and did not attend the game against the Cubs. 

"We're waiting to hear back from him," manager Bruce Bochy said. "He knows the scenario and the situation. We're waiting to hear back."

Rollins, 38, showed the Giants that he can still handle shortstop defensively, and he was a quick learner when he moved to second. But he hit just .119, falling behind Hill, Kelby Tomlinson and others in the mix for bench spots. It would seem unlikely that Rollins would want to get additional at-bats in Triple-A, but that feeling hadn't been fully conveyed to team officials Tuesday. There was a hope that Rollins, an East Bay native, might join the team for the Bay Bridge Series, which finishes Saturday in Oakland. Rollins grew up an A's fan.

Rollins and Hill were part of a crowded infield group at the start of camp. Gordon Beckham also had a retention bonus and he asked to be released when he was told he wouldn't make the opening day roster. David Hernandez, the third player due a bonus, also was released. He promptly signed with the Atlanta Braves.