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 9: Bumgarner, Melancon face hitters

Giants spring training Day 9: Bumgarner, Melancon face hitters

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Madison Bumgarner aims to get all 27 outs every time he takes the mound, but on Tuesday the coaching staff gave the ace a nice view of the man who will help out if his nights are cut short. 

Bumgarner threw his first live batting practice session of the spring on the main field at Scottsdale Stadium. Mark Melancon, the new closer, followed him. Both players said they felt good. Both also found things to work on in advance of opening day. 

“Strength-wise I felt pretty good, really good, actually,” Bumgarner said. “My command up in the zone was right where I want it. I’m pretty happy with that. My cutter was pretty straight, but that usually comes around pretty quick.”

Melancon didn’t even throw his go-to cutter, saying he usually pockets it until later in camp. He’s getting the feel for his curveball back because he doesn’t throw it until he reports. Like Bumgarner, Melancon said he’s where he needs to be physically.

“I feel really good,” he said. “In years past there has been some slowness but I don’t feel that this year. I’m right where I want to be.”

The Giants have not finalized a Cactus League rotation, but Bumgarner will likely throw an inning in Friday’s opener. Melancon could follow him, as he’ll throw in the early innings until late March. He said he’ll talk to pitching coach Dave Righetti about closing a game or two over the final days of camp so he can start locking his routine down. It’s probably a lock that he’ll close out that first Bay Bridge Series game back at AT&T Park. 

ICYMI: Here’s actual (shaky) footage of Bumgarner throwing today. At one point, he gave Denard Span a hard time for missing a slider that he was told was coming. Span had a good reason. “I didn't understand him when he said it because of his accent,” he said. 

ICYMI, PART II: The latest podcast is a couple of interviews with Derek Law and Josh Osich. Law explained how he ordered 800 chicken nuggets for his wedding. 

CUETO UPDATE: The Giants now expect Johnny Cueto to join camp this weekend. His status for the WBC is up in the air. Speaking of the WBC, trainer Dave Groeschner will be leaving camp on Feb. 27 to work with manager Hensley Meulens and the Netherlands. Bullpen catcher Taira Uematsu is also working with the team, which opens play in Seoul. Anthony Reyes will be head trainer while Groeschner is gone.

PROSPECT WATCH: Bruce Bochy said right-hander Ray Black was a standout during early live BP sessions. “He had a hell of an outing yesterday,” Bochy said. “They said he was really good.”   Black, 26, still throws 100-plus. He still has command issues, though, with 32 walks in 31 1/3 innings last year. If he can get over that hump and stay healthy, he might rocket to the big leagues.

QUOTABLE: After just about every start last season — most of which were dominant — Bumgarner said he wasn’t happy with his mechanics. He said Tuesday that he’s still searching for the perfect feeling. “I was being a perfectionist,” he said. “If you’re being a perfectionist, I really haven’t had (my mechanics) where I wanted the last couple of years. It’s not like it’s too far off, obviously.”

Johnny Cueto hopes to join Giants camp this weekend

Johnny Cueto hopes to join Giants camp this weekend

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — The Giants have been watching high-quality clips of Johnny Cueto all spring, even though the co-ace has remained in the Dominican Republic. On Monday, manager Bruce Bochy finally managed to get face-to-face with Cueto. Kind of. 

Cueto spoke to Bochy, trainer Dave Groeschner and others via FaceTime, and all involved finally managed to hammer out a schedule for Cueto’s arrival. Cueto has been in the Dominican Republic tending to his ill father, Domingo, but he is expected to arrive in Scottsdale this weekend. Cueto is working to secure a visa for his father, who will travel with him.

Bochy wanted to have a long discussion with Cueto to get a sense of how ready he’ll be for the World Baseball Classic. Cueto’s participation is still up in the air, and not just because he has missed the first week of camp. There is a chance, Bochy said, that Cueto will choose to stay in Scottsdale to continue taking care of his father. The Dominican Republic opens play in Miami on March 9.

“He said he knows he’s got to make a decision real soon regarding what he does,” Bochy said. “Pitching or not pitching, he’s got to let them know as soon as possible.”

Cueto has been throwing to hitters at a facility in Boca Chica. He threw a 45-pitch bullpen session on Tuesday.