Giants, fans celebrate at long last
The San Francisco Giants have had better collections of players, but they've never had a better team. It's safe to say there were many Giants' teams in the past 53 years in San Francisco that boasted rosters with better players. It never was about players this year, though, just team.
And this team introduced The City to its first World Series championship because it didn't know its place. These guys never acted their age. The older guys, such as bethonged Aubrey Huff, acted like children; the younger ones, such as the ultra-sober duo of Buster Posey and Madison Bumgarner, acted like college professors at the tenure meeting. It was refreshing on both counts.
They came together randomly, some purchased wholesale from various used-player lots across the country, the best of them from the farm system. There have been two words used to describe them in the past few months: misfits and castoffs. The first works, but the second is misleading. There was enough Brian Wilson weirdness and Tim Lincecum cool to make them misfits in the staid world of big league baseball. But there were more than enough A-list prospects (Posey, Bumgarner) and established young stars (Lincecum, Wilson, Matt Cain) to kill the castoffs idea.
Still, no one hit 30 homers. No one drove in 90 runs. And Edgar Renteria, MVP? Has there ever been a World Series MVP who -- if he decides against retirement -- might have trouble finding a job at any price the next year?
Every city with a lamentable sports history tries to mount the podium of affliction and suffering. Cleveland has its communitywide anger and disgust, no doubt earning each fan his own little corner of eternal purgatory. Cubs fans have their cross to bear, and the rest of us have a cross to bear just listening to them talk about their damned cross. Boston had to get over it, and you get the feeling most of those fans are checking their watches wondering when it's going to be safe to start bitching again.
Giants fans, before Monday night, deserved a spot at the table. Their history was dotted with systemwide failures rather than huge, Bucknerian moments. Sure, there was Willie McCovey's liner and Bobby Richardson's glove, Jose Cruz Jr. dropping a fly ball and Scott Spiezio golfing one off Felix Rodriguez -- Bartman moments in a minor key.
This season was not a victory for logic. It was a victory for individualism that became collectivism. Weird beards and long hair and weird hair and long beards working together under the often-bemused eye of Bruce Bochy, whose shambling, bone-on-bone walk has become an immediate San Francisco institution. (By the way, underestimate Bochy at your own peril.) Weren't you just glad it wasn't the corporate, clean-shaven Yankees, climbing out of 25 black Town Cars with their gleaming faces gleaming back at them from the shine of their wingtips? Whatever. I was.
It's difficult to describe how the Bay Area embraced this team. The any-guy, any-night motif struck a chord. By mid-September, people were singing in the stands two or three times a game. A team that started the season with broadcasters -- the incomparable Mike Krukow and Duane Kuiper -- as the faces of the franchise, acquired many new faces along the way. (Kuiper did coin the fans' slogan, though -- "Giants Baseball. Torture.")
Off the top of my head, I can name four or five Giants teams of the past 20 years that have had deeper, better rosters. I've lived in the area most of my life, and I've become something of a connoisseur of disappointing Giants teams. One thing they did: They all disappointed in their own way.
The 1993 team, which won 103 games and didn't make the playoffs, was a better collection of talent. I covered that team daily as a newspaper beat writer, and the middle-of-the-order combination of Will Clark, Matt Williams and Barry Bonds was far more fearsome to opposing pitchers, even with Clark having an off year. The 2000 team, the 2002 team that lost to the Angels in the playoffs, the 2003 team -- each was, on paper at least, better.
On the television in front of me, reporters showing off their objectivity by wearing Giants jerseys and caps are gradually making the transformation from civic cheerleaders to concerned citizens. A Muni bus behind one of them has been commandeered by a few hundred young people who decided to climb on top of it for an impromptu dance.
The guys holding the microphones are starting to hold on a little tighter and smile through gritted teeth as they jockey for position in the drunken crowds. Open-container laws appeared to have been suspended, and it looked as if it might last a while. After all, it takes some time to purge 52 years of disappointment, even if you've only been around for 20 of them.