Remember back to the parade in November 2010? On that giddy day, amid all the cable-car riding, crotch grabbing and general raging, young Buster Posey was the least nutty, most focused of all the Giants.
“Let’s enjoy this today, tomorrow, maybe a week or a month,” Posey told the massive crowd gathered at City Hall. “Then let’s get back to work and make another run at it.”
Of course, no one took him seriously. These were Giants fans, born to endure. One world championship for the city of San Francisco seemed more than plenty on that day.
But here we are again. Longtime followers are stunned by this excess the younger generation is experiencing. Two World Series in three years? Remember that 26-year drought between pennants? Remember the frustration in 1993 of 103 wins with nothing to show for it?
Yet here they are: two Giants teams reaching the ultimate goal within 24 months of each other.
What’s the secret? It’s not like the Giants Yankeed up and built themselves a high-priced dynasty. In fact, the roster is vastly different from the group that brought the Bay Area so much joy in 2010.
Major players from that first championship team – Cody Ross, Pat Burrell, Edgar Renteria, Juan Uribe, Freddy Sanchez, Andres Torres, Jonathan Sanchez – are missing. Three of that year’s cornerstones – Brian Wilson, Aubrey Huff and Tim Lincecum – are sidelined or have reduced roles.
But some things have stayed the same. Like the kid who promised to work hard and make another run at a championship. Posey was just a rookie in 2010 but now he’s the unquestioned leader on the team. Matt Cain, the longest-tenured Giant, is the steady tone-setter (anyone who wasn’t aware of it before, discovered that when Cain methodically dished out retribution to Matt Holliday in the sixth inning Monday night). Cain and Posey are the core of this team.
But teams need something besides a solid core. They need chemistry. They need the right ingredients added to the mix. And this team, like 2010, has both.
Cynics say that winning creates chemistry and so, of course, World Series teams have it. But no one would mistake the vibe on either this or the 2010 Giants team with the one in 2002; that team got to the World Series despite an awkward, unfriendly clubhouse. No one holds up the corporate 2009 Yankees as a team with great chemistry.
Chemistry often is forged by crisis. The 2010 Giants’ chemistry came on the fly, born out of a desperate sprint to the end of the regular season. Stay loose or the season would be over; frat-house pranks and goofy facial hair aided the cause.
This team’s chemistry seems to be stem from something deeper. Most of these Giants have been together all season. Unlike past teams, the core of this team is young and homegrown. Many came up together through the minors, growing up together. Their personal stories resonate: they are truly happy for Barry Zito because they’ve witnessed what he’s gone through. They genuinely appreciate Lincecum’s performance out of the bullpen because they know how much is being asked of him.
Their bonds were built in tough times: Wilson’s season-ending injury, the struggles of the starting staff, the feeling of betrayal when Melky Cabrera turned up dirty, the premature awarding of the division to the Dodgers after L.A.’s blockbuster trade. They turned inward and relied upon each other.
And then two key players were added to the mix. Marco Scutaro, an intuitive leader and excellent ballplayer, is the type of professional who makes general managers (including Billy Beane, who let him get away) swoon. Scutaro performs like an extra hitting coach, making the lineup better. He has been a steadying influence on fellow Venezuelan Pablo Sandoval.
And he has an instinctive knowledge of what teams need. In Cincinnati, before the first elimination game, Scutaro and Javier Lopez (another underrated leader and the team psychologist) were talking in the clubhouse kitchen. They could sense the tension. The defeatist attitude. They knew they needed someone to rally the club.
Hunter Pence was eavesdropping. That other key addition to the Giants said he’d be willing to do it.
“Team speeches need to come from an everyday player,” Lopez said. “A lot of our veterans are on the pitching side. It’s better coming from a position player who is out there every day. He was the right guy to do it. He has the intensity. He’s one of the more positive guys.”
It was a collaborative effort. Pence talking. And Scutaro playing the chorus – adding a “That’s right,” so the younger guys knew he was buying in. The two new men helped shape the chemistry of the existing team. Helped ready them for a challenge that lasted through six elimination games.
“This team has had its tests in the regular season,” Zito said. “So the tests that we encountered in the postseason didn’t really make us panic as much. We already had those muscles built up from everything that we had come back from. It seemed to ignite us.”