Giants fans have come to realize, that if we can get to the playoffs, big things can happen. Don’t babble on to me about the Los Angeles Dodgers being unbeatable this season, because the playoffs elevate the stakes. Elements of a team that have functioned smoothly all season, come under the glaring spotlight of the Big Stage and are frequently not up to the pressure of the playoffs. The Dodgers stumbled against the St. Louis Cardinals last fall, the same team that the Giants came back against the previous year, down three games to one. Some teams have the mental toughness to take them to the top and other teams lack this component. I do believe that the San Francisco Giants have this commodity and that they will make the playoffs for the following seven reasons.
First, the Giants have excellent starting pitching, five All-Stars to be precise. We have watched this spring as all five collectively came rocketing out the starting gate and then, except for Madison Bumgarner, how each has shown that he is human. As such, they experience the highs and lows that all professional athletes endure. The fact that last season produced some inconsistencies, does not mean that our very talented staff is deteriorating. It just means that we have seen a preponderance of lows, and can therefore, reasonably expect that we will see the corresponding highs of a successful pitching staff. The Giants also benefit from having the steady, knowledgeable hand of Bruce Bochy at the helm.
Second, the Giants have experience; they are a group of veteran ballplayers who will not abandon their hustle and their belief in one another. They have achieved baseball’s ultimate success, as champions in both 2010 and 2012, and that is not something any other team can say except the St. Louis Cardinals (2011) and the Boston Red Sox (2013). Having survived one of their most devastating setbacks in 2011, when Buster Posey was shelved, the Giants have proven that they are resilient. Now Buster is in full swing, with a red-hot Hector Sanchez to provide backup so that first base becomes an option to keep Buster’s bat in the lineup.
Third, the Giants have chemistry. This is a term that has repeatedly come up over the course of the past four seasons. It just means that when one player struggles to perform at peak level, the others try to pick him up. When one pitcher cannot maintain the highest of standards, the others try to compensate. If someone commits an error, the rest strive to overcome that error, and take away the next batter’s chances of getting on base, because that’s what teammates do. Hitters try to emulate each other’s success, because that’s what makes an offense a formidable weapon. The Giants love to play the game, and they demonstrate that repeatedly, especially when it involves coming from behind to compete in the late innings.
Fourth, the Giants have the element of the twelfth man, their loyal fans. AT&T Park has sold out a Major League-best 246 consecutive times. I do not think it is hyperbole to say that AT&T Park, jammed to the rafters for so many consecutive games, is a significant reason for the aforementioned, late-inning success.
Fifth, the Giants have leadership. Bruce Bochy is a manager who bridges the gap between management and players very effectively. He has the capacity to win it all and has done so twice. He knows how to extract the most out of his bullpen, his experience behind the plate as a catcher coming into play. He works well with Brian Sabean, who has stocked the team with players who can deal with the expansive boundaries of AT&T Park. Sabean has provided speedy outfielders who cover a lot of territory, and pitchers who know that it takes a lot to put one over the wall. And Sabean has proven that he knows how to supplement the team just before the trade deadline, as the acquisition of Mr. Hustle himself, Hunter Pence, demonstrated.
Sixth, the Giants have defensive depth. They have to in order to be able to competently contend with the unique features of AT&T Park. Though final cuts have not yet occurred, conventional wisdom says that Juan Perez will stick in the outfield, and with Tony Abreu’s departure, Ehire Adrianza will win out in the infield. With Gregor Blanco as the fourth outfielder and Joaquin Arias in the infield, the Giants have excellent defensive backups. In the past Arias has filled in for Pablo Sandoval, with no letup in defense, while handling the bat more than adequately. True, the Giants acquired Mike Morse primarily for offensive purposes, but having Blanco and Perez to replace him in late innings, and having Pence and Angel Pagan also in the outfield, bodes well for our defense.
I believe that the Giants must take advantage of the facility in which they play to optimize their selection of players. To pursue free agent power hitters for AT&T Park is to climb aboard baseball’s hamster wheel. They say the definition of insanity is to perform the same actions repeatedly, always expecting different results. Sabean knows this and therefore tailors his team to the park’s advantage. This means instead of emphasizing scoring runs, Sabean emphasizes preventing runs. It amounts to the same thing.
Seventh, and arguably the most important, is Buster. All I have to do is refer to 2011, for Giants fans to know what I’m sayin’/talkin’ about. Buster is the Man-he runs the show. He keeps all that scouting information in his head, and accesses it when needed. He orchestrates the pitchers’ artillery to the max to neutralize the opponents’ firepower. With Buster Posey we have the heart and soul of our team, indomitable and ready to lead us once again into the playoffs, where big things happen.
Go ahead and tell me I’m wrong; just don’t tell the Giants. They’ll have none of it. They have the talent, experience and camaraderie to complete the journey to the top. Go ahead and win the division, Dodgers; after all, you won the title last year and what good did it do? No, the Giants do not have to win the division-they just need to get into the playoffs, where they’ll have Buster Posey, their heart and soul, to take care of business.