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San Francisco Giants underdogs no more: Will it make a difference?

By Mark ONeill
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I noted with a poignant sense of nostalgia, the simple fact that for the first time in their successful run of playoff series, dating back to 2010, the San Francisco Giants are not underdogs in the upcoming World Series, beginning Tuesday night in Kansas City, against the Royals.

Because of their past experience, and not because of their number-ten seeding at the start of the postseason tournament, San Francisco will be favored for the first time in more than a decade. Will this change, in others’ perceptions of the Giants, have any adverse effect on the Orange and Black?

The answer is an unequivocal no. The reason is simple: The Giants do not play baseball on paper. Rather, they take their unique product out onto the field of play, and they utilize the skills and talents of every member of the 25-man roster.

With their unparalleled clutch performance in the 2012 postseason, battling back from three-game deficits to win against both the Cincinnati Reds and St. Louis Cardinals, they have proven that adversity is a commodity best handled with acceptance and tolerance, creating an environment, in which the goal is to go out each half-inning, and try to score runs, regardless of what situation in the game exists, at any given moment.

The net result is that the Giants seem impervious to conventional pressure. If all batting opportunities are approached with the same even temperament, with every player in the dugout confident in the success of the current batter, that translates into an aura of incessant confidence. They are not cocky-mind you-there’s a difference.

Without 2012’s postseason hitting guru, Marco Scutaro, without their igniter, Angel Pagan, without The Horse, Matt Cain, and without Michael Morse, the last five weeks of the season, and well into the playoffs, San Francisco has done a riveting job of refusing to accept the notion that they were not up to snuff.

They strode forward as a unit, staggering more than once in the effort, suffering through a stretch where they not only lost ballgames, they lost key players. Some came back, such as Brandon Belt and Santiago Casilla; others will not return until spring training.

Between June 9th and July 4th, they lost fifteen of nineteen, and almost silently dropped out of first place, one-half game behind the Los Angeles Dodgers, ending up finishing the season six games back.

Almost without a whimper, the Giants fell out of first place, and landed with a thud in the Wild Card bracket.

The bottom line is that they squeaked into the playoffs as the number-ten seed, and played the one-game showdown against the Pittsburgh Pirates with flair and confidence, plundering the Bucs’ vessel and sending it to the ocean floor.

It was just that kind of season for the Horse, Matt Cain.  Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

They proceeded next to demolish the Washington Nationals, the team in the National League with the best record, and the most potent offense. They did it with superior pitching and clutch hitting, and even managed to bypass the return trip to DC, by winning in four games.

The Giants defeated the St. Louis Cardinals, next, with an imbalanced attack, one that featured small ball in the first four games, only to morph into blast-ball in the finale, thus once again allowing the Giants to forego the return engagement in Missouri.

Now, with the pending series against the Royals, gaining attention in the baseball world, I find that it piques my interest and curiosity, to note the change in status of the club by the Bay.

Underdogs no more? In their own minds, they were never underdogs to begin with; that was on paper, and paper is flimsy. No, the Giants do not play on paper-that much is evident. Otherwise, they would never have gotten past the favored Pirates, or the favored Nats, or…You get the idea.

San Francisco is not intimidated by Kansas City and their eight-game winning streak, not with their own 8-2 mark in the postseason. Paper is flimsy, but chemistry is not. Teams built on paper tend to crumple under the pressure of the playoffs; other teams do not.

Call the Giants, favorites; call them underdogs: Just call them successful, no matter how they git ‘er done.

October 31, 2012; San Francisco, CA, USA; Tony Bennet sings “I left my heart in San Francisco” in front of the San Francisco Giants team during the World Series victory celebration at City Hall. The Giants defeated the Detroit Tigers in a four-game sweep to win the 2012 World Series. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

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