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San Francisco Giants link success with sense of community

By Mark ONeill
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Just as it seemed longtime San Francisco Giants pitcher Ryan Vogelsong was about to don Houston Astros gear, matters took a dramatic turn in favor of the City by the Bay, and the iconic scowl will be retained as insurance for at least one more season. Does this unexpected turn of events help or hinder the Giants in their quest to break the even-numbered “curse?”

There are at least as many schools of thought on Vogelsong’s return as there are recent San Francisco World Series rings. There are the damn-the-numbers-he’s-Giant folks, there are those who are happy for any insurance, and there are those who are dismayed and feel it does not bode well for the Orange and Black. There are probably another three schools conducting classes out there that have not been mentioned, but someone is likely to do so down in the comments section.

In the finest of long-established traditions by the family-oriented Giants, Vogelsong reportedly signed a one-year contract for four million dollars, well below what he would have made in any one of four other venues, including Minnesota, Houston, Arizona and Colorado.

He has made it clear that his wife Nicole is in love with the city of San Francisco, and that she has been lobbying for her favorite city all along, “chirping” in Ryan’s ear. He also made a point of mentioning multiple times that he was a patient man. Add to that his willingness to take a cut in pay, and you have to infer that his ego has no need of inflating.

Pat Burrell signed for one million dollars after the 2010 season when he could have made more somewhere else, and Sergio Romo just gave up the opportunity to close for other interested teams, and signed for two more years with the Giants.

Be a closer? Sergio Romo prefers being closer to another world series ring than being a closer for a different team.

He said he enjoyed playing here, loved the fans and did not want to start all over.

San Francisco acknowledges and rewards loyalty. There was Aubrey Huff, Marco Scutaro, Angel Pagan and a host of others. In return, and feel free to contest this figure, there are collectively 47 World Series rings assembled on this team, give or take a Matt Duffy ring, dependent on whether or not he makes the squad. That’s a lot of bling. Flash is cash in any industry, if the flash is backed up by deeds. 

September 5, 2013; San Francisco, CA, USA; San Francisco Giants second baseman Marco Scutaro (19) hits a single in front of Arizona Diamondbacks catcher Miguel Montero (26, left) during the first inning at AT&T Park. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

For those fans who simply see the need for shoring up a rotation replete with questions, any port in a storm will do. Questions about Madison Bumgarner’s durability and Matt Cain’s return from both ankle and elbow surgery, abound. Then there is Tim Hudson’s age, Tim Lincecum’s consistency, or lack of same, and Jake Peavy’s postseason effectiveness.

There is enough doubt to mandate the need for a little insurance, because as anyone who has ever traveled south of the border into Tijuana Mexico knows, insurance is no big deal until you need it. And then you REALLY need it. Failure to have looked after that one logistical detail can mean losing everything.

Finally, for Giants fans who feel that Vogelsong’s re-signing marks an alarming step backward, and will result in no good, there is much dismay. These are fans who wanted to see Jon Lester signed, or Max Scherzer, or the yet-to-be-signed James Shields, so to settle for Vogelsong makes for a winter of some discontent.

Is it reasonable to expect another San Francisco World Series Championship in 2015?

With 29 other clubs battling for the same goal, some with much deeper pockets, “reasonable” is stretching matters. Fans might reasonably expect the Giants to be competitive, however, and in the National League West, that is going to be essential.

Even if they do not match up on paper, the Giants will still be able to find ways to beat the best of both the Dodgers and the Padres. The Giants are as apt to score runs via small ball, as as they are by hitting the big fly. They will need to employ all of the little devices critical to advancing runners and stealing ninety feet at a time, or more, because it is this division rivalry which will separate the top dog from the rest of the pack, not play within the rest of major league baseball.

Jul 5, 2014; San Diego, CA, USA; San Francisco Giants left fielder Michael Morse (38) before the game against the San Diego Padres at Petco Park. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Both Los Angeles and San Diego retooled their lineups over the winter, while the Giants exchanged the 32 home runs hit by Pablo Sandoval and Michael Morse, for the five that Nori Aoki and Casey McGehee combined to hit last year, while playing for the Royals and Marlins respectively.

If one looks at last season, the Dodgers had the highest payroll in baseball, and it was still not enough. Eventually though, the odds suggest that LA will persevere unless something gets in their way, such as a team that does not rely on payroll to make it click. Such a team is San Francisco. Fans with long memories think of Pittsburgh’s Family from 1979; fans of today’s Giants think of community.

A few weeks ago when Jake Peavy re-signed with the Giants, he made a specific point to mention how much it meant to him and to his family, that the Giants’ organization moved them across country to San Francisco when Peavy was traded to San Francisco last July 26th. This all occurred in a timely manner which reinforced Peavy’s appreciation.

Vogelsong could have chosen to sign elsewhere, but made it clear it was not money he was chasing, just as Burrell was not after the loot either. Romo set his ego aside to stay where he enjoyed playing, just as Peavy did. These individuals each made choices based on a community mentality, seeking what was optimum for not only their careers, but for their families as well. A player who is happy in his work, is going to help ease the strain put on any family, when the dad is a traveling man.

And that is the essence of what makes the Giants so successful as a team. Many elements combine to produce this success, including the core of players who have been together on all three championship runs, the sense of chemistry on the Giants which I am labeling “community,” those cumulative championship rings, and then there is the ability of Hunter Pence to rally his teammates to success over and over again, as well as an entire stadium of appreciative Giants fans.

A team with a sense of community looks after one another, on and off the field. At the plate it means not having to do it all yourself because there is no sense of urgency, so the swing can be natural and even. In the field it means being able to rely on one another to stay in the game and that is done by communicating with one another.

Feb 16, 2014; Scottsdale, AZ, USA; San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey (28) warms up during camp at Scottsdale Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

On a team where there is dissension in the ranks-or in the outfield-communication is less apt to occur. On a team where the information flows from one of the most respected figures in the game, Buster Posey, you had better believe that there are no communication impediments. Regardless of which player is stationed where, nothing stops this flow of information, leaving all players on the same page.

For those who believe that statistics rule the baseball universe, I might politely suggest that in reality, it is World Series victories that count most. Having attained three of these in the past five years, the Giants do not have to prove that there is more to chemistry than what appears on paper. They prove it also through their sense of community.

The evidence is in the trophy case now circulating in New York City.

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