Sep 6, 2014; Detroit, MI, USA; San Francisco Giants first baseman Buster Posey (28) receives congratulations from right fielder Hunter Pence (8) after he hits a home run in the fifth inning against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
I’m of the belief that if a franchise finds a formula for success, they ride that formula until success begins to wane. Then, once you’ve reveled in the accomplishments for a short time (one off-season should suffice), retool and start again.
As San Francisco Giants fans we are in the midst of that success, despite coming into every season feeling like the underdog. But that success is owed to the team’s game plan and philosophy, and to the execution of that plan. It’s also refreshing that a chord of humility seems to resonate throughout the organization and (ironically) I take pride in that.
It is a bit bewildering when I continue to see (all across sports) franchises who are trying to reinvent the wheel when it comes to the process of creating a winner. And that is precisely my point. It is a process. Becoming a champion is earned and not something you can buy or cheat (insert Patriots joke here) or happen upon overnight.
History has shown that the route to the top may differ, but by and large, teams who reach the top have done so sharing similar attributes and principles. I want to delve into a few of the strengths that have given the Giants an edge where, on paper, they may have seemed outmanned and outgunned.
Jul 13, 2013; San Diego, CA, USA; San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Tim Lincecum (left) and catcher Buster Posey (28) make their way to the bullpen for warmups prior to the game against the San Diego Padres at Petco Park. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
Continuity/Core – It’s nearly impossible to keep an entire team together for an extended period of time, but what’s important is to find that core group of players that gel and keep those players happy and in sync. For the Giants it’s been Posey-Pablo-Pence, and a compliment of Crawford-Belt-Pagan. Not to mention a staff of dependable arms, 8 of whom have donned the orange and black for at least 4 seasons.
In recent memory, other MLB teams who have taken multiple trips to the World Series, who boast a strong core of talent have been the 2000’s Boston Red Sox, with Ortiz-Pedroia-Ellsbury, the 90’s New York Yankees, with Jeter-Williams-Posada, and the 80’s Oakland A’s with McGuire-Canseco-Henderson.
Sep 7, 2014; Detroit, MI, USA; San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy (15) talks to pitching coach Dave Righetti (33) against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
Leadership – Garnering the talent is one thing, but with a team, you have to be able to get the most out of your players and create an environment where they feel they can succeed. Manager, Bruce Bochy and pitching coach, Dave Righetti have a synergy, established on 8 seasons together. “Rags” has been on the staff for 15 seasons and is arguably the best in the business. These two, along with Roberto Kelly and (newcomer) Bill Hayes leading the way on the base paths allow the team to thrive.
Bochy’s reputation as a player’s coach allows his players to have a mutual relationship of trust and that give-and-take shows on the field
There are an array of approaches that a manager can take from the bench, but Bochy’s reputation as a player’s coach allows his players to have a mutual relationship of trust and that give-and-take shows on the field. The results are a testament to a front office who bring in players who can flourish in that system.
Confidence – Not to be confused with cockiness (we’ll leave that to another NL West team). The Giants have every right to come into 2015 gushing with confidence, but it is an attribute that, in a 162 game season, can be fleeting. In ’14, I was always impressed with the team’s ability to stay relatively level-headed.
Sep 17, 2014; Phoenix, AZ, USA; San Francisco Giants outfielder Hunter Pence pats on a teammates head in the dugout during the ninth inning against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field. The Giants defeated the Diamondbacks 4-2. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Even when it seemed the post season was going to elude them, the levity and bond between the players prevailed. Michael Morse and Pablo will be missed in keeping the team loose, but with Buster showing signs of lightening up, and with Pence drumming noggins, I don’t see levity being an issue.
Staying Hungry – With three championships in five seasons, it would be easy to phone in 2015. But having the desire to not repeat the results of the odd-numbered year letdowns of ’11 and ’13, the team has been cognizant that changing habits and mindsets will be crucial.
The preparation is in full-swing, and players and coaches during Fanfest have made it evident that the team is hungry. So much so, that the “hangover” year has been openly discussed, and some players have changed up their off-season routines to try to get rested, and stay focused and yearning for another title.
After hoping for a big name player to replace the uber-popular Kung-fu Panda, or bringing in an ace to shore up the rotation, this off-season has been disappointing. Nevertheless, as an optimistic fan, I take solace knowing that the four factors above have been a proven formula for success.
The doubt in me does fear the high-powered offense, and loaded rotation of our rival down south, as well as the new and improved Padres. The odds are heavily stacked against the chances that the Giants will repeat, but hey, everybody loves an underdog.