The San Francisco Giants’ dynasty would not have been possible without a rookie in 2010. No, not that rookie. With 7 games and 0 plate appearances, Darren Ford was, arguably, just as important as Buster Posey (or anyone) in the Giants 2010 championship run.
Over the last five years, the San Francisco Giants have seen the rise of numerous regular and postseason heroes. Players like Aubrey Huff and Sergio Romo have become Bay Area rock stars while Madison Bumgarner‘s efforts have become legendary to baseball fans everywhere. The Giants have found ways to win and with this comes a lot of unlikely heroes. Though the team needs its Poseys and Hunter Pences to carry it throughout the season, the list of improbable role players making big play after big play is longer than Tim Lincecum‘s hair (seriously, it’s back).
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Giants fans are passionate and don’t forget things easily especially when a contribution leads to a championship. Guys like Travis Ishikawa, Ryan Theriot, Andres Torres, etc. are all a part of San Francisco Giants history and will be beloved in the Bay Area for their efforts. However when talking about unsung heroes, it can be argued that none are more overlooked (or faster) than Darren Ford.
Oct 31, 2014; San Francisco, CA, USA; San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy waves to fans from the top of a bus during the World Series victory parade on Market Street. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
Ford, who began his professional career in 2005 after being drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers, is a career .286 hitter at the major league level. Oh, I should mention that this is in 16 plate appearances in 33 games (all for the Giants). Unfortunately, the 29 year old speedster has not found continued success at baseball’s top level however, for at least one day, Darren Ford was the talk of the town. Without his gutsy play, the recent success San Francisco has enjoyed may not have come to fruition.
On September 1st, 2010 the rosters expanded and teams across the league called up prospects; some for tryouts, others in hopes for a final spark. The Giants called up Darren Ford from Double-A Richmond. Ford, who hit .251 with 5 home runs and 37 stolen bases for the Flying Squirrels, showed up late to his debut. The Giants were facing Ubaldo Jiménez and the Colorado Rockies at AT&T park and Ford’s flights were delayed. He arrived in the second inning and Bruce Bochy would give Ford an opportunity in the 8th.
…Darren Ford was, arguably, just as important as Buster Posey in the Giants 2010 championship run.
Unless you’re the type of person who follows the farm system closely, Darren Ford was relatively unknown. I, for one, knew nothing of Ford except for what Kruk and Kuip said on-air. I expected speed and lots of it. Guess what? He didn’t disappoint.
After Mike Fontenot drew a leadoff walk, Ford pinch-ran, stepping on a Major League field for the first time. A sacrifice bunt put Ford in scoring position then the magic happened. Torres came up to bat with 1 out and fell behind 0-2 when Jiménez threw the ball in the dirt, The ball came up and hit catcher Miguel Olivo in the chest and bounced about 5 feet to his left. Ford took off towards third and Olivo, caught off guard, threw the ball into left field, Ford scrambled to his feet, and scored the winning run. That description doesn’t justify how crazy the play was. It really was. I mean it, check it out.
I say that Olivo was caught off guard because, honestly, Ford probably should not have gone. I can’t imagine Olivo (or anyone catcher) expects a runner to go when the ball didn’t go very far away from the plate and Olivo’s momentum already took him towards third base. Most base runners probably take a few steps towards third, but stay at second. Ford took a huge risk and it paid off.
The 2010 Giants were scrappy and they battled until the very last day. Literally, the last day. The Giants clinched a playoff spot by winning the NL West by defeating the San Diego Padres on the last day of the regular season where the stakes were pretty much as high as they can get. Win and they’re in. Lose and the Giants go to San Diego to play a Padres team that would have beaten them 13 times that year. It’s safe to say that the Giants would not have made the playoffs and you can’t win the World Series without making the playoffs. The Giants were in position to win the division on the last day of the season because of their record; had they not won that night against Colorado, then the Giants would have been eliminated from playoff contention prior to Game 162.
The Giants won the 2012 and 2014 championships partly due to the fact that the core was experienced. Aside from the World Series against Detroit, the Giants faced a lot of adversity during their 2012 run falling behind to Cincinnati and St. Louis in the NLDS and NLCS respectively. It was their championship experience that helped the team remain cool and collected to mount significant comebacks. It was the pain of being essentially irrelevant in the 2010 postseason that drove Pablo Sandoval and Barry Zito to get better and provide memorable, season-saving performances in 2012. The most recent championship team was a bunch of veterans who have been there and done that. The brightest star, Bumgarner, was historically awesome. Though he exhibited amazing poise as a 21 year old pitching in the Fall Classic in Texas, it’s fair to say that his 2014 role and success was, in part, impacted by the prior experience.
Oct 31, 2014; San Francisco, CA, USA; San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Madison Bumgarner addresses the crowd during the World Series celebration at City Hall. The San Francisco Giants defeated the Kansas City Royals in game seven of the World Series. Mandatory Credit: Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports
The Giants would not have the experience or reputation if they hadn’t won in 2010. The Giants wouldn’t have won in 2010 if they hadn’t made the postseason. The Giants would not have clinched a postseason appearance on the last day of the regular season with one less win. The Giants, possibly, would not have had that crucial record without Darren Ford’s understated heroics. Now, I’m not saying the Giants would have lost that game. The score was 1-1 in the 8th; maybe someone would have hit a walk-off home run or sac bunt or something. But Ford sealed the deal.
Darren Ford has not had much success in the major leagues and who knows what the future holds for him, but he should be revered as a Giants hero. Unsung and overlooked, Ford’s contributions slip the minds of even the most die-hard Giants fans. Now, I’m not saying that Ford carried the team like Posey or Matt Cain or Bumgarner, but his chapter in the Giants’ history books is just as important. Also, I’m not saying that Ford is the only unsung hero, but I think the impact to sample size ratio is the most glaring for Ford. Without Ford’s daring play and speedy legs, the entire course of Giants history may be different.