Are you a fan of a team, or a fan of a player?
Here’s a shock, San Francisco Giants fans love their team. And long-time die-hard fans know that the collection of players put together by the organization this year is one of the best groups that the team has seen since moving west. But some fans in different parts of the country feel like they have no choice but to zero in on one or two players, and follow them exclusively. The kinship between organizations and their fans doesn’t seem to be as strong as it once was. Does that have to do with sports’ infatuation with marketing a specific player instead of teams? I guess the real question to ask yourself is; Are you a fan of a team, or a fan of a player?
Talent aside, I was taught at a very young age to bleed orange and black. Whether it was Madison Bumgarner or Sidney Ponson, it didn’t matter because they wore the correct uniform. Now once a Giant leaves the team, that doesn’t mean I dislike them. But it doesn’t mean I really follow their career that much either.
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Some fans are a little different. That doesn’t make me right and them wrong. It just makes our fandom a little different, that’s all.
Here’s what I mean.
A player like Barry Bonds played for the San Francisco Giants. He did extraordinary things out on the field and amazed pretty much everyone who watched him play. If Bonds had signed with another team after the 2007 season, some fans would have followed him to his new team. And I don’t mean “kept track of his stats, and watch highlights on SportsCenter” type of follow. I mean “stop watching the Giants and follow Barry’s new team exclusively”, type of follow.
Now if you are one of those people, you can probably stop reading this now, because the rest of this will probably sound like bashing you. If you choose to stay, that’s up to you. But, I’m on one side of the fence, and I have the keyboard, so right now, my opinion is the only one that matters. That means, if you became an exclusive fan of the Washington Wizards when Michael Jordan was there, please look away.
The Golden State Warriors and San Francisco Giants have saved sports. Literally saved sports. Not just for me, but from where it was headed nationally.
They have done this by focusing on the one aspect of sports that we are all taught as children; to work as a team, and have fun.
The San Antonio Spurs tried to do it. But their brand of basketball just wasn’t appealing enough. Great as they are, Tim Duncan and his boys just didn’t have the fun-factor that the Warriors do. So the Warriors took what Manu Ginobli and Tony Parker had started and added just enough pizzazz on and off the court to appeal to the new fans. But at the heart of it all is teamwork. Not one man on the Warriors can say that they are above the team, because they know they have unwavering faith that his teammate will is as relentless as they are.
The Giants have been concocting this method of success for several years now. It started with the pitching staff. Just get half of the pitchers in the starting rotation to come from our own organization. Then let’s cultivate more young players to play the infield. Next, let’s draft more great-hitting shortstops (great athletes) and groom them to play other positions. Eventually, the team is losing a player to free agency or retirement, and a player coming out of the minors is ready to step up and take their place. And the costs stay low, because you don’t have to over-pay for a player who you don’t know for sure is going to be able to hit at AT&T Park.
The problem is, there aren’t that many teams out there that can boast a totally homegrown infield. And it takes some luck for these players to be here.
If Matt Duffy didn’t take well to third base, this whole point could be moot. Or if Joe Panik had a hard time adjusting to the other side of second, maybe the Giants would have had to go out and get Jose Reyes. But man, what those two have done to allow the team to focus on other areas is remarkable. Of course, Buster Posey, Brandon Belt, and Brandon Crawford, all have eased concerns over who is playing where in the next couple of years. But Kelby Tomlinson, Ehire Adrianza, and Christian Arroyo all have also started out as shortstops, and all can handle other positions at the major league level. The only infielder not to play shortstop in college in Belt.
But back to the synergistic part of this article.
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The Giants and Warriors both have shown that you can share success with others and still fell ok about it. At one point a few years back, it was all about the player on a team that was important. Who is the best should always mean which team is the best, not which player. Lebron James is the most physically gifted played in basketball. He can pretty much do anything on the court. But if the opposing team has five guys on the court who are equally as confident in each other, it is hard for him to beat that.
The Giants have shown it in all three of their World Series wins. In 2010, they had a group of homegrown talent in the pitching staff. Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner, Jonathan Sanchez, Brian Wilson, and Sergio Romo. More than half of the staff was brought up through their system, and Posey was behind the plate. And then they had the rest of the group that just wanted to win. Aubrey Huff, Freddy Sanchez, Juan Uribe, Edgar Renteria, Mike Fontenot, Pat Burrell, and Cody Ross. All of those names remind a fan of one thing, it wasn’t supposed to happen.
But it did, and with it came another title in 2012. That was when a pitching staff, similar to the one in 2010 all were healthy again, and added another former draftee by the name of Ryan Vogelsong. He wanted to give it one more shot with his former employer, and boy did he deliver. And let us not forget that Belt and Crawford were up for this one as well. Along with two of the all-time gamers Marco Scutaro and Hunter Pence. And behind the plate once again, the healed MVP Buster Posey.
And then in 2014, when the world had had enough of the Giants and their “Together” crap, the team won one more. This time it was Bumgarner, Hunter Strickland, Vogelsong, Bumgarner, Romo, Lincecum, Bumgarner, Bumgarner. I know, but it had to be done. And then you sprinkle in gamers again, but this time in the pitching staff. Names like Jake Peavy, Yusmerio Petit, and Tim Hudson. The unbelievably steady Jeremy Affeldt and Javier Lopez will always be known as great Giants. But at this point, the homegrown talent was in the field. It was Posey, Belt, Panik, Crawford, and Pablo Sandoval manning the infield. And Duffy there with an amazing dash to the plate. And even outfielder Juan Perez contributed to the cause.
So the point of this article is that the days of the superstar are hopefully coming to an end. Yes, there will be players out there that transcend their game. There will always be those that make more than others. But the Bay Area is proving that a star does not have to call attention to themselves based on their skill level. Both Posey and Stephen Curry understand that without their teammates, none of the success is possible. Maybe a good agent can get a few commercials, and on a brand of sneakers. But beyond the money, the game is played to win. And with more money, comes much more responsibility both on and off the playing surface. Players who grow up through their system are given more slack. “Let them get a few chances, they were drafted by us.” The Warriors have Draymond Green, Harrison Barnes, Klay Thompson, Kevon Looney and Festus Ezeli join Curry as players drafted by the club. Now everybody wants to play here.
Remember when the Warriors were supposed to pay more for players just to live in one of the greatest areas in the world. Remember when free agent hitters would scoff at the Giants offers and, oh they still do that. Never mind. Well it doesn’t matter if you continue to keep your own, right?
Can’t say I’m sad for Sandoval yet. But you don’t leave a good thing. Ya hear that Barnes? Andrew Bogut already wants an extension, because he knows this is special. Crawford and Belt signed theirs, and that sends a message to Panik and Duffy.
You see, it’s called synergy. And a team that has it, and knows it, will stay together. They will take less money to play with a team they enjoy being around. So the only problem you will have as an organization is, what to do with all of the young talent that has no place to play.
That is a great problem to have.