As a die-hard San Francisco Giants fan, I grew up with my share of disappointments. Any Giants fan who grew up in the 1980’s like I did knows exactly what I mean when I list the following names: Jose Oquendo, Terry Steinbach, Salomon Torres, Neifi Perez, Scott Spiezio and Jose Cruz Jr.
None of those guys received a Hall of Fame vote after they retired. None were ever great players, and some were even former Giants. But all had a big role in preventing a World Series title in San Francisco. So whether it was Oquendo in 1987, Perez in 1997 or Spiezio in 2002, the Giants have had some heartbreaking moments throughout my childhood and adult life.
The Year it Happened
So in 2010, when the team won the West by a single game, I had limited expectations because how was I suppose to know?
I had a good feeling going in vs Atlanta because we had played well against them in the regular season, but if we go back to the emotions of that series, there wasn’t a single moment during that series that felt like we were in control. Even after Lincecum strutted off the mound in Game 1, we knew the history. We knew that we had strong performances before. Russ Ortiz out pitched Tom Glavine in Game 1 in 2002. There were no guarantees.
So when we defeated the Braves in another nail biter post-season series, I was happy of course, but not confident. How could we be? We were facing the team everyone had pegged to win it all; Philadelphia.
There was a quiet confidence brewing inside of me though, and now that we have lived it, I can better describe what it was. It was that throughout my life, we had some great players. Barry Bonds is the greatest player I have ever seen. Guys like Jeff Kent, Will Clark, Kevin Mitchell, Matt Williams, Jason Schmidt, Rod Beck, Robb Nen, J.T. Snow, Rich Aurilia and so many others played at elite levels for the Giants. Despite all that talent, the teams of “Dustiny” and all the “Humm-Babys” we had, we never had this kind of pitching.
We had some pitchers we all loved, from Kirk Reuter, Mark Gardner and Dave Dravecky, to Don Robinson, and Mike Krukow. But we never had talent like this on the mound. Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner, and that bullpen with Brian Wilson, Sergio Romo, Santiago Casilla, Jeremy Affeldt and Javy Lopez.
Until the 2010 World Series, we didn’t see Bumgarner coming. We all saw flashes and hoped for great things, but we didn’t see 8 shutout innings coming. And because we still have nightmares of Felix Rodriguez and Tim Worrell, we didn’t see the “Core 4” and “B-Weezy” happening either.
We embraced the “castoffs and “misfits” as Bruce Bochy coined it because they were easy to like. They performed on the field, and they became the 1st ever champions; a title that nobody can ever take from them. We loved the “torture” as Duane Kuiper said, because the torture ended with a champagne shower. It washed away all those years of actual baseball torture where those previously mentioned ball players in the 1st paragraph helped end our World Series runs.
Standing at the corner of McAlister & Hyde Streets, I stood there with four weeks of playoff beard covering my face, my Matt Cain 43 jersey, and my official World Series hat and sweatshirt, plus a video camera. It was eight in the morning, and as we left the BART station we walked through a sea of orange and black to find an opening to see the parade. We ran into several friends who, like us, had waited decades for this moment. But it was eight in the morning, and we weren’t getting started until 1pm. So we had some time. We started chanting “Bus-ter Po-sey,” “Beat LA” sang “We are the Champions,” and tried to see how loud we could scream “Let’s Go Giants” with the people across the street and all around us. We cheered for empty buses that drove by that were going to be used after the parade to take the players back to the hotel. We cheered for police officers driving by. We even cheered for a random guy riding a bike with a Barry Zito Oakland A’s shirsey. Because Zito is getting a ring too. And we just can’t stop cheering.
When the Cal Marching band walked by us, I don’t think we ever stopped cheering. Whether it was wanting to drink a Bud Light with Pat Burrell, or sing along with Ashkon, or wave to the legend Willie Mays, it was perfect. I had said during that Texas series I only wanted 1. I had 1. It was perfect. The Giants didn’t need to win it ever again and I would always have 2010.
World Series Champions Finally! Now what?
We actually won. 2010 still feels like a dream. Even today after two more championships, it almost feels imagined. So in 2011, when the team re-signed all but two key contributors to that 1st title, I was thrilled. I was just disappointed we couldn’t make a deal for Juan Uribe and Edgar Renteria. I didn’t want to make the smart baseball moves. I wanted to go to AT&T Park and give year-long standing ovations to everyone. Even Zito and Rowand, who were booed and labeled as overpaid and underachieving their entire Giants careers to that point, got my applause. They were part of that team, and that team deserved love.
May 25, 2011
This day has special meaning for me. 1st and foremost, it was the day my niece was born. It also happened to be my 31st birthday. And for Giants fans, it was the day Buster Posey broke his leg. Giants fans knew that a chance for a repeat ended that day. But for me, who only ever wanted 1, I was still satisfied. I was intrigued with the idea of getting a guy like Carlos Beltran, and an everyday catcher by the trade deadline to make up for Posey’s absence, but I didn’t want to sacrifice the 2010 team. At the same time, guys from the team that were so valuable like Aubrey Huff, Cody Ross, Andres Torres, Freddy Sanchez and Pat Burrell weren’t performing anywhere near the level they were in 2010.
A “smarter” GM may have let Huff and Ross walk and not brought back Torres and Burrell. A “smarter” GM may have kept Zach Wheeler over going after Beltran because they knew pitching was the key. However, now that we have seen what this locker room has become post-Bonds, and what the combination of Sabean and Bochy can do with 25 men on the same page, it’s hard to claim a smarter GM would have won two more titles.
Ultimately, lack of performance from Huff, Ross, Burrell, Torres and Sanchez is what led to a trade for Angel Pagan, Marco Scutaro and Hunter Pence, and bringing in Gregor Blanco. It’s also what led the team to give chances to Brandon Belt and Brandon Crawford.
2012 and Beyond
2012 was the year of Matt Cain, and as Matt Cain’s #1 fan, I loved every minute of it. From his perfect game to his All-Star start and win, to his winning each clinching game of each round of that post-season. Forget the actual W-L record, when Cain pitched, we won the game nearly every time, and that was what made him my favorite pitcher. He always gave us a chance to win the game. 108 times in his career, he’s gone at least 7 innings in a game and given up 2 earned runs or less and only “won” 52 times. In 2012, he went 16-5, and was our ace. Even better than Lincecum and Bumgarner.
Strickland and my niece. Photo Taken by Michael Saltzman.
2014 was the most enjoyable season for me to date because I loved all 25 guys on the team. I had met Hunter Strickland in San Jose and he was great with my now 3-year-old niece who got to be the “play ball” girl on May 25, 2014. I threw out the 1st pitch as a birthday present to me from the amazing San Jose Giants organization. Then during the national anthem, my niece Kiora was still on the field. She saw the players line up, so she decided to line up too. She stood next to Hunter Strickland and he was great. He showed her to put her hand on her heart and just like Strickland, she put her other arm behind her back. So when Strickland was being ripped apart by Giants fans for giving up home runs during the post-season, I remembered that day.
Adam Duvall was one of the best to ever come through San Jose. I heard some behind the scenes stories about him and what he meant to the front office staff and host family there and he became one of my favorites too. On the day he got called up to the big club, it was so exciting, and when reports came out that he would start, I got a call to go to the game. It was a promise kept that was so special. “If you ever make it to the big leagues, I’ll be there.” To be a part of that journey was incredible. To see Adam’s 1st career home run that night was unforgettable. To see him want to take a picture with the guy who caught the ball, so he wouldn’t forget, was unreal. So when Duvall didn’t make the playoff roster, I was still cheering for them to advance so he might get a ring.
But it wasn’t just them. Michael Morse and Hunter Pence were BFFs, and you couldn’t help but love seeing that love for each other on the field. Ryan Vogelsong, Tim Hudson, and eventually Jake Peavy were giving every ounce they had despite not having what they once had. That kind of strength and passion is hard not to root for. Hudson had battled for 16 years to get to a World Series and it was happening before our eyes. And then there’s Bumgarner and Buster Posey. And the Brandons. And when you heard the story of Juan Perez finding out about his friend Oscar Tavares and 3 innings later, hitting a triple, how could you not love this team?
So fast forward to Game 7 with the heart thumping Alex Gordon single, I mean double, I mean triple. Suddenly, we were 90 feet from extra innings. Sal Perez is the only guy to have a hit off Bumgarner, and it was a home run. A home run would end this World Series the same way Travis Ishikawa got us here. Every pitch was tense. Every swing was even more so. I wanted the Giants to find a way, but I was going to be happy for the Royals if they found a way. When that ball was in foul territory, and Pablo was under it, I was so excited, but not like 5 years ago. It was a different happy because 2010 was about finally getting away from the excuses. “It was the earthquake,” or “why did Baker give Ortiz that damn ball?,” or “why didn’t Alou pinch run for Snow?” 2012 and 2014 were about a joy that was felt from Spring training through October. Because we had a ring already. And then because we had two rings already.
As a die-hard fan, I always want the Giants to win. But the idea of “needing” another championship or the anger so many fans feel when their team loses has dissipated with me. I will still make comments on Twitter that are too harsh, and still get frustrated in the moment when the Giants give up a bunch of runs or leave runners in scoring position. But now I calm down so much easier. Now I look around my house and see all the mementos I’ve collected over the years. I do feel overwhelmed with a third championship. I do feel silly acting like there is some even year magic when there certainly wasn’t in 2008, 2006, 2004, 2002, 2000, etc… Ultimately, as a fan, we will always want more, but needing more is a feeling I no longer have.