I heard the phrase “twenty-five guys, twenty-five stories,” the other day, and it really reminded me of why I love baseball so much. There are so many good stories along the way. The San Francisco Giants are going to the World Series for the third time in five years. It doesn’t get old because there is a new story every year. In 2010 they were a band of misfits, torturing their fans until the last game of the season when with the help of Aubrey Huff’s rally thong, they won the division and went on to beat the Braves and Phillies before taking the World Series against the Texas Rangers.
In 2012 they made big trades for Hunter Pence and Marco Scutaro and they wrapped up the division easily only to face about a million elimination games in the playoffs against the Reds and the Cardinals, winning game seven of the NLCS in dramatic fashion as the rain came down and I’ll never forget Marco Scutaro’s arms outstretched expressing his sheer joy of the moment.
In 2011 and 2013 the Giants lost key players to injury, Buster Posey went down in a horrific collision at the plate, crushing his ankle and ultimately the Giants hope for a repeat trip to the postseason. I was at the game in 2013 when Angel Pagan hit the inside-the-park walkoff home run to win in extra innings. I still have the hat from that day’s game. It’s turned out to be lucky since I put it on in mid September. But his absence was felt over the summer and they couldn’t quite recover enough to keep up with the Dodgers.
So this year, with injuries to Matt Cain, the anchor to the starting rotation and one of the players I modeled Johnny Scottsdale after, Angel Pagan (again). Marco Scutaro missed all but one game. Brandon Belt was out with hand injuries and a concussion. We lost Michael Morse late in the season with an oblique strain. There are plenty of excuses as to why this team should be on the golf course instead of on their way to Kansas City.
But this team doesn’t make excuses. They just find a way to win. The only big trade was to bring Jake Peavy over from Boston. He not only found a way to make Cain’s absence less painful, he sang a heartfelt stairwell duet with third base coach Tim Flannery and cemented his place in Giants’ fans’ hearts.
Joe Panik took over at second base when it became clear that Dan Uggla wasn’t going to be the guy. The rookie has played well, keeping his cool in the most pressure filled situations. Another rookie, Adam Duffy has made an impact in huge spots throughout the last month of the season and in the playoffs. He scored from second on a wild pitch.
The road to the World Series hasn’t been easy. They had to get through a one game Wild Card game against the Pirates who were getting hot at the right time, almost knocking off the Cardinals for the division title. then they had to face the Washington Nationals, the team with the best record in the National League. The hope was to take one of the first two games in Washington, they were one out away from splitting the series when the Giants tied it in the ninth. Nine innings later, Brandon Belt hit a home run in the top of the 18th. Young Hunter Strickland closed it out and the Giants returned to San Francisco with a two game lead. They lost game three on a throwing error by Ace Madison Bumgarner before coming back to win it the next game.
Then the fun began. The Giants managed to win in odd fashion. On wild pitches, bunts, and throwing errors. It wasn’t until the decisive game five that they hit any home runs. Then they hit three. One by rookie Joe Panik, one by Michael Morse off he bench, and the most dramatic walkoff by Travis Ishikawa to win the game and the pennant for the Giants.
Travis Ishikawa started the year in Pittsburgh. When the Pirates released him, he signed a minor league contract with the Giants and while in Fresno, considered quitting the game. He was brought up with the September call-ups, presumably to help at first base until Brandon Belt could get cleared to play. Who would’ve thought he’d be the starting left-fielder leading the team with seven RBI’s through the NLCS?
So many great stories in a very long season.
And like the guy standing next to me at Fan Fest said, “Come on Hunter, just one more.” I am asking for one more great story to make the debate “which World Series was the best?” even better.