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The Dynasty That Wasn’t

September 25, 2011 Leave a comment

By: Nate Douglas

In 2010, the San Francisco Giants cruised to victory in the World Series- it took just five games in what was an amazing yet surprising championship run.  Not much time had elapsed before the local writers started uttering the “d-word”- dynasty.  Not an entirely unreasonable thought.  The Giants had one of the best rotations locked down for the foreseeable future in Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain and the promising Madison Bumgarner.  The bullpen was among the best in the majors.  They had young hitters, such as Buster Posey who was destined to be a star. Pablo Sandoval could mash if he could stay away from the buffet line and on the field.  Brandon Belt was raking in the minors and was a top 10 touted prospect going into the 2011 season.  As the season began, ticket and merchandise sales were up.  Showtime aired their “Hard Knocks” version for baseball entitled “The Franchise” featuring the San Francisco Giants.  In all of the promos, they showed a clip of Brian Wilson uttering the words, “Mark it down.  Repeat.”  Everything pointed towards a dynasty.

But as of this writing, the Giants were eliminated from the playoff race despite being in the creampuff division of the NL, and 8 games behind the new darling Diamondbacks.  The “dynasty” is not going to even make the playoffs just a year removed from their title.  What happened?   Did the pixie dust wear off?  Were the Giants so hamstrung by injuries this year that title retention was near impossible?  Was the term “dynasty” used a bit too freely?

 

The 2010 Giants were a team of self-proclaimed misfits.  It made a cute story.  But when general manager Brian Sabean assembled this team of misfits, he could not realistically believe they were a world championship contender, not to mention a dynasty, could he?  Not when his best outfielder was picked up off the waiver wire in August (Cody Ross),his spare part shortstop only played 72 games and hit 3 HR’s (Edgar Renteria), and his third baseman was so overweight that they had to play another spare in his place (Juan Uribe).  Aubrey Huff and Buster Posey were the only decent power hittesr on the team.  Not exactly a lineup that would strike fear in the hearts of opposing pitchers.  Yet the stars aligned and the Giants handled the Phillies and Rangers with ease.  The misfits won.  But can a dynasty be constructed of misfits?  Dynasties require staying power.

 

Struggling to comprehend how the Giants won the World Series, I didn’t know if I should think of Brian Sabean as the luckiest man on earth or not.  Was he the guy that drafted and developed some talented pitchers?  Or was the real Brian Sabean the one who paid out one of the worst contracts in major league history to Barry Zito?  I believe I must go with the latter, due to his inactivity over the offseason between the 2010-11 seasons.  Sabean, in a move that showed how much confidence he had in Renteria and Uribe (or in a move that demonstrated how lucky he realized he had been), let them go and replaced them with Miguel Tejada (who would later in  the year be cut), and wished upon a star that Kung Fu Pandovol would drop some weight.  The Giants went into the offseason with some needs, and Sabean did not fill them.

 

San Francisco fans might attribute this year’s disappointing performance to injuries.  But championship contending teams with studly GMs can cope with injuries to an extent (not to mention dynasties).  The Texas Rangers this season had lost all-stars Josh Hamilton, Adrian Beltre and Nelson Cruz for over a month each.  Neftali Feliz, Darren O’Day, Mike Napoli, Scott Feldman, Andres Blanco and Tanner Scheppers were all on the DL at one point.  There was a time where the Rangers led the majors with players on the DL for several weeks.  Despite these circumstances, and being in the toughest pitching division in the majors, the Rangers have survived and are on track to defend their ALCS crown because of their depth.  Depth leads to dynasties.  Top-heavy teams are grasping for wind.  These sorts of teams are easily affected by injuries and should be prepared to face them, because baseball happens.

 

This year, the Giants’ offense was so bad they couldn’t hit the sand if they fell off a camel.  Since June, Tim Lincecum started in 17 games.  The Giants won only 8 of them.  Lincecum had a 1.90 ERA during that stretch.  Some of the hitting woes can be attributed to Buster Posey’s absence, but that can’t be the sole missing piece.  He’s good, and he’s going to be great some day, but he’s not a game changer.  The Giants already had great pitching this year (including the surprisingly solid season from Ryan Vogelsong), and a solid bullpen.  But relying on those solely to carry you to the postseason will result you in missing the boat entirely more often than not.  The Giants need hitting in a really bad way, and could stand to upgrade at 2-3 OF spots, the middle infield and set Brandon Belt free.

 

All of this to say, the 2010 Giants’ story is still an amazing one.  They epitomized everything we love about baseball.  The story of the underdog, the team that came out of nowhere, the misfits, classy players, beautiful ballpark, and the fact that when October rolls around, anyone can win.  But a lot of work needs to be done for them to be considered a dynasty.  Lincecum was asked a couple days ago about their chances of someday returning to the World Series.  He simply replied, “I’m worried about us getting back there.”

 

Nate Douglas lives in Fort Worth, Texas, with his wife and son (whom he is 17-0 against in living-room wrestling…never mind if his son is a toddlerweight).  While his day job is sorting through the dirty legal details of the oil and gas industry, his night job is a sports Jack Bauer.  He has yet to come off his Dallas Mavericks championship-high, and he prays daily for those last couple World Series wins for his beloved Rangers, and that his children will never know a day where they weren’t fans of his favorite teams.  You can follow him on Twitter- @NateDouglas34.  

Exposing the Good, Hard-Nosed Play

By : Aaron Booth

A few times a year the baseball world gets worked up about a violent collision at home plate (or second base), especially if the collision results in an injury. This year Buster Posey and Tsuyoshi Nishioka were seriously hurt in baserunner collisions. While I have thoughts about these particular plays, how they shook out, who was at fault, and whether or not there was malicious intent (there wasn’t), I’m not interested in that today.

Take a step back. What are the discussions that flow from these plays every year? This very first question that gets asked is, was it a dirty play? Once that question is asked, the answers pour in. The fans of the team with the injured player are outraged. They’re convinced that the instigator came to the ballpark that day with evil intentions in his heart and a plan to execute it. The fans of the team of the instigator line up to tell us how the instigator is really a good guy, and he feels really bad about the situation, and he was just doing what everybody else does. The writers, commentators, and “baseball people” will tell us that it’s a good, hard-nosed baseball play.

That line, “a good, hard-nosed baseball play,” is what got me thinking about this. When do we hear this line? Usually right after the question about whether or not that last play we saw was dirty. Nobody describes a sliding catch in the outfield as a good, hard-nosed play. Running to first on a dropped third strike isn’t a good, hard-nosed play. Those things are just plays. Likewise, ordinary collisions on the field are not described as good, hard-nosed plays either. If the runner and the shortstop collide in mid-base path we use another word for that: accident. It’s not a good, hard-nosed play; it’s an accident.  Chest-first collisions at home plate, take out slides and retaliatory beanings are the kinds of plays that get described as good, hard-nosed plays. Those plays are described that way because they need justification. We need to be reminded of it every time that the play was both good and hard-nosed, which apparently is also good.

The funny thing is, a large percentage of the interested parties need to be reminded of this every-single time player limps off the field after a home plate collision. Why is it that we need to be reminded that it was a good, hard-nosed play every time? Why can’t we remember the last time this happened and accept the play as being good and hard-nosed from the outset? The reason is that we just don’t buy it. We need to be told every single time that it’s good and that it’s hard-nosed so that we’ll keep believing it.

The whole thing is kind of like the tooth fairy. My oldest child has been visited by the tooth fairy several times, but each time she says, “Come on, Dad, you and mom put that dollar under the pillow, didn’t you?” We in turn dodge the question and repeat the myth. If you repeat a story (or a lie) long enough, eventually you’ll believe it. (Governments have understood this for centuries.)

So the next time you see this play, and the talk radio and Sportscenter banter begins by asking, “Was this a dirty play?” The answer is, “Yes! It is a dirty play.” We’ve been over this a hundred times. If it wasn’t dirty, we’d only need one explanation about it being a good, hard-nosed play, and we could refer back to that. The very fact that we have this discussion two or three times a year should tell you that that at the very root of it we all know baseball shouldn’t be played this way. It is the way players are taught to play, and they’ve been taught this for decades, but it’s a dirty play, and calling it a good, hard-nosed play does not cover the stain on wall.

 
Aaron Booth lives in Monroe, LA with his wife a five children. He makes his living in the real estate world, which gives him the opportunity to listen to a lot of audio, including a fair amount of sports radio and podcasts. Aaron loves his i-devices and 24-hour sports media, but also fondly remembers the days when he calculated his fantasy standings from the newspaper. You can follow him on twitter @da_booth.