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Time to pay tribute to Giants

Team of genuine heroes an inspiration to all

Published: Monday, October 29, 2012 at 3:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, October 29, 2012 at 12:05 a.m.

DETROIT

When it was over, after the Giants beat the Tigers 4-3 in 10, after the Giants swept the Tigers and won the World Series, the Giants players — Ryan Theriot and Jeremy Affeldt and Marco Scutaro and all the rest — gathered along the first-base line, as if Comerica Park was their park, and saluted the Giants fans — there were thousands of them — who shouted at the players, “Let's go Giants!”

The players wore World Series shirts and caps, and they hugged wives and girlfriends and they were having an impromptu party in the cold and the rain of a Midwest autumn, not that they cared about the chill. They were having a San Francisco party in Detroit.

So, let's pause a moment to do something important. Let's pay tribute to the Giants. They are world champions yet again, world champions two of the past three years. And if that is something short of a dynasty, it's not by much. They are the most impressive organization in the big leagues, the standard by which you measure all others — move over Tigers, Yankees and Cardinals. Just move over.

The Giants remade their team after their previous world championship in 2010, remade it. Sure, they won with pitching — more on that later — but they didn't hit home runs and, instead, they became a singles-hitting, bunting, base-stealing team, a Small Ball team. And they won the whole thing anyway. Clearly, Brian Sabean is the shrewdest general manager in the big leagues. And if you know of a better manager than Bruce Bochy, someone who runs a pitching staff more strategically, please name him.

So, just pay tribute. And let the rest of America understand for now — and for a while — San Francisco is the center of big-league ball. San Francisco.

A funny thing happened in Game 4, under those dark windy Detroit skies. The World Series arrived. It wasn't the World Series before that. It was something else, something less compelling. It was the Giants' victory lap. It was a Giants' celebration and a walkover and a joke. Never once had the Tigers threatened the Giants or made them worry or even taken a lead.

But on Sunday night, the dormant Tigers roused themselves and showed their desire and demonstrated their pride to the nation and to the Giants. It was fitting the Giants had to win a fight, had to prevail in a tight game that could not be decided in the regulation nine. It added to their glory, especially with Miguel Cabrera, the Tiger's best, at bat with two outs in the bottom of the tenth. He faced Sergio Romo — who else? — Romo throwing those nasty sliders, Romo fighting Cabrera and Cabrera, a proud Triple Crown winner, fighting back.

And then Romo got two strikes on Cabrera, with Justin Verlander looking on, Verlander almost surely with a hollow feeling in his chest. And Romo put Cabrera away — out of here — struck out Cabrera looking, the great Cabrera staring helplessly, mournfully, resignedly at a pitch that dived back into the strike zone.

There were other highlights, of course. The whole game was a highlight. There was Jeremy Affeldt in bottom of the eighth issuing a leadoff walk and then striking out the side, striking out the heart of the Tigers' order — Cabrera, Prince Fielder and Delmon Young. And after every pitch you could see his lips moving, see him in a fervent conversation. Who did he speak to on the mound? “I was talking to God, to be honest with you,” he said. “I talk to him all the time.” Apparently Affeldt got through.

And there was Ryan Theriot, the designated hitter who used to be the second baseman but wasn't the second baseman after Marco Scutaro showed up. He led off the top of the 10th with a single. As he hit the first-base bag, he told himself, “Score.” And when he scored the winning run on a Scutaro single, he told himself, “Awesome.” And when Romo came in for the last half inning, Theriot told himself, “We've got a great pitching staff, great closer. We'll win.”

Oh, Giants' pitching, it's kind of important, right? Listen to Sabean after the game on his team's pitching: “It's been that way even going back before 2010. And they stepped up at the right time. Playing in the two series before this one really prepared us for this.”

For Sabean the pitching is the core issue and the core strength, and what the starters and bullpen did to the Tigers is irrefutable. But it's not that simple. All season, Giants' pitching — their strength — had been a weakness. If not a flat-out weakness, it had not been a clear strength. Going into the playoffs, the Giants had a starting rotation of exactly one — Matt Cain. But finally — and just in time — Barry Zito and Ryan Vogelsong and Madison Bumgarner decided to join Cain and were lights out or nails or however you want to put it. And Tim Lincecum, somehow, rediscovered himself as a pitcher by being a reliever, and the bullpen was the best in baseball. Can anyone argue with that?

It is the misfortune of the Tigers, Cards and Reds that they faced this pitching-rich team when the pitching finally got rich. Any team that faced the Giants would have been unfortunate. You could add that the Giants defense was stifling — Brandon Crawford has to be the best shortstop in baseball. And the Giants hit just enough, mostly thanks to Pablo Sandoval, who was a hitting machine in the postseason.

Here is Sandoval, the MVP of the Series, on how he learned to love the nickname Kung Fu Panda, a name Zito bestowed on him in a moment of genius: “When I get that nickname is when I think, ‘It's me. The character is me, have fun like a little kid.'”

So, yes, pay tribute to the MVP who is the Panda, and pay tribute to the Giants who are World Champions.

Pay tribute.

For more on the world of sports in general and the Bay Area in particular, go to the Cohn Zohn at cohn.blogs.pressdemocrat.com. You can reach Staff Columnist Lowell Cohn at lowell.cohn@pressdemocrat.com.

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