Baer, Sabean laud team that tallied record 12 wins to claim World Series
By Chris Haft
KANSAS CITY -- Maybe, Larry Baer figured, this was the way it had to be.
Baer, the Giants' president and chief executive officer, was seated behind home plate Wednesday night, watching the team he has loved since boyhood approach its third World Series conquest in five seasons. Except maybe the approach had hit a roadblock. With two outs, nobody on base in the ninth inning and the Giants leading Game 7 of the Series, 3-2, Alex Gordon kept Kansas City's hopes alive by singling to center field, where the ball skipped past Gregor Blanco and skittered to the wall. Left fielder Juan Perez had trouble picking up the ball, enabling Gordon to reach third base.
Memories flooded Baer's mind. The Game 6 collapse in the 2002 World Series. J.T. Snow being thrown out at home plate to end the 2003 Division Series against the Marlins. And, most vividly, this year's collapse from a Major League-best 43-21 record, which forced the Giants to reach the postseason as the National League's second Wild Card qualifier.
"Nothing this team has done has been easy. Nothing," Baer said. "That said to me that maybe [Gordon] belonged on third base for the final out."
That out came soon enough as All-Galaxy left-hander Madison Bumgarner induced Salvador Perez's foul popup to end the Giants' victory that enabled them to edge the Royals in the best-of-seven Series, 4-3.
This year's Giants gave Baer much to appreciate, including their professional attitude.
"Culture, company culture means something in sports," he said. "We won 88 games and got into the playoffs through the Wild Card, but when we got to the playoffs there was a calmness and a sense of confidence and there were, I think, 13 or 14 players who had [World Series] rings and that really played well in the postseason."
Elsewhere amid the boisterous clubhouse, Giants general manager Brian Sabean savored the sight of people he cherishes -- the club's scouts, player personnel officials, other baseball operations employees and their families, all of whom were reveling in San Francisco's triumph.
"It's a great group of people," said Sabean, the Major Leagues' longest-tenured GM. "That's how it should be. They deserved this type of ending and they more than earned it."
Of course, Sabean was immensely proud of the Giants themselves. They became the first club to win 12 games en route to capturing a World Series, a number inflated by the Wild Card Game. During their three postseasons that ended in Series victories, the Giants posted a record of 34-14. San Francisco clinched each Series on the road -- and the road seemed particularly unfriendly this time, after Kansas City routed the Giants in Game 6 to forge a 3-3 Series tie.
"I don't know how many teams on the road, at any point in the season, let alone the seventh game of the World Series, come back after a 10-0 loss," Sabean said. "But they buried it, and we have the secret weapon in Bum."
That would be Madison Bumgarner, Most Valuable Player of both the World Series and National League Championship Series, who sealed the Giants' Game 7 victory with five shutout innings of relief. As is the case with an increasing number of big league Giants, Bumgarner was developed by the organization, having been selected in the first round (10th overall) in the 2007 First-Year Player Draft.
"Early on, you could see he was a man-child," Sabean said. "He's a young guy with a big arm and that stature and that fire in his belly, and he's one of those guys who has continued to get better and better. Now he's arguably, because of this, the best pitcher in baseball."
Sabean surmised that the mere sight of Bumgarner leaving the bullpen might have shaken up the Royals.
"I think he was in Kansas City's head," Sabean said.
By contrast, the Giants have a crown atop their head.
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Haft-Baked Ideas, and follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.