PHILADELPHIA -- We already know this much about the 2010 World Series: Somebody's sliding all the way down the list. What list? Why, the list of franchise World Series droughts, of course. Even the most casual fan knows the Cubs are at the top that list, having waited 102 seasons, and counting, for a title. The Indians are next, at 62 years.
But the most tantalizing tidbit accompanying the Giants' and Rangers' entry into this year's Fall Classic, which begins at 7:30 p.m. ET Wednesday on FOX and Postseason.TV, is the fact that they rank third and fourth, respectively, on that list.
One of them is going down. In a good way. The Giants have waited eight years to get back into the World Series, but 55 years to win one, dating back to their 1954 title when they were still in New York. The Rangers have waited 49 years to even get in one, dating back to their 1961 creation, when they were known as the Washington Senators. So beyond any particular matchup -- and we'll get to Cliff Lee vs. Tim Lincecum in a second -- this World Series is already enticing enough, just because of its participants. "That's great for both franchises," Giants closer Brian Wilson said. "Watching that game in Texas, I know how much that must have meant for Nolan Ryan and the fans over there. That's wonderful for them. On a second note here, San Francisco's been waiting for this since Spring Training. The fans have had our backs. They've let us know, 'Hey, you guys have a chance. Don't ruin it for us.'" The Giants were also part of the last pairing of two teams who had never won a title in their current city. That was in 2002, when the Angels beat them in seven games. So this is a second chance for San Francisco to appease a long-frustrated fan base. Now, about those matchups. If we thought we were spoiled by a Lincecum-Roy Halladay pairing in Games 1 and 5 of the NLCS, this bill is even better, because of the raised stakes. Lee, the 2008 AL Cy Young Award winner and a pending free agent, has pitched out of his mind in the postseason. He's 7-0 with a 1.26 ERA in eight playoff starts over the past two Octobers. And his three starts this year, in which he's gone 3-0 with a 0.75 ERA and a 34-to-1 strikeout-to-walk rate, have vaulted him to historic status. But to become a true postseason legend, Lee has to win it all. And outdueling Lincecum would be a fine step toward getting to that point. Lincecum has made the most of his first postseason opportunity, going 2-1 with a 1.96 ERA in three starts. The lone loss came in Game 5 of the NLCS, but it wasn't entirely his fault, as the Giants made two costly defensive gaffes behind him. Lincecum also came out for a brief relief appearance in the Game 6 clincher on Saturday night, which was his day to toss on the side. So he'll be ready for Game 1 of the Fall Classic. Neither Lincecum nor Lee have a great deal of history against the lineups they'll be facing. The following Giants have faced Lee: Juan Uribe (11-for-37, two homers, seven RBIs), Aaron Rowand (7-for-25, four doubles, one homer), Aubrey Huff (5-for-19, one triple), Edgar Renteria (4-for-17, two doubles, one homer), Pat Burrell (1-for-4), Pablo Sandoval (0-for-4), Freddy Sanchez (0-for-2), Cody Ross (1-for-2 with a grand slam) and Travis Ishikawa (1-for-1). Interestingly, Ross' grand slam off Lee was the first homer of his career. It came on Sept. 2, 2003. Obviously, considering everything Lee and Ross, the NLCS MVP, have accomplished in this postseason, their next meeting will attract quite a bit more attention. As for Lincecum, he's only faced three members of this Rangers lineup: Jeff Francoeur (3-for-16, one homer, three RBIs), Jorge Cantu (0-for-3) and Vladimir Guerrero (1-for-1). Not much to work with there, and it remains to be seen if the unfamiliarity will benefit the pitcher or the hitter more. We've been spoiled by superior pitching this postseason, and Lincecum-Lee, with a tone-setting Series win on the line, whets the whistle all the more. One player for whom this Series will pack a particular emotional punch is Rangers catcher Bengie Molina. The Giants traded him to Texas on July 1 to make room for rookie sensation Buster Posey as the everyday starter behind the plate. "I have a lot of friends and guys that I love over there," Molina said. "We were like brothers." They aren't brothers anymore. Speaking of emotional ties, they're already calling this the Will Clark World Series. Clark spent eight seasons of his stellar 15-year career in San Francisco, and then logged five in Texas. He helped the Giants get to the 1989 World Series against the A's, and he was a part of the Rangers' playoff clubs in '96 and '98. Clark, who retired in 2000, won't be all that conflicted here. He serves as a special assistant for the Giants. Both of these teams were viewed as underdogs in the first two rounds of the postseason. The Rangers will probably be favored to win the Series, because of their more potent lineup. They certainly have the respect of Giants manager Bruce Bochy. "They're exciting," Bochy said. "Speed, power, great pitching. They've got the hottest pitcher in the game right now, and they had to earn it the hard way, too. They had to go into Tampa and beat them, which they did, and of course playing the Yankees." These two teams obviously don't know each other all that well. They last met in a 2009 Interleague set in San Francisco, and the Giants have won seven consecutive meetings overall. The Giants will have the home-field advantage, and the Rangers are 0-9 all-time at AT&T Park. But all those old numbers get tossed into the San Francisco Bay when this Series gets started. And for one of these franchises, a drought that dates back decades will get thrown out, too.