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Personalities mesh to create Giants among men

Personalities mesh to create Giants among men

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Personalities mesh to create Giants among men
DETROIT -- The World Series champion Giants ruled 2012, but they'd be comfortable in another time -- somewhere between the peaks of Willie Mays and Barry Bonds, the franchise's greatest players, along with Christy Mathewson.

They're a team straight out of the 1970s, missing the wild uniforms but stacked with colorful personalities. They take the game more seriously than themselves, a wonderfully refreshing thing to see in an era driven by cold numbers and hard dollar signs.

There is no Mays in this troupe, no Bonds, although Buster Posey someday could reach that exalted level. Amazingly enough, Posey and his pals have brought two World Series titles to San Francisco -- more than Mays and Bonds combined -- which begs some questions.

World Series

How in the world did they do it? What makes this team so special?

Yes, the pitching is superb. The defense is sound, spectacular on occasion. The offense is resourceful, capitalizing on seemingly every break. Yes, Bruce Bochy has joined the elite list of managers, and his coaching staff is top notch.

But seriously, this is not a team that knocks you over with its talent. It is not a team you could have anticipated claiming a second title in three years with roughly a 70 percent turnover in player personnel from the 2010 championship cast.

"I keep coming back to how unselfish these guys are," Bochy said. "It's amazing what a club can do when they play as a team and have no agendas. To be world champions two out of three years with a group of guys who were not going to be denied, I couldn't be prouder or happier.

"I'm a little numb, to be honest. I'm just blessed to be able to manage a team like this -- the talent put together by [general manager] Brian Sabean, the ownership, players, fans, everybody involved."

It is certainly not a team that appeared primed to run away from the Dodgers and their expensive imports to win the National League West. Then came a postseason that returned the torture of 2010 to the faithful.

The Reds had them in a 2-0 hole in the NL Division Series. The Cardinals had them on the ropes with a 3-1 lead in the NL Championship Series, only to watch the Giants pull an Ali in Zaire.

They weren't supposed to match up with superstars Justin Verlander, Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder, and down go the Tigers, knockout victims in four straight. The 4-3 decision in Game 4 in 10 innings on Sunday fittingly ended with Marco Scutaro driving home another role-model player, Ryan Theriot, and with Sergio Romo -- the guy who replaced Brian Wilson -- striking out Cabrera to end it.

You can identify a dozen more talented Giants teams from the '60s and '90s and early 2000s that didn't win a championship.

This outfit has done it twice with a few stars and an eclectic collection of Scutaros, Theriots and Romos.

The people in charge -- Bochy, his coaches, Sabean, John Barr and Dick Tidrow and their scouting and personnel departments -- have an extraordinary knack of gathering the ideal blend of talent and letting it flow freely with trust and confidence.

"Nobody really stood out and wanted to steal the spotlight," ace Matt Cain said. "I think that's what helped us."

Try finding another team that enjoys its time together the way these guys do. From riotous World Series MVP Pablo Sandoval to ultra-serious Posey to so-cool Barry Zito, from storyteller Hunter Pence to world-wise Romo to the one and only "Freak," Tim Lincecum, the Giants find a balance of personalities that clicks.

Most World Series titles
Rank Team Titles
1. Yankees 27
2. Cardinals 11
3. Athletics 9
4. Giants 7
Red Sox 7
6. Dodgers 6
7. Reds 5
Pirates 5

What's striking about this unique band is how utterly resistant it is to discord and disruption.

Not long after he'd won the All-Star Game MVP Award, Melky Cabrera and his gaudy offensive numbers were stripped away by a 50-game ban for testing positive for performance-enhancers. This would have buckled a normal team.

The Giants, seemingly unfazed, moved on. Gregor Blanco expanded his role, and guess who was the best left fielder in postseason play, making one dazzling play after another?

They opened their arms and hearts to an essential newcomer from Colorado in Scutaro, who replaced Cabrera's offensive numbers and brought an intense hunger to the table. Scutaro, never really given his due as a quality player and desperate to win, was a driven man.

A journeyman with his sixth big league team and third in 12 months, Scutaro became just as valuable as Cabrera had been. How was that even remotely possible?

Because they're the Giants. They make anything possible.

Bochy's role in this cannot be overstated. He's the Scutaro of managers, a pro's pro, always getting the most out of what he has. His days of rarely getting a mention with the elite skippers are over. If this keeps up and there's reason to believe it will, Bochy will have to start dodging Hall of Fame questions.

World Series sweeps
Year Winner Loser
2012 Giants Tigers
2007 Red Sox Rockies
2005 White Sox Astros
2004 Red Sox Cardinals
1999 Yankees Braves
1998 Yankees Padres
1990 Reds Athletics
1989 Athletics Giants
1976 Reds Yankees
1966 Orioles Dodgers
1963 Dodgers Yankees
1954 Giants Indians
1950 Yankees Phillies
1939 Yankees Reds
1938 Yankees Cubs
1932 Yankees Cubs
1928 Yankees Cardinals
1927 Yankees Pirates
1922 * Giants Yankees
1914 Braves Athletics
1907 * Cubs Tigers
Included one tie game

He made it to the World Series with his 1998 Padres and ran into the Yankees, getting swept. He reached the postseason in back-to-back seasons (2005-06) with modest talent in San Diego. Nobody in the Bay Area realized how lucky the Giants were when he moved north in '07 after parting ways with the Padres, who evidently hadn't realized how lucky they'd been to have him.

Bochy understands the secret, but would never admit it. He lets his players play, lets them be who they are. He makes them comfortable and puts them in positions to succeed. They come to realize that he really does know what's best for them and respond accordingly.

That's why a two-time NL Cy Young Award winner, Lincecum, can go to the bullpen and get vital postseason outs without complaint or even the hint of a pout. It doesn't happen in other places.

Bochy played the game, a backup catcher with keen observational skills. He saw how great players handled pressure -- free of the fear of failure. And he intuitively grasped that a free environment, punctuated with laughter, was the only way to go.

"I've been told I have a dry sense of humor," Bochy said, responding somewhat reluctantly to a question about his personality. "You know, I have fun. I've been told I don't smile a lot [in the dugout] ... but don't let that belie what's going on. We have fun in there. I want these guys to be loose and relaxed.

"I think the best way you play this game is to be loose and relaxed and go out there and have fun."

Sounds simple, but it's not in these times of paralysis through analysis, of overreacting and overevaluating everything.

The Giants went out and played for each other, with their hearts. Take it from Kung Fu Panda himself.

"When I got that nickname [from Zito], that's me -- the character is me," Sandoval said. "I have fun like a little kid. It's important when you have teammates thinking that way. It's a team. I thank my teammates for giving me the opportunity to be here. You learn from your mistakes. Winning six elimination games is tough, but we did it."

In their holistic approach, the Giants really do take you back to the 1970s when the best teams -- the A's, Reds, Yankees, Dodgers and Pirates -- played the game from the heart every day, free-spirited and alive.

The Pirates of Willie "Pops" Stargell and Dave "Cobra" Parker were the loudest, wildest, craziest bunch of all. When the "Fam-i-lee" roared back from a 3-1 deficit to rock the superb Orioles of Jim Palmer, Eddie Murray and Co. to win the 1979 World Series, nobody who spent any time around that bunch was surprised.

You almost expected it given how they conducted themselves, rising above self-interest, free as the birds they brought down that October.

The Giants are like that. They showed it most demonstrably in the NL playoffs, surviving six elimination games to knock out the Reds and Cards in the Division and Championship Series.

You don't pull off something like that unless you have some extraordinary force at work, a bond that resists definition but exists as surely as the bounce in Panda's step.

The Giants have grade-A chemistry to go with all of those other assets, and it's just as important as the pitching, defense and clutch hitting.

If you've watched Sandoval bring a half-dozen teammates to their knees in laughter an hour before an elimination game, you understand.

If you've seen Zito and Lincecum and Cain expressing heartfelt admiration for Ryan Vogelsong and his inspiring story of persistence, coming back against long odds, you understand.

They're all in it together, equal partners. The core is young and formidable. The good-time Giants could be a force for years to come, loving every minute of the ride.

Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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