The 2010 San Francisco Giants: they’re not your average ballclub. They’re more akin to a merry band of misfits, as they have been called by the press, who have nothing in common but one goal. And that goal was to win.
You have a potentially insane closer who will dye his beard black and an ace that is known for his long hair and his smoking habits as well as his sick changeup and his unusual windup. Water buffaloes patrolled the corner outfield – one whose former team did not want him, placing him on the waiver wire, and the other who was coming off a horrible year and uses a red, rhinestoned thong as a “rally” item. A minor league journey man with nothing to lose used his speed and amazing defensive skills, becoming an unlikely star. A rookie catcher sweeter than the sweetest tea in Georgia who can handle a premier pitching staff, while maintaining the same humble attitude he’s had and thinking about the team first, before his individual performance. A twenty-five year old pitcher who everyone suggests being traded for a big name hitter, but hasn’t because he’s a veteran who’s proved his worth and is one of the team’s aces. A panda going through a sophomore slump, but came to the park every day with pure, unadulterated joy. A waiver wire pickup only on the team to prevent a division rival from acquiring him.
To put it simply: they weren’t built to look like a championship caliber team. When the season started, you imagined them to be another team just trying to stay above .500. Buster Posey started the season off in Fresno, as did Madison Bumgarner. Todd Wellemeyer was the fifth starter. Every day, there was a different lineup. What else could you expect from that? Aside from fearing that Bengie Molina would be penciled into the cleanup spot, of course.
Duane Kuiper called this brand of baseball “TORTURE,” after a loss in April. And that’s what it was: pure torture. It wasn’t a team that could score more than three runs on a regular basis. Take your one run of support and make it stand. The pitching staff did its best to not lose 1-0 games, but there were times when it came to that. And when the offense could scrounge for five runs, sometimes the wheels would come off for the pitcher.
The first half of the season was full of ups and downs. It was too early to worry about the standings, but you wondered how this team would fare in the long run. Then came June. Posey and Bumgarner were called up to the bigs, Wellemeyer placed on the disabled list, more lineup shuffling. By the end of the month, the Giants were struggling. They began a torture filled seven game losing streak with getting swept by the Dodgers. Losing to your arch rivals? Can’t get any more torturous than that. There was a small, sliver of hope that came from that series, however. Bengie Molina had been traded to the Texas Rangers. AT&T Park rejoiced, for the slowest man on the field was no longer theirs.
The losing streak continued, but they turned things around in Colorado. They beat the unbeatable Ubaldo Jimenez. And Travis Ishikawa with a grand slam, no less. A loss came the next day, but it didn’t slow them down. They went to Milwaukee, and swept the Brewers in the next series. But the division was strong and they struggled to move up in the standings.
Being in a playoff race still wasn’t what the fans in San Francisco expected out of this team. Too much torture, too many one-run ballgames. You still couldn’t see this team making it. You’d watch, sure, out of loyalty. But believe? Nah. What reason would you have to believe? You would think they’ll just torture you in the end.
August and September came around. The Rockies were making a push for the division, while the first place Padres were struggling to keep their lead. The Dodgers were hopeless, much to the happiness of San Francisco. The Giants, meanwhile, continued to play the same brand of baseball they’ve played all year with some new faces. A couple of trades and waiver wire pickups helped strengthen the bullpen, added some bats to the lineup. And shockingly enough, they kept winning. They made a push for the division themselves. The Rockies lost steam and the Dodgers were eliminated. That left it to one final weekend: Padres versus the Giants in San Francisco. One more win got them into the playoffs. That’s all they needed: one more win.
That didn’t happen without a few heart attacks, of course. Friday night, they lost the game. Saturday afternoon, it seemed like they had no hope. There came a possibility of a three team playoff just to see who would be playing in the playoffs. It came down to 162. Final game of the season on a sunny day at the ballpark. You had hope there. People – San Francisco – believed in them, as they had done the last few weeks of the season. The Giants were up against the Padres’ ace, Mat Latos, who is slowly becoming one of the fans’ disliked rivals. Jonathan Sanchez was on the mound for the orange and black, facing the team he no-hit the previous season. There was nothing else you could do but hope for the best and hope the Giants win. There was nothing else but to believe. And they did it. They won 3-0 to a boisterous crowd screaming in excitement. They were playoff bound.
Orange October. Playoff Torture. Whatever you wanted to call it, the Giants were going to face the Braves in the NLDS. And they were ready for it. It wasn’t without the defibrillator required scares, of course. But they prevailed in 4 games, advancing to the NLCS where they waited to face the reigning National League Champions, the Phillies.
That was not a series that was going to be easy. Especially not when the national media would make the Giants out to be the lesser team, the team that would roll over easily for the more “superior” team. The Giants weren’t going to take that. They battled through before – through the mockery, through the doubt, through the bias. And they did it again. In a best of seven series, they won the National League pennant in six games, torture until the very last pitch. By now, San Francisco was used to this torture, though on a larger scale. The payoff was different. This win was sweeter than the previous ones. They were going to the World Series.
It’s been an interesting season, to say the least. But no matter what happens now, you just can’t help but think, “Wow. That crazy team battled so far and proved everyone wrong.” With a side of torture, of course.