From 1997 through 2004, the Giants were a good team. They won between 86 and 100 games every season -- a pretty remarkable run. Barry Bonds having the most ridiculous hitting stretch ever had a little something to do with it. If anyone denies the power of good team chemistry, point them to the Giants of that era. They had some of the best chemists a team could hope for, and the team was pretty danged good.
But I was fond of complaining that the great stretch didn’t lead to a championship. Occasionally someone would take the bait and snipe back. "All that winning, and you aren’t happy? The Pirates would kill for a stretch like that."
"Oh, don’t get me wrong," I’d reply, "it was a lot of fun at times. But I would skin you and all of your pets for a single championship. Just one. I would trade every minor league prospect, I would give up every first-round pick, and I would make a wallet out of your thighs." Then the interview would end, and I knew that yet again I wouldn’t get the job. But I said what I had to say.
Then the Giants won the World Series.
Still not sure what to make of that.
I always wondered if the post-championship euphoria would dissolve into an existential crisis. Would the passion still be there for the regular season now that the Giants have won the World Series? Would the losses tear me up as they had before? Or would I shrug, flip the channel, and think about Cody Ross for an hour? It was a legitimate, beautiful concern.
As the offseason has progressed, though, I’ve figured out that I’m a greedy little championship monkey, and I want more. I want Matt Cain, Tim Lincecum, and Buster Posey to have a Berra/Mantle/Ford aura surrounding them when I bore my grandkids with stories in 50 years. I want this to be a golden age of Giants baseball. I’m pretty sure there won’t be any problems getting excited for a Wednesday night game against the Marlins in June.
Where my outlook is totally different, though, is with the philosophy by which the Giants are built. In the past, I could justify just about any move that was made for a short-term gain. Aaron Rowand for 5/$60M or Barry Zito for 7/$126M? I’d think, well, that sounds like a mess at the end, but maybe he has a good year before the inevitable decline, and that’s the year the Giants win it all. Scott Barnes for Ryan Garko? Hey, maybe the Giants sneak in the playoffs because Garko is such an upgrade, and we won’t even miss Barnes because flags fly foreva. If the Giants didn’t win a championship last year, there would be a small part of me that would silently contemplate the merits of a Belt-based package for Prince Fielder. Sure, it would be for just a year of Fielder, but what if that’s the year the Giants win it all? It could happen!
Now? Forget it. I want the sustained success that I took for granted in the Bonds era. No prospects-for-expiring-contract deals. No dealing with the long-term risks of free agents because the short-term risks are so tempting. To put it in metaphorical in-game terminology: I now want the Giants to patiently work the count instead of guessing fastball on the first pitch, trying to hit a ball 500 feet. The pre-championship organizational philosophy was something of a Juan Uribe approach, and it worked. It finally worked. But it’s not the best strategy for the long-term. I want the Giants to build a roster like Posey takes an at-bat. That’s what’s going to lead to a sustained run that makes every season interesting, and maybe a couple more titles will fall in place along the way. Like, six more would be cool. It's like a taste of human flesh -- you just don't go back.
Comment starter: How has the World Series run changed how you think about Giants baseball? Some of you have already noted that you don’t really care for rosterbation this offseason, and that seems euphoric and depressing at the same time, like one of those sad clown paintings.