This, then, was the season of perspective. We thought we had perspective last year; after all, the Giants hadn't won a championship in San Francisco, which means that every season prior to 2010 ended in some manner of heartbreak. That sort of thing builds character, it does. Whining and cynicism are parts of character, right? Sure they are.
But that sort of perspective was applied retroactively. The Giants won the World Series, and then the past seasons made some sort of sense in whatever context you wanted them to. This season was different. It's annoying when people call last season "a fluke" or "lucky," but it certainly was a season in which almost everything went right. It's not like everything went wrong in 2011 -- Vogelsong sticks out, for one -- but a whole heckuva lot more went wrong with the plans for 2011 than went right.
I've brought this up a few times, and if I do this for the next decade, I'll probably bring it up 20 more times: last year, the injuries the Giants had helped the team. I've never seen anything like it, nor will we again. When Mark DeRosa went down, that made it realistic that the Giants would acquire Pat Burrell. When Aaron Rowand was hurt, Andres Torres never let go of his spot. Edgar Renteria decomposed a bit, and Juan Uribe took over, hitting much better than he had a right to. That left Renteria fresh for the last month, when he was sort of important. And, of course, when Jose Guillen went down to his neck injury/performance-maintaining placebo problems, Cody Ross became the starter.
This season? Nah. The only position player who stayed healthy -- literally, the only one from Opening Day who didn't miss at least a month -- was the one player who was blocking a prospect who might have helped with regular playing time. It's not like when Pablo or Sanchez were hurt that there was some hotshot who could take over. There was one hotshot. He played first base. But, look at that, the first baseman was the one guy who stayed healthy (and awful). It's not like it was appropriate to root for an injury to Huff -- come on -- but it just shows how hard it is to repeat the injuries of convenience from last season. Just about every injury this year hurt the team substantially.
And throughout the playoff run, I developed a new respect for Bruce Bochy. Give him a good lineup -- an obvious, unassailable lineup that any person with sense would pencil in -- and I like him a lot as a manager. Remove the busted veterans, and install only good, obvious options, and Bochy has a low-key approach that's sort of welcome in the playoffs.
That was important this year because the Giants lived and died with the veterans. That choice isn't as automatic as us internet dorks like to believe -- a lot of us tend to overrate the unknown, and underrate the familiar -- but it certainly wasn't the right choice. That doesn't mean the Giants would have won the Wild Card or division with Brandons Belt and Crawford in the lineup all season, but we know they didn't win with the vets. The real answer could have been none of the above. Probably would have been. But the one qualification for Bochy not to drive me nuts isn't one that's easy to achieve. There will always be a broken veteran. Those things are like mushrooms.
Maybe it's easier to say that Bochy is only as good as the players Brian Sabean acquires. Makes sense. And, again, Sabean is maddening at times. I can't tear into him for the offseason moves and be honest at the same time -- I made arguments for Huff and Tejada after they were signed -- but I can't fathom what sort of mind thought that Orlando Cabrera would be an upgrade. It was the same mindset that thought Guillen was an upgrade, and I just can't put myself in that place. I can't do the mental ballet that it takes to think, "Well, if they do this ...", in which "this" is defined as anything that isn't what normal people would have expected from Jose Guillen and Orlando Cabrera.
That's what leads to an offseason like this, where I want Sabean to a) retain several of the players that he collected in the first place, but I'm b) scared silly of the players he seems to acquire in about 20% of his transactions.
So it's bittersweet. Obviously. That's the only word for today. It was a day to reflect on what went right last year through the prism of what went wrong this year. Could Sabean/Bochy put together a playoff team next year? Absolutely. But it takes a little bit of pixie dust -- Bonds dandruff? -- to make it magic inside this thing we're in. Maybe there will be Bonds dandruff next year. All I know is that this season made me appreciate that it was there last year. That sort of perspective has a little bit of value, even if making a run at back-to-back championships would have been a heck of a lot cooler.