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2010: The year that defined the decade

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A lot of incredible things happened to the Giants in 2010, but one swing of the bat defined that year and the decade that followed.

San Francisco Giants Edgar Renteria, #16, connects for a three-run home run against the Texas Rangers in the seventh inning during game 5 of the 2010 World Series on Monday, Nov. 1, 2010, at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, Texas. San Francisco defeated Tex Photo by MediaNews Group/Bay Area News via Getty Images

Edgar Renteria broke a curse.

Yeah, the Giants were cursed. It wasn’t something we liked to talk about because the concept of curses seems silly. Besides, we’ve seen the Giants. We’ve known their failures were the result of bad play and bad luck. The Rockies could’ve beaten the Braves just once in 1993, but maybe Solomon Torres was not the answer. There was an earthquake and Bobby Richardson’s glove, but then a whole lot of nothing surrounding those events.

And then there began a whole lot of something.

Scott Spiezio hits a two run home run Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

No, seriously. It took me five minutes to remember Scott Spiezio’s name so that I could find this picture. Time passes, wounds heal. And it helps when you rub those wounds with a triple strength dose of vitamin C . . . as in championships.

The Giants won the World Series, kicking off a decade of unprecedented success for the franchise’s San Francisco phase. The decade, of course, hasn’t ended with any success, but that doesn’t erase everything that came before. There wouldn’t be any disappointment in these three consecutive losing seasons if the prior seven hadn’t been spent looking down at baseball from the top of the mountain (for the purposes of this essay, please ignore 2013).

But before we say goodbye to the most successful decade of the San Francisco era, we’re going to spend the rest of the month looking back at the players, games, and moments that defined it. One of these series will be the best thing to happen in a given season. It feels like we’ve been saying goodbye to this era of Giants Baseball for three years now, but this is really it. Really, really it. Promise this time. We’re going to take a look back through the lens of time and see if one last interesting idea pops up, because a lot happened in the 2010s.

So yeah, it’s no surprise, but the best thing to happen to the Giants in 2010 was winning the World Series for the first time in San Francisco history. It set this entire thing in motion.

The post Bonds years could’ve gone in any direction. They could’ve become the Padres or the Mariners lost in a void of losing with no hope in sight. We know it all worked out, but consider how it just as easily could’ve gone sideways. Tim Lincecum didn’t have to become Tim Lincecum. Matt Cain’s wasted efforts could’ve forever gone to waste. Madison Bumgarner nearly went the way of Phil Bickford. A lot had to go right before the decade even began, but once it did, that wasn’t the end of the story.

Andres Torres was the original subject of this post. He was the best thing to happen to the Giants in 2010, and if he hadn’t dropped his 16 home runs, 43 doubles, and 26 stolen bases on the lineup, there wouldn’t have been a lineup. But he was also a successful holdover from the 2009 team. But Edgar Renteria could’ve just as easily been the sole subject of this post, too, and he was an unsuccessful holdover from that same squad. A 67 OPS+ might not mean much to most of us, but folks, let me tell you, it’s bad.

The 2009 season ended short of the playoffs because the team couldn’t upgrade itself beyond Renteria, Freddy Sanchez, and Ryan Garko. The thinking didn’t improve in the offseason, with the husk of Aubrey Huff deemed worthy of a roster gamble. And yet, the bulk of steady performances in 2010 came from Torres, Huff, Sanchez, and 2009 holdovers, Juan Uribe and Pablo Sandoval. They really made just two key additions: Buster Posey and Pat Burrell. A prospect and a castoff. That became their consistent practice over the next seven seasons.

Edgar Renteria was at the end of his pro career, but that last ounce of baseball juice was exactly what the 2010 team’s cocktail needed to really become a championship team. Ryan Vogelsong came back to the organization the next year. Barry Zito and Marco Scutaro saved the Giants in 2012. The Giants wouldn’t have gotten as far as they did without Michael Morse, Tim Hudson, and Jake Peavy in 2014. Or Travis Ishikawa. Conor Gillaspie pulled a Ryan Vogelsong in 2016, returning to his original team to push them to success; and weaving through 2012-2016 was the reliable Gregor Blanco.

Posey, Crawford, Belt, Panik, Matt Duffy, and even Derek Law all emerged in the winning years to provide key and steady contributions for a team trying to sustain it all. It felt like they had a nice thing going, and that was the flip that switched right at the start of the decade: the Giants believed they could be the best team in baseball.

I remember how I felt right after the Giants lost in 2002. They were never going to win the World Series. A concept more certain than death. Then I’d see crap like J.T. Snow getting thrown out at home plate less than a year later and Steve Finley hitting a walk-off grand slam the year after that and that concept was impenetrable reality. Of course the Giants weren’t going to win the World Series. They were never going to win the World Series. And they certainly weren’t going to get there with a makeshift, slap-happy lineup.

They did. And then they did. And then they did it again. The certainty gave way to implausibility, which lost out to improbability, which finally became probable, especially if it was an even year. If curses are real then the Giants broke theirs on November 1, 2010. We all saw it. I couldn’t believe it. Nothing that followed it conformed to any worldview I had about the Giants. This dumb and beautiful baseball team forced us to have an open mind. Once they won the World Series, anything became possible.