Why don’t the San Francisco Giants get any respect?
Twenty-three of ESPN’s 38 experts picked San Francisco to win the NL West, and just about all of them saw Los Gigantes making the playoffs. But not one of them expected that the Giants would make the World Series. Sports Illustrated didn’t even pick San Francisco to make it out of the first round.
My Giants are the reigning World Series champs, return the exact same pitching staff and lineup that got them through last October and get back a fully healthy Buster Posey, the 2012 league MVP who was still coming back from a devastating knee injury last season. Heck, we’ve won a World Series every single year we’ve had Posey on the roster for the division race.
The St. Louis Cardinals were pretty clutch that one time, but no team has proven itself as a more reliable postseason contender than the Giants over the last three seasons. If it wasn’t enough to go 3-1 against Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee in 2010, then winning six straight elimination games before sweeping the Series surely should’ve turned some more heads in 2012.
The Giants’ mantra of dominant pitching and just enough hitting simply isn’t seen as sustainable by many analysts. Instead, success like the Giants’ is branded as fluky. As SI noted in its season preview this week, teams that succeed in one-run games in a single season tend to regress to the mean the next one.
Yet San Francisco has gone over .500 in one-run games in each of the last three seasons, including a 7-1 postseason record in such contests. When you’re built to win in those situations season after season, there’s more than just luck involved.
That’s got to remind you of the 2012 Stanford football team, which won nine games by a touchdown or less last season and earned a coveted Rose Bowl berth.
Like the Giants, the Cardinal isn’t flashy compared to the rest of the league and it still gets the job done. But even though Stanford is losing more key pieces this offseason — a three-year starting running back and two of the best tight ends in the country — than San Francisco is, the Cardinal is a near-consensus preseason top-five team and a popular choice to make the national title game.
Sure, that’s due in large part to the fact that Stanford’s returning players will be a year more experienced this time around and, thus, have a leg up on less experienced college athletes. But can’t the same be said for the Giants? San Fransisco’s top three pitchers, along with defensive studs Posey, Brandon Belt and Brandon Crawford, are still in their mid-twenties and are maturing on a yearly basis.
It’s true that dynasties are rare in professional sports nowadays; if the Giants won a third championship in four years, they would be the first American pro team to do so since the 2001-04 New England Patriots. But the MLB is the one league that still doesn’t have a salary cap. If it’s going to happen somewhere, it’s going to happen in baseball.
You’re hearing it here first — and I really do mean first, because nobody else seems to think this — but the Giants are the clear choice to win the NL this season. They’ve got more chemistry than the high-budget Dodgers, more experience than the unproven Nationals and more reliable pitching the offensively oriented Braves. San Francisco has won six playoff series over the last three years; those teams, combined, have won none. So why are L.A., Washington and Atlanta widely viewed as the favorites?
I shouldn’t be complaining; the Giants have made a point of thriving on the rest of the world’s low expectations. But I can’t help but feel that San Francisco has earned just a little bit more respect over the last three seasons.
See you in October.