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Tuesday, January 1, 2013

2012 Year In Review

It's the 1st day of 2013 so why not look back on the Giants magical season of 2012?

I again disappointed myself by not actively blogging during the Giants unbelievable championship run but hey, when you're SFGiantsGuy you are actually going to the games and not blogging about them, amirite?  I went to 4 playoff games this season.  2 devastating losses and 2 glorious wins.  I was a bear witness to both NLDS home losses.  Monstrously deflating.  I followed that up with front row seats to both the NLCS Game 2 evener and the World Series Game 1 shocking beatdown of Verlander.  The postseason World Series championship run was so overwhelmingly thrilling that after each game, I was too exhausted to write about what I had just seen.  Next thing I know it's 2013 and I haven't updated this blog since the conclusion of Game 4 of the NLDS.

I can't really say (or type) anything hasn't been said or written before about the Giants October magic.  It was a crazy ride and it ended like we all hoped it would, with a Romo strikeout and a victory embrace with Mr. MVP aka Gerald "Buster" Posey.  Now that the champagne and beer shower smell has been washed out of all the clothes that were unfortunate to be part of the World Series celebration, it's time to look back, reflect, and enjoy the season that was in 2012.

It sure didn't start well.  The 2011 NL West champion Dbacks immediately began their assault to defend their division crown by sweeping the Giants to open the season.  Remember that?  Lincecum got lit up in what would become an expected performance for most of the season.  The Dbacks dominated the Giants and looked to be every bit as good as their 2011 team.  The Giants began the season 0-3 and then went to Coors Field where most every Giants fan expected the team to be 0-4 after a Zito debacle in the thin Rockie air.

Except, unexpectedly and amazingly, not only did Zito avoid a massacre, he pitched a complete game shutout.  In Colorado.  No one could have predicted that.  And just as Lincecum's first start foreshadowed a season of struggle, Zito's performance previewed what would become the lefthander's most memorable season in a Giants uniform.  If you had told any Giants fan that Zito would be in the playoff rotation and Lincecum would not, they would have looked at you like you just left the looney bin.  If you had asked any Giants fan if they ever in their right mind would think that Barry Zito would save their season with a clutch performance in an elimination playoff game you would have been met with just a teensy bit of skepticism. And if you told ANY baseball fan that Barry Zito would start Game 1 of the World Series over any of the other 4 Giants starters AND would shutdown the Detroit Tigers line-up AND beat the reigning AL MVP and Cy Young award winning Kate Upton dating super stud Justin Verlander you would have likely been shot with a taser and been committed to a mental institution.  Yet it all happened.  In real life, not Barry Zito's fantasyland.  Zito was Zicasso in October (minus a little blip against the Reds) and his team got his back for arguably the last 2 months of the season, scoring often for him and helping him to his first winning record as a Giant.  Zito, the 126 million dollar man that many Giants fans had been wishing to support but more often loathed, finally gave them a season they could not only applaud, but could tell their grand kids about.  Most Giants fans forgave Zito for his previous 5 seasons of underperformance (and that's putting it lightly) and embraced a new fan favorite.  Zito arguably had the largest ovation during the championship parade.  And that's why you have to love sports.  A fallen star can rise again.  In Zito's case, he was a key component to a winning Giants team and perhaps THE key for the World Series championship.  He was the story of 2012...

Which of course is really saying something when you consider that Matt Cain put together a season most pitchers call a career.  Although he fell short of winning the Cy Young award, Matt Cain started (and won) the All-Star Game, won the clinching games for the NLDS and NLCS and started Game 4 of what would be the final World Series game of 2012.  He didn't get the win but he pitched his heart out when it was evident his gas tank was pretty much empty.  Oh yes, and there was that little game against Houston in June where he pitched the first perfect game in San Francisco's franchise history.  He's a 3 time All-Star, a 2 time World Series champion, and has finished in the Top 12 in Cy Young voting the past 3 seasons.  Oh yeah, and he's ours for the next 8 seasons.

But not only did Zito's 2012 story outshine Cain's monster achievements in 2012, he also beat out Buster Posey's campaign.  When the season started, Giants fans were hoping and praying that Posey would just be able to play.  The plan was to start him about 100 games or so at catcher and have him rest by sitting on the bench or playing first base for the remaining 62 games.  Posey not only played in 148 games, but he was the starting All-Star catcher and highest vote getter in the National League.  Oh yeah, and he also won the Most Valuable Player award.  And the Comeback Player of the Year of the award.  He hit .289 in the first half and then went on a tear in the 2nd half, hitting .385 with a .457 OBP and a 1.102 OPS to carry the Giants past the newly loaded Dodgers.  To recap Posey's short but sweet MLB career - he has now won the Rookie of the Year, Comeback Player of the Year, Most Valuable Player, an NL batting title, a Silver Slugger award, a Hank Aaron Award, the Willie Mac award, become an All-Star, and won the World Series twice in his only 2 full MLB seasons.  Is there any wonder he's being called the Derek Jeter of the West?

Speaking of All-Stars, the Giants sent 4 of them to Kansas in 2012.  All 4 started the game and all 4 were contributors to the NL winning the game (and World Series home field advantage, which of course helped San Francisco).  The players:  Buster Posey, Matt Cain, Pablo Sandoval, and Melky Cabrera.

Oh yeah, Melky Cabrera.  He won the All-Star Game MVP.  His first half was one that gave Giants fans many happy memories.  He became beloved, a fan favorite.  The Melk Men were born.  He was on the way to the NL batting title and a huge payday.  And then he got busted for PED use, didn't apologize or say good bye to his teammates and just... left.  And that was the last we saw of Melky Cabrera.  He was avoided like the plague by the team and signed with Toronto this offseason.  A sad story in a season devoid mostly of bad news minus the Freddy Sanchez and Brian Wilson season ending injuries.

Except that Freddy Sanchez's injury eventually begot Marco Scutaro.  Scutaro came over from the Rockies for Charlie Culberson and his ridiculously hot wife.  Scutaro went on to hit .362 as a Giant in the regular season and won the NLCS MVP.  And guess what?  The Rockies helped pay his salary as a Giant and of course, he became yet another fan favorite.  He'll be sticking around another 3 years after the Giants resigned him in December.

When the Giants initially got Scutaro, Giants fans were less than impressed.  Why?  Because the Dodgers went bat shit crazy and acquired everyone.  And by everyone we mean Hanley Ramirez, Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez, Shane Victorino, Brandon League, and Nick Punto.  That's more than most teams do in an offseason.  The Giants countered that with Marco Scutaro, Xavier Nady, and Hunter Pence.  Nady did next to nothing as a Giant but Scutaro proved to be more valuable than anyone the Dodgers received.  And then there was the Reverend Hunter Pence.  He underperformed once coming over from Philly for Nate Schierholtz but it was his preaching in the playoffs that made him valuable.  Pence's teammates credited him for lifting their spirits and determination after facing elimination first in Cincy and then in St. Louis.  His speeches became legend and the Giants pregame routine became a national storyline.  On the Giants World Series DVD, the best content may be the end when his Giants teammates imitate his speeches and passion and trademark bug eyes.

There were many great moments in 2012.  The All Stars, the Perfect Game, and the playoff run all stand out.  There were numerous individual achievements.  Sandoval hitting 3 homers in Game 1 of the World Series, Vogelsong evolving into a big game pitcher and post season stud, Santiago Casilla and Sergio Romo helping the Giants survive the loss of Brian Wilson, Angel Pagan breaking the franchise triples record, and Gregor Blanco routinely making spectacular catches all over the outfield, most notably in Cain's perfect game.  It was a great season capped by a 4 game World Series sweep of the Detroit Tigers giving the Giants 2 championships in 3 seasons.  With 21 of the 25 men returning to action in 2013, the Giants have a great chance at defending their title.