About the Post

Author Information

Karen Datangel is a writer, blogger, social media addict, entertainment enthusiast, baseball/football fan (Go SF Giants and 49ers!), animal lover, nerdy and nostalgic fangirl, city wanderer, and a dreamer. Born, bred, and based in the Bay Area, Karen graduated with a degree in Journalism from San Francisco State University. Her resume includes contributions to and internships with Hollywood Life, CAAMFest (Formerly the San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival), Audrey Magazine, Bustle, Fandom, SheKnows, and POPSUGAR. She currently works on the Developer Marketing team at Salesforce. Follow her on Twitter @DatKaren.

The Hearts of Giants: Reflections of a Championship Baseball Team

How do you explain coming back from series deficits twice? How do you explain winning your do-or-die game through a manufactured run and an error? How do you explain getting pummeled by a guy almost twice your size at second base, only to see the next five games through to become a championship MVP? How do you explain hitting a ball three times with a broken bat and clearing the bases? How do you explain getting your hamate bone removed earlier in the season and hitting two home runs off one of the most feared starting pitchers in all of baseball (And a third one off a relief pitcher later)? How do you explain taming the sluggers on the opposing team?

How do you even explain anything that’s happened this year in this scrappy club known as the San Francisco Giants?

The San Francisco Giants celebrate their Game 4 win over the Detroit Tigers, concluding the 2012 World Series with a Giant victory (photo credit: Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images North America)

The San Francisco Giants celebrate their Game 4 win over the Detroit Tigers, concluding the 2012 World Series with a Giant victory (photo credit: Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images North America)

Some fans still can’t get over the 2010 World Series victory—the first in the City by the Bay since the Giants moved there from New York prior to the 1958 season. Now they have another one to celebrate: The San Francisco Giants won their second World Series championship in three years on October 28 in a four-game sweep of the Detroit Tigers. It wasn’t an easy sweep, and the road to claim baseball’s biggest team prize wasn’t that much smoother either. But the Giants said “Never say die.” They played good fundamental ball and although they had their individual strengths, they came into every game knowing that they were playing for the name on the front of the jersey, not on the back. While the 2010 team was lauded as a band of misfits, the 2012 team was family—brothers who wanted to play one more day of baseball with each other. With every game in the postseason, they made sure they were going to spend every day they possibly could together as a team and as brothers—and they were going to do it even when it seemed improbable.

With All-Star catcher Buster Posey returning to the mix after a devastating collision at home plate caused him injury and ended his 2011 season, a revamped lineup, and their highly-regarded starting rotation, the Giants were poised to be a playoff team in 2012. However, the road had some daunting bumps that many thought the team could not overcome. They lost their iconic bearded closer Brian Wilson—a key piece of the 2010 championship team—to Tommy John surgery within the first few games of the season. Their two-time Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum uncharacteristically struggled in seemingly every outing, and posted a career-worst 10-15 record and 5.18 ERA, the highest of all National League qualifiers this regular season. Top hitter Pablo Sandoval spent two stints on the disabled list. Things couldn’t get any worse, could it?

The lowest point came on August 15, when off-season trade acquisition and All-Star Game MVP Melky Cabrera was suspended 50 games for a positive testosterone test. The Giants had lost a superstar and they had found themselves not only without their best hitter, but under the media scrutiny that they could no longer accomplish their goals without him. Ten days later, the Los Angeles Dodgers—the team’s biggest division adversaries—completed a massive blockbuster trade with the Boston Red Sox that put big names Josh Beckett, Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, and Nick Punto on their side. The Dodgers used their newfound financial resources to make the Giants feel small. But the G-men by the Bay weren’t going to let the National League West be bought—they would fight on to win it, even without the Melkman.

You could cry “schedule advantage” as the Giants only played their division rivals all throughout the month of September—every single one of them except the Dodgers would finish the season at .500 or less—but their 18-8 month helped propel them to clinch the NL West on September 22. They eventually finished the regular season with a 94-68 record. Each Giant was coming to show why they were putting the team on top: Angel Pagan, another off-season trade acquisition, stepped up in the absence of Cabrera, establishing himself as a legitimate leadoff hitter and fierce defender in the outfield. Minor league free agent Gregor Blanco filled Cabrera’s void in left field, gifted with speed and immense athleticism best demonstrated in the catch he made to save Matt Cain’s perfect game. Sophomore shortstop Brandon Crawford had a bad couple of months with his fielding and was once said to be on pace to make 36 errors, but was becoming much more slick than sloppy. Another second-year player Brandon Belt struggled at the plate, but was unleashing flashes of power and made his mark as a solid first baseman. A bullpen consisting of the arms of Jeremy Affeldt, Santiago Casilla, and Javier Lopez refused to be intimidated by any opponents. Of course, guys like starting pitcher Madison Bumgarner, Cain, and Posey proved to be very reliable, even though the young Bumgarner struggled for much of September and the postseason.

Hunter Pence, Marco Scutaro, and Angel Pagan were all first-year Giants and brought their own unique contributions to the team. They were rewarded with their first World Series championship (photo credit: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

Yet there were even more heroes in October: Hunter Pence, the lanky and intense outfielder acquired at the midseason trade deadline, fired the team up by leading the pregame pep talks that started when the Giants were on the brink of elimination in the National League Division Series versus the Cincinnati Reds. Though his batting average during the postseason wasn’t hot, he continued to make statements through his defense and through starting scoring rallies—and his broken bat base-clearing double in Game 7 of the National League Championship Series versus the St. Louis Cardinals has etched itself into Fall Classic lore. Marco Scutaro, another midseason acquisition, was received in a trade that initially went under the radar, but the veteran came in the clutch at all the right moments and proved to be one of the best moves for the Giants. The utility player batted .362 during the regular season and batted a whopping .500 during the NLCS, making him an easy choice to win the title of NLCS MVP. Miraculously, he was only temporarily sidelined after the Cardinals’ Matt Holliday slid into him to try to break up a double play in Game 2.

And who could forget Sergio Romo, the little beard to Wilson’s big beard? Bruce Bochy, the manager of the Giants, went with a closer-by-committee during the regular season in Wilson’s absence, but Romo’s nasty factor made him most trusted amongst skipper and fans alike. The jovial reliever closed each clincher in the postseason and will be particularly remembered for two defining moments: certainly the 2-2 fastball that froze the Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera to give the Giants their World Series win, and the grueling 12-pitch battle against Jay Bruce in the bottom of the ninth inning with two men on, one out and a 6-4 score in Game 5 of the NLDS. If Romo lost that battle, we’d be writing a different story, but he got Bruce to fly out for the second out before striking out Scott Rolen to secure the Giants’ NLDS victory.

The Orange October of 2012 will also be known for one theme: redemption. Redemption came for Barry Zito, a former Cy Young winner whose long-term, large multimillion dollar contract didn’t match up to his inconsistent pitching performance as a Giant. But on their second brink of elimination in the postseason, Game 5 of the NLCS, Zito turned in the most beautiful performance of his life, shutting out the Cardinals over 7 2/3 innings and even laying down a bunt for an RBI single. He did not last as long in his World Series start in Game 1 versus the Tigers, but held the lineup to only one run over 5 2/3. Redemption came for Ryan Vogelsong, a journeyman who played overseas and was unwanted by other clubs. In 2011, he found a home in San Francisco and in 2012, he was getting his first postseason starts in the major leagues. He allowed the Giants to hang on at the brink of elimination by holding the Reds to one run in Game 3 of the NLDS, led them to their first win in the NLCS in Game 2, and ended some big scoring threats in Game 3 of the World Series, by inducing two double plays on different occasions and getting Miguel Cabrera to pop up with the bases loaded in the bottom of the fifth. Redemption came for Lincecum, whose mostly dismal starts during the regular season put him out of the postseason rotation and into the bullpen. While many Cy Young winners would probably sulk and perceive a downgrade, Lincecum took on his new role with grace and was as sharp as ever—a necessary weapon. Over five postseason relief appearances and 13 innings, Lincecum has allowed three hits and one earned run while striking out 17 and winning his only decision, Game 4 of the NLDS in relief of Zito.

Tim Lincecum proved that he still had his stuff as a pitcher out of the bullpen this postseason. Here, he pitched in Game 3 of the World Series in relief of Ryan Vogelsong (photo credit: Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images North America)

Redemption wasn’t just limited to pitchers—redemption came for Sandoval, whose weight issues and struggles kept him from getting full playing time during the 2010 postseason. He not only came to play for the 2012 postseason but became a World Series legend: Off the mighty Tigers ace Justin Verlander in Game 1, he hit two home runs and hit a third off of reliever Al Alburquerque. Sandoval joined an elite club featuring Babe Ruth (times two), Reggie Jackson, and Albert Pujols as the only players in World Series history to hit three home runs in a single game. The Kung Fu Panda’s killer offense made him the winner of the World Series MVP title.

You can tell your kids these stories about these Giants and the many, many more that came out of their three magical weeks in October: You can tell them about Game 3 of the NLDS and the frustration of the Giants’ only run coming through Blanco getting hit by a pitch, Crawford drawing a walk, Vogelsong’s sacrifice bunt to move the runners, and Pagan’s sacrifice fly early in the game. The Reds’ Homer Bailey held them to only one hit, then in the top of the tenth, Joaquin Arias barely beat out a bobble by Rolen that allowed the winning run to score—and guaranteed the Giants one more game. You can tell them about the epic grand slam by Posey in Game 5 of the NLDS, the one that would allow the Giants to escape Cincinnati and go back home for the right reason in playing baseball. You can tell them about how Scutaro got his revenge on Holliday by hitting a ball that got away to drive in runs in Game 2, or how he caught Holliday’s pop-up in the biblical rainstorm that ended Game 7 and allowed San Francisco to witness the Giants winning the NL pennant.

You can tell them about Game 2 of the World Series, when Delmon Young hit what could have been an RBI double, but became just a double when Blanco and Scutaro threw to Posey to get Prince Fielder out at home. You can tell them about Blanco’s bunt in that same game, the bunt that stayed fair and loaded the bases to help the Giants score their first run. You can tell them about the back-and-forth tension in game 4. You can tell them that a wonderful example of the term “teamwork” came at the top of the tenth inning, when designated hitter Ryan Theriot got on base and Scutaro—the man who took his job late in the season—hit a single to drive him in as the winning run.

In one of the most heartpounding moments of the World Series, Buster Posey applies the swipe tag to get Prince Fielder out at home in Game 2 (photo credit: Christian Petersen/Getty Images North America)

You can tell them the Giants were on the brink of elimination twice, against some scary teams on paper. The Reds had one of the best winning records at home and the Giants had to win three at the Great American Ballpark to extend their season. The Cardinals were a team that never let up, as best demonstrated in Game 6 of last year’s World Series versus the Texas Rangers and Game 5 of their NLDS versus the Washington Nationals, where they too were on the brink of elimination but did the unthinkable and won in dramatic fashion. You can tell them that many people thought they did not have a chance against Verlander, Cabrera, Fielder, and the fierce Tigers.

You can tell them that they didn’t listen to the naysayers, and that they only listened to their hearts, to each other, and to the people that mattered. “Win Today” was the motto they lived by, and they took it one game at a time. You can tell them about how Vogelsong and Scutaro went from country to country and team to team, and finally got their rings with a team that appreciated them. You can tell them about how Zito was no longer a laughingstock, but a savior. You can tell them about how Crawford dreamed of playing for his hometown team as a little boy and 20 years later, he found himself playing in and winning a World Series with them. You can tell them that you were inspired and moved by this resilient 2012 San Francisco Giants team, and about how the biggest Halloween street party in San Francisco happened because we wanted to celebrate them and tell them ‘thank you.’

How do you even explain anything that’s happened this year in this scrappy club known as the San Francisco Giants?

Maybe no explanation is needed—maybe you just have to believe in what the heart of a Giant is truly capable of.

To see some of these incredible moments in action, check out this montage of the Giants’ 2012 postseason, edited by @carmenkiew on Twitter!

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Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. The 3 MLB Wives You Should Be Following on Twitter | The Hudsucker - May 13, 2013

    […] Everyone loves a feel-good sports story, although it wouldn’t be an engrossing feel-good story without the drama, struggle, and pain. There was more to where Ryan Vogelsong came from than being the bright spot of the 2011 Giants season (AKA that one weird year in the last three years where they didn’t even make the playoffs). He emerged as a strong starter in the rotation that year and made the National League All-Star Team. It only took about 14 professional seasons seesawing between the minors, majors, and overseas. He struggled with the Pittsburgh Pirates in his stint from 2003-2006 and spent some years pitching in Japan and Venezuela after that. It was a rollercoaster ride that seemed to be going down more than up. At his age and with his drive, all Ryan wanted was to make it back to the big show at home and be a consistently good starter. His wife Nicole was and continues to be there every step of the way and supporting him through rise and fall. The two met in 2001 in Nashville, where Ryan was pitching in the minors and Nicole was working as a bartender. They married in 2005, and they’ve truly been through everything together. After those years of letdowns, Ryan and Nicole not only found baseball bliss in his 2011 breakout season, but also became a huge part of the 2012 World Championship team. […]

  2. The Hearts of Giants: Reflections of a Championship Baseball Team | The Hudsucker | Karen Datangel - May 26, 2013

    […] the full article at The […]

  3. Karen Watches the 2013 World Series: How to Tell Two Red Teams Apart—A Guide for the Casual Baseball Fan | The Hudsucker - March 12, 2015

    […] around this time last year, I celebrated an Orange October as the San Francisco Giants advanced to and eventually won their second World Series in three years. However, the just-released […]

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