One by one Jim Leyland could have sent hitters up to the plate in games from now to December without anybody he could hire getting a single single off of Jeremy Affeldt or Sergio Romo, so it’s a good thing the World Series is a best four-out-of-seven tournament and not a best 45 out of 89 event.
In fact, although they actually scored a few runs in losing the fourth game of the Series 4-3 in 10 innings, it still didn’t appear that the Detroit Tigers could have hit Tom and Jerry, Thelma and Louise, or Siegfried and Roy, speaking of tigers. These Tigers became an endangered species as soon as the World Series began, and by Sunday night they were extinct.
Prince Fielder hit .071 in the Series. Gerald Laird hit .000. So did Quintin Berry. Jhonny Peralta hit .067. Did anybody really believe that when Leyland sent Don Kelly to the plate to pinch-hit in the 10th inning after not playing since when, Labor Day, that he was going to get a hit? As for Miguel Cabrera, The Most Feared Hitter In Baseball, he did OK at times, but taking a called strike to end the Series was not one of those times. Comerica Park features statues of past Tigers and one day Cabrera might be among them. Alas, he seemed to be auditioning for his monument at game’s end, frozen in place.
As for Detroit starter Max Scherzer, he threw OK. Guess it wasn’t an important enough occasion to bend the rules and pitch Justin Verlander on one day’s less rest. The Most Feared Pitcher In Baseball will be ready in April.
Though probably none of this would have mattered anyhow because the San Francisco Giants were superior in every way. Clutch hitting, starting pitching, opportunism, clutch hitting, relief pitching, fielding, did I say clutch hitting? Given the way his post-season unfolded, Marco Scutaro, winner of the National League Championship Series Most Valuable Player award, naturally drove in the winning run with a single. He delivered exactly what the Giants needed when they needed it.
Winning two out of the last three World Series titles practically makes the Giants a dynasty in this day and age. But I don’t remember hearing anybody predict last spring that the Giants were going to win this one. And they had their share of difficulties and challenges before jelling big-time in the late stages of the summer. (Speaking of summer, baseball is supposed to be the summer game and it was 43 degrees and dropping, with strong winds, and rain for the season’s denouement. Pretty peachy weather conditions.)
The Los Angeles Dodgers were supposed to tackle the Giants, especially after they made a blockbuster trade with the Red Sox. Instead, the Giants opened ground in the National League West Division standings. The Giants were supposed to be in trouble without their exceptional closer Brian Wilson. First they tag-teamed the role, always supposed to be the kiss of death, and then gave the job to Romo. Tim Lincecum had the worst season of his Major League career, but the Giants shrugged that off. And then in the playoffs Lincecum performed rescue work out of the bullpen.
Not every Giant was superb for every inning of every game, but just about every Giant was superb on the big stage when it was most important. Whether it was Buster Posey with his Sunday night homer, Pablo Sandoval (the Series MVP) with his three-homer explosion in the first game, Brandon Belt with his timely triple, or Barry Zito and Madison Bumgartner throwing like there was no tomorrow.
Now there is no tomorrow. The Giants stymied every move that Leyland and the Tigers tried and they ended the 2012 season before the rain turned to snow and Hurricane Sandy offshoots could come out of the bullpen and make the weather even worse.
Every step along the way the Giants seemed to be having fun. They probably did even more ridiculous things in the privacy of their own locker room than jokes we heard about. It was Roy Campanella, the great Dodgers catcher, who said that major leaguers may play baseball for a living, but that had to have a lot of little boy in them, too.
That’s the Giants, a team of little boys old enough to grow beards, but not so mature as to let the seriousness of the moment interfere with having an old-fashioned, good time. Papa Bruce Bochy, with two World Series crowns on his managerial resume now, apparently raised them well.