If four things don’t go exactly right Sunday, a team called the Giants will be done being defending champions. I’ll be sorry if/when they are eliminated from playoff contention, though mostly because a Super Bowl run is a great way to kill time en route to Spring Training. But while the halo above the New York Football Giants may be on the verge of vanishing, the San Francisco Baseball Giants can continue to winter in contentment as holders of the most super title of them all.
If I didn’t say it properly in late October — and I didn’t, really, given that my mind was on impending low-pressure systems and the havoc they were projected to wreak regionally — congratulations to the 2012 World Series champion San Francisco Giants, partly for their four-game sweep of the Detroit Tigers, more so for being so into each other as they prevailed.
Just got through watching the highlight film from the most recent Fall Classic (MLB Network + DVR = December Salvation) and was particularly taken by the togetherness the champion Giants evinced. They were playing for each other, they were loving each other, they were showering each other in heartfelt brotherhood as much as they were champagne. Hunter Pence, who’d been a Giant for about 10 minutes, had taken to firing up his teammates in the dugout prior to every game and it was a touching sight seeing something you only imagined working in movies working in real life. Marco Scutaro, also in his eleventh Giant minute, oozed affection for his temporary teammates. Angel Pagan, comparatively a Giant of McCoveyesque tenure, was reveling in everything San Franciscan: the players, the fans, the sourdough bread probably.
If it was the Braves or Cardinals or some even less appealing 2012 postseason agglomeration, these testimonials would rate the ceremonial sticking of the index finger down the symbolic throat, but the Giants really seemed to mean it. It was beautiful. Then again, why shouldn’t they be the teamiest team in all of teams? The results said they were the best team going.
Teams don’t always have to manfully embrace and pump each other up to find success, just as power and pitching aren’t personality-driven assets. But gosh darn it, it’s swell to connect good outcomes with good outlooks. I was particularly moved by this Giant view of the world since I had, not long before October, read Odd Man Out by Matt McCarthy, a reasonably engaging book from 2009 detailing a one-year minor league lefty’s experiences trying to make it at the lowest rung of professional baseball. Odd Man Out had its Ball Four behind-the-curtain charms, and the narrator — a young man who was fairly certain his future waited in medicine rather than on a mound — seemed sincere enough in his desire to share details of his season as a Provo Angel. But somewhere along the way, it veered from clever and insightful to just plain depressing.
McCarthy received not altogether flattering publicity when the book came out. His former teammates did not enjoy being portrayed as craven misanthropes all out for themselves (plus there was some question about the accuracy of his recollection of balls, strikes and whatnot). The author’s message was that in the low minors, everybody is essentially out for himself, which wasn’t all that surprising. There’s no loyalty to the Provo Angels, per se. The idea is to get the attention of the organization and advance to the next level and the one after that. If someone else on your team is succeeding, it doesn’t help you one iota. The minors aren’t like high school or college. They’re a business. Cynicism trumps innocence, home and away.
I suppose I knew that, but I didn’t enjoy having it confirmed from the inside. Hence, watching the 2012 World Series film and being reminded that the certified best professional baseball team of the past year behaved in a manner 180 degrees opposite was downright heartwarming. To play like a champion in San Francisco meant checking divisiveness at the door and being one for all/all for one. Giants fans likely wouldn’t welcome even a vague comparison to something smacking of Los Angeles, but their plotline was pretty Hollywood in the end. You had these well-compensated holdovers and you had these well-compensated acquisitions, except nobody acted like a mercenary and nobody seemed to be in it solely for himself. Maybe it’s easy to exude togetherness when you finish first, but when the fourth game was over and the trophy was awarded, I really bought the fairy-tale ending.
The 2012 World Series film is, after all, a documentary.
If you want to listen to some Metsian togetherness, check out the Gal for All Seasons podcast that features Faith, Fear and Coop!