By: Jake Kucheck
I’ve been told by many a non-San Francisco Giants fan that Giants fans are equally obnoxious and unapologetic by nature, especially in light of their recent even year dominance. While I would imagine an obnoxious and unapologetic response to such a charge would simply be to point dismissively to the championships and disregard such views as jealousy, I think it goes deeper than that. You see, Giants fans, at least most of the Giants fans that I know, are just as obnoxious and unapologetic when going through post-Bondspocalypse years of Aaron Rowand, Ray Durham and Fred Lewis as they are when Buster Posey is celebrating with Madison Bumgarner after clinching a 3rd World Series in 5 years. It is a belief, warranted or unwarranted, that EVERY year is going to end with another World Series, Vegas over-under win totals/futures odds and actual probabilities be damned.
It is probably also fair to say that most fans feel this way about their team in March and April, only to have their dreams crushed in various months throughout the year (May if you live in Philadelphia, June if you live in Milwaukee). But how long do Giants fans hold on to the possibility of another World Series Championship? Well… for an obnoxious and unapologetically long amount of time.
And really… why not? In 2010, the Giants were able to fend off the hard charging Padres in the final game of the season to eek out an NL West title before getting the unlikeliest of October performances from the otherwise anonymous Cody Ross en route to a fairly comfortable World Series win over the Texas Rangers.
In 2012, the Giants needed epic comebacks in both the NLDS against the Cincinnati Reds and the NLCS against the St Louis Cardinals. The road to the World Series included some heroic play by such stalwarts as Marco Scutaro, Barry Zito, Angel Pagan and preternaturally well timed hitting from both Buster Posey and Hunter Pence en route to victories in decisive games 5 and 7 and these series. This was followed up by an even more comfortable World Series SWEEEP of the Tigers, finishing with an exclamation point Sergio Romo strikeout (looking!) of all-universe slugger Miguel Cabrera.
The most Giant-like World Series story probably came in 2014, though, starting with a 1 game playoff in front of a hostile Pittsburgh crowd featuring the first of many a phenomenal pitching performance from soon to be legend Madison Bumgarner and a crescendo of a grand slam from not yet handsomely paid Brandon Crawford. Other highlights from this championship run included a marathon 18 inning game featuring a 9th inning rally to tie the game followed 9 innings later by a Brandon Belt go ahead bomb and Hunter Strickland save in the bottom of the 18th. The classic moment everyone will remember, though, is the collective gasp of Giants fans everywhere turned a routine single by Alex Gordon into a potential game-tying play at the plate, which never came to fruition as Gordon was held at third. At third he would remain, as Starter/Middle Reliever/Closer/Humanoid Madison Bumgarner shut the door on Salvador Perez with a weak foul pop-up to clinch another even year World Series.
A Giants fan, though, does not live in the past, apart from the previous 523 words of nostalgia. 2016 presents the Giants with an optimistic outlook. On one hand, expectations are incredibly high, with every baseball fan in America fully aware of what even numbers are. The Giants also shelled out a great deal of money for talented but risky free agent pickups Denard Span, Jeff Samardzija, and Johnny Cueto. There is a lot of returning talent too, as Buster Posey is still Buster Posey, and the youthfully talented infield of Brandon Belt, Joe Panik, Brandon Crawford and Matt Duffy make a strong case for being the best in baseball. Matt Cain will likely be the Giants 4th or 5th starter, and threw a perfect game in 2012. If he succumbs to injury (and he’s spent most of the last few years succumbing to injury, so this is more likely than not), he would likely be replaced by Chris Heston, who threw a no-hitter as a rookie in 2015. This is by no means a weak team.
On the other hand, though, the Giants aren’t even the best team in the Bay Area. Across the Bay, the Golden State Warriors are chasing a historic 73rd regular season win (and likely a second consecutive championship), and will take some of the bay area sports fervor away from the black and orange until at least mid-May and possibly into June. The Giants outfield has plenty of questions about its age, durability, and ability to hit left handed pitching. The bullpen will for the first time in what seems like 20 years be without the reliable and hilarious Jeremy Affeldt (note: actually only 7 years), and will have some arms that are yet to be tested in truly pressure packed spots. And of course, there is the silly but immense pressure of living up to numerical pattern based expectations.
So where does this leave us?
Obnoxious and unapologetic, of course. A reasonable prediction for the Giants this year would be 91 wins, an NL West title, and a World Series victory. Isn’t that the most obnoxious prediction of all? Even so, it is one I’m willing to make.
Let the season begin!