Those eight words haunt me. They give me shivers. In June, if you would have told me the Giants would be NL West Champs, I would have laughed. Not because I didn't believe, but because it just didn't seem possible. Not with Aaron Rowand patrolling center field. Not with Bengie Molina playing catcher. Not with Freddy Sanchez on the disabled list and Edgar Renteria rotating between shortstop and the disabled list.
But it happened...and what can I say. I couldn't be more shocked and happy as a Giants fan.
92-70. Four wins better than last year. You wonder what made this team different. Sure you could look at stuff like wRC and wRAA and say "The offense was better" and you certainly would be right. The offense was better this year, a whole lot better (over 10 points better in terms of wOBA). The Giants weren't a playoff team according to the numbers last year, and it made sense why the Rockies bounced them. You could argue that they aren't this year, but there would be an argument. Giants fans didn't have that luxury a season ago.
It was a funny regular season. The guy we expected to be money in the bank offensively (Pablo Sandoval) was far from it. The local guy we all had hope for (John Bowker) came manifested in another form (Burrell). The vets whom Bochy seemingly couldn't bench last year (Rowand and Renteria) were finally put on the bench when it mattered the most. And the guy we thought we wanted (Nick Johnson) tanked, while the guy we thought was a mistake (Aubrey Huff) proved to be everything we did want and more.
2009 was a great year. No doubt. But 2010 was special and special in a way that you just can't explain. How could you explain Sabean holding his guns at the trade deadline when everyone was telling him to trade Jonathan Sanchez for whatever bat he could? (Cough...Cody Ross...cough). How could you explain three washed up relievers (Santiago Casilla, Ramon Ramirez and Javier Lopez) suddenly become late-inning studs? How could you explain a rookie catcher (Buster Posey) not only handle one of the league's best staffs, but help make them better?
No doubt about it. The Giants took risks in 2010. Much more risks than 2009. And you know what? It paid off. I didn't think they would. I'm a pessimist by nature when it comes to Giants baseball. Game 6 haunts me. Playing in Miami in October haunts me. Livan Hernandez haunts me. Steve Finley haunts me. And after the Giants dropped two in a row to start off this series, I was thinking "Great, these ghosts simply won't go away."
Yet the Giants believed, and helped pessimistic and agonizing fans like me believe. There hasn't been this kind of attitude about a Giants team in well...a long time. I don't even think 2002 had this kind of fan fervor. I went to a Giants-Dodgers game in September at Dodgers Stadium and the Giants fans were rowdier than the Dodgers fans. They owned the place and guess what? They won.
The Giants are onto something special, a special that is far and beyond what happened in 2009 (and you know what? That was pretty darn special).
We've seen teams play well one year and tank the other (ask Seattle fans about that). And the Giants had all the ingredients for a similar kind of collapse. And not only did they not, but they were better. Sabean, for all his faults, did the right things. Bochy, for all of his faults, stayed on the right track (though he could have played Jose Guillen a lot less). Brian Wilson, for every naysayer out there, slammed the door again and again. Tim Lincecum, enduring a down year, came up big when the Giants needed him the most in September. Juan Uribe proved that just because you look bad statistically, it doesn't mean you can't have impact (the 2005 Chicago White Sox can testify to this).
I could go on and on. The Giants are in the playoffs. And I still am in utter shock/disbelief/elation. I haven't wrote a post on this blog for almost three months. Work caught up with me, but the Giants started winning when I stopped posting and I didn't want to jinx them. That's how irrational I've become. For every post I write about how Andres Torres can't be judged on his past MLB numbers, I do things like not posting because I fear I might blow the Giants playoffs chances.
And now it's over. The Giants did it and I feel, as a fan, I can speak up again, now knowing that the tension is behind me...though only momentarily. After all, there is still the playoffs. I don't want this feeling to end.
Before the season in 2008, the Giants were actually being talked about as a candidate to break the '62 Mets record for most losses in a year. Eugenio Velez was heralded as one of their "Top" prospects. Rowand was expected to be their team leader and run producer after they signed him to a $60 million contract.
And look where they are now. 92-70, NL West Champs and in the playoffs for the first time in 2003.
Thank you God.
I can feel Bobby Thomson watching out over us as we speak.