KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The San Francisco Giants haven’t merely won their third World Series championship in five years. They’ve become a dynasty, and they’ve done it with style, class, and star power — exactly what is required of a team to earn “legendary” status within the American sports consciousness.
And the Giants did it in historic fashion, with a 3-2 victory over the Royals Wednesday night that made them the first road team to win Game 7 of the World Series in more than three decades.
"I don’t know the definition of ‘dynasty,’ in a sense, when it comes to baseball," Giants reliever Javier Lopez said in the midst of the champagne celebration. "I know this is one heck of a team and one heck of an organization. Anybody out there looking for a home, this is always a great place to land. I can speak personally for that.
"Three rings in five years, when you have to grind through 162 games just to make it to the postseason . . . If that’s what you want to define as a dynasty, then we’ll take it."
With championships in in 2010, 2012, and now 2014, the Giants are one of only four major American professional sports franchises in this century with three titles during a five-year span. The others are the New England Patriots in the 2001, 2003, and 2004 seasons; the Los Angeles Lakers in ’00, ’01, and ’02; and the San Antonio Spurs of ’03, ’05, and ’07.
Those teams had future Hall of Famers — Brady, Kobe, Shaq, Duncan — and these Giants may well have two more: Buster Posey is 27. Madison Bumgarner is 25. Now each of them has three World Series rings for his Cooperstown résumé.
Bumgarner’s October was downright mythical, punctuated by five shutout relief innings in Game 7 that earned him the Series-clinching save and unanimous World Series MVP honors. That followed a Game 5 in which Bumgarner became only the third pitcher this century to throw a World Series shutout.
The superlatives were endless, only serving to underscore the historic nature of the Giants’ run: Bumgarner became the first pitcher since Detroit’s Mickey Lolich in 1968 to appear in a World Series game only two days after a nine-inning performance, according to STATS LLC. He also set the record for innings pitched in a single postseason (52-2/3).
If every dynasty needs an icon, Bumgarner can fill that role quite capably for the Giants
Of course, the Giants’ most certain Hall of Famer didn’t throw a pitch or take an at-bat during the three postseason runs: Bruce Bochy is now the 10th manager in baseball history with three World Series rings. The other nine are in the Hall.
Bochy, then, is worthy of being classified with Bill Belichick, Phil Jackson, and Gregg Popovich, as the creator of a strong brand and powerful team culture. The stability of Bumgarner, Posey, Hunter Pence and Pablo Sandoval has allowed Bochy to integrate new faces, like impressive rookie second baseman Joe Panik.
In this century, the Yankees have made the most postseason appearances and the Cardinals have won the most postseason games. But hardware is what endures, and the Giants possess that. Consistency counts for something, too. Eight Giants appeared in all three postseasons: Bumgarner, Posey, Sandoval, Jeremy Affeldt, Santiago Casilla, Tim Lincecum, Javier Lopez and Sergio Romo.
The identity of the Giants’ World Series opponent helps the case for them to be classified as a dynasty: With the Royals’ playoff berth this season, all 30 major-league clubs have reached the postseason during Bud Selig’s tenure as commissioner. Such competitive balance reduces the chances of a dynasty.
Teams must go through three playoff rounds to win a championship, and the route is more difficult than in past generations because competitors benefit from revenue sharing. In some ways, the Giants’ three titles in five seasons now is more impressive than the Yankees’ dominance of an eight-team American League for periods during the last century.
The Giants have become a model organization in American sports, on and off the field. They have the longest sellout streak in the majors — 350 games, spanning every regular-season and postseason home date since October 2010. The last four seasons have been the best-attended in franchise history, all with more than 3.3 million fans at AT&T Park.
Historians often say baseball’s golden era came in the middle of the last century, but the modern Giants are proof that the game never has been more popular. The New York Giants’ best-attended year at the Polo Grounds was 1.6 million in 1947. The San Francisco Giants have drawn more than double that number 10 times in only 15 seasons beside McCovey Cove.
It can be said that the best team in baseball plays at the most beautiful stadium in baseball — quite compelling, as marketing slogans go. A team that once produced one World Series title in 76 years — spanning two coasts and four home ballparks — now has three in the last five seasons.
Are the Giants a contemporary sports dynasty? Without question, the answer is yes.