SAN FRANCISCO (AP) Bruce Bochy is crazy superstitious. It’s a little-known fact about the unflappable San Francisco Giants manager.
Mere mention of anything about a dynasty during the World Series made him uncomfortable. He felt equally uneasy when his name got linked to the best skippers of all-time – those Hall of Famers he well could join someday.
Bochy doesn’t have to worry about a jinx now. After winning its third championship in five seasons, the new label for his team looks as if it will stick.
”Dynasty” blared the front page of the San Francisco Chronicle on Thursday.
The Giants closed it out with a 3-2 win in Game 7 at Kansas City on Wednesday night, sealed by Series MVP Madison Bumgarner’s five shutout innings as a reliever this time.
”A lot has to go right. First off, it starts with the talent,” Bochy said. ”I mean, you need that, which we have. Then you have to deal with a lot of things maybe during the season. Every manager says, `Hey, we’re fine, we have a good chance to get there if we stay healthy.’ But that doesn’t always happen.”
In a remarkable every-other-year pattern, San Francisco somehow finds its best form in even years. With new faces and old ones, with castoffs and misfits and some key midseason acquisitions.
Few clubs have captured three championships in a five-year span. The last National League team to do it was the St. Louis Cardinals with Stan Musial from 1942-46, so the Giants are the first of the free-agency era.
The Oakland Athletics won three straight crowns in the early 1970s, and the New York Yankees captured four in five years from 1996-2000.
Still, San Francisco was never considered a favorite or the best team in the regular season any of these times. Twice in this stretch, the Giants missed the playoffs altogether.
After a runner-up finish in the NL West to the Dodgers at 88-74, they took the wild-card card route this time.
On Wednesday night, Tim Hudson became a champion after a 16-year wait and Michael Morse got there following 10 major league seasons.
”It’s the greatest group of guys I ever played with,” Morse said. ”It’s a group of guys who believe in each other and the outcome was a World Series victory.”
This city has had a football dynasty. So now the storied baseball franchise is doing its best to catch up with the NFL team in town. The Niners ruled in the late `80s and `90s, winning five Super Bowls.
A unique element for Bochy’s latest winning roster is the talented crop of homegrown players who made it happen.
There are the big names – Bumgarner, Buster Posey, Pablo Sandoval. And the emerging ones – Brandon Belt, Brandon Crawford, Joe Panik.
”You look at most of our team – like Joe, me, Buster, Pablo, Belt, Bum. It’s loaded with a lot of good players and a lot of players who are pretty similar in kind of their approach to the game and they’re pretty even-keel,” said Crawford, the shortstop.
”Pablo’s a little bit different but me, Joe, Belt, Bum, Buster, we’re all pretty levelheaded at any point in the game whatever part of the season it is, whether it’s playoffs or midway through the regular season. We don’t really change. That says a lot with how well we’ve done in the playoffs and the postseason in recent years,” he said.
”Nothing’s really too big for us,” he added.
Eight players have been on all three winning World Series teams: Bumgarner, slugging third baseman Sandoval, Posey and relievers Jeremy Affeldt, Javier Lopez, Santiago Casilla, Sergio Romo and Tim Lincecum. Matt Cain, too, but he was hurt this year.
General manager Brian Sabean, longest-tenured in baseball, can’t put a finger on why the mix keeps working. He is proud of the core of players who were drafted and came through the system and played such a huge part this time.
”It’s a testament to player development and scouting. That’s what we all hope for, that you can plug your holes from within and build your team from within,” Sabean said. ”That’s a surefire way to kind of keep things moving forward. It prevents you from having to go into the market, whether it’s free agency or more so the trade market.”
The Giants survived skids in June and September before winning the wild-card game at Pittsburgh. They then beat Washington in the Division Series and St. Louis in the NL Championship series.
It has started with Bochy and his spot-on decision making, from resting the relievers regularly early in the season so he’d have every one of them for the October run, to going with Bumgarner at every chance.
”But you have to play good baseball for six months, whatever, to get there,” Bochy said. ”Once you get there, you’ve heard guys say, `Well, it’s a crap shoot,’ but you have to play your best ball. You have to have the pitching. That’s obvious. But you’ve got to execute.”
For the Giants, it’s about every player doing his part and serving a role, because, as Sabean puts it, ”We don’t have a star system here.”
”It’s everybody’s got to pull on the same chain and everybody’s got to be ready to play,” he said. ”They understand the culture.”
Dynasty or not, Affeldt has solved a potential problem at home.
The lefty reliever and Game 7 winner has three young sons – and, now, three championships.
”My three boys now all get to have rings on their finger,” he said, ”And I’m very happy about that.”