A team of MVPs: World Series a shared triumph
Sandoval wins official honor, but title earned by heroic team-wide efforts
DETROIT -- There is not going to be a 25-way tie for the Most Valuable Player Award in a World Series. But in the category of what seemed to be roster-wide contributions to a championship, here are the 2012 San Francisco Giants.
The Giants just swept the Detroit Tigers to win the 2012 World Series, winning the fourth and final game on Sunday night, 4-3, in 10 innings.
The possibility of a San Francisco sweep initially appeared as a surprise. But when you considered the way the Giants pitched, defended and came up with the absolutely necessary hit, there was no shock at all in it. Playing like this, particularly pitching like this, the National League champions were going to beat anybody and everybody, Tigers or not.
Detroit was held to six runs in four games. The Tigers were allowed to hit .159 as a team. They had one lead in the entire Series, 2-1, over the space of three innings Sunday. But it didn't last. What did last was the tremendous work of the San Francisco pitching staff.
Most World Series titles
This gets us to the topic of an MVP at every locker. The Most Valuable Player for this Series was officially third baseman Pablo Sandoval. You can put your own "of course" after that sentence if you wish. Sandoval hit three home runs in Game 1, two of them off Tigers ace Justin Verlander. That was the most striking individual feat of the Series, an historic display of power, and it punctured one area of presumed Detroit superiority.
Typically, in a World Series, there will be two or three obvious candidates for the MVP Award on the championship team. With the Giants, Sandoval aside, there seemed to be six or eight or 10. This was truly a shared triumph.
It was like what third-base coach Tim Flannery said postgame, outside the din of the champions' clubhouse at Comerica Park: "Slingshots and rocks, slingshots and rocks; that's what we come to fight with."
And that was the deal. They might be called the Giants, but they were much more David than Goliath. They were about the game's more subtle strengths, pitching and defense. They were, after all, last in the Majors in home runs in the regular season.
They needed to pitch and catch, and they all needed to help each other help themselves. When it all worked in unison, as it did right here in October 2012, it was a sight to see.
Giants' World Series titles
|1922||New York Yankees||4-0|
|1921||New York Yankees||5-3|
You could give the MVP to any of the three starters who stopped Detroit cold -- Barry Zito, Madison Bumgarner and Ryan Volgelsong. The Tigers scored a total of one run against the three of them. It says something about the Giants' starters that the least of their four starts was still a fine performance -- Matt Cain in the clincher, giving up three runs over seven innings.
How about Tim Lincecum, not only as MVP but MVWND (Most Valuable in a Whole New Deal)? Lincecum did not make the postseason rotation, but he was ready, willing and able when manager Bruce Bochy placed him in a new role, as a long reliever.
In two World Series games, Lincecum was both essential and brilliant in this role, working 4 2/3 inings, striking out eight and allowing one baserunner, on a walk. Lincecum should be back in the rotation in 2013, but in this Series, he was invaluable in the bullpen.
Three of the four Series victories were saved by Sergio Romo, who gave up, well, nothing. And he slammed the door shut on the Tigers by striking out the side in the bottom of the 10th in Game 4. How valuable was that?
In the lineup, Sandoval had the biggest impact, no questions needed, no debate required. But after Game 1, this was far from a solo act.
World Series sweeps
Marco Scutaro, to the surprise of no one who had been paying attention, drove in the winning run in Game 4 and provided typically steady defense throughout.
Buster Posey broke out of a postseason slump in the Series and delivered a two-run homer in Game 4. But more should be said about his work with the Giants' pitching staff. Posey will probably get his MVP Award in the near future for the entire NL.
Gregor Blanco's play in left field was superb. The same could be said of Brandon Crawford's work at shortstop. The Giants' defensive play in Game 3 was, in itself, the stuff of a postseason highlights reel.
For San Francisco, the second World Series championship in three years is a remarkable achievement, particularly in a time of rampant parity in the sport. It speaks volumes in support of general manager Brian Sabean's approach to building an organization. The Giants are a pitching-first operation, and in recent seasons, they have added greater athleticism to the mix, making them even better defensively.
Bochy's astute and supportive leadership was evident throughout another championship run. His place among the elite managers of the game has been established and re-established, although he continues to deflect all attempts at giving him substantial credit.
What struck Bochy about this triumph was, naturally, the team aspect of it.
"For us to play like we did against this great club, I couldn't be prouder of these guys," Bochy said. "To be world champions in two out of the last three years, it's amazing. Believe me, I know how difficult it is to get here, and I couldn't be prouder of a group of guys that were not going to be denied.
"It's amazing what they accomplished. I think when you look at this club, the terms 'teamwork,' 'team play,' 'play as a team' -- that's used loosely, but these guys truly did. They set aside their own agenda and asked what's best for the club. And we put guys in different roles, nobody ever said a word, complained or anything, and that's the only way it got done. It shows so much character in that clubhouse, how they kept fighting and said, 'Hey, we're not going home.'"
The Giants can go home now, as champions of the Western Hemisphere's baseball world. They are a championship team in the truest and proudest sense of that term.
Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.