Willie Mays never won a World Series in San Francisco. Neither did Willie McCovey. Or Orlando Cepeda. Or Barry Bonds. Or Juan Marichal or Gaylord Perry. Hall of Famers? The San Francisco Giants have had many. But world championships? None.
Before tonight, anyway. Before a lineup full of role players and aging veterans — and one rookie who may one day join the immortals in Giants history — beat the odds in beating the Phillies and the Rangers and now stand as champions of the baseball world.
Perhaps the most overlooked veteran role player in the bunch was Edgar Renteria. A man who rode pine for months this season, fighting, age infirmity and ineffectiveness and who was seemingly marking time until he could retire and return to Colombia where family and business ventures wait. A man who wouldn’t have been playing much if at all in this World Series had it not been for Pablo Sandoval and Mike Fontenot screwing up at third base and forcing Bruce Bochy to play Juan Uribe there. This afterthought of a player who hasn’t wielded lumber or flashed leather with purpose for years, it seemed, became the World Series MVP. If he follows through on the many suggestions he’s dropped this year and retires, he’ll have ended his career the way most of us came to know of it back in 1997: as a World Series hero.
But before we go too far down the road of praising the misfits and castoffs — or proclaiming Brian Sabean’s mastery of the waiver wire the new “Moneyball”-style inefficiency — let us remember that there is some serious artillery on this Giants team. In that rookie catcher I mentioned above, sure, but mostly on that pitching staff. In Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner who each handcuffed a strong Rangers team. In Brian Wilson, who hardly broke a sweat in any of his three World Series appearances. And most of all in Tim Lincecum, billed as the playoffs’ third or fourth best starter depending on who you talked to a couple of weeks ago, but who showed that when he’s on he’s better than anyone in the game. With the exception of one adrenalin-fueled mistake to Nelson Cruz Lincecum absolutely cruised, striking out ten and seemingly toying with Rangers hitters from beginning to end. Lincecum’s presence alone puts lie to the notion — a notion you’ll probably hear a lot of in the coming days — that the Giants are a team of nobodies. Lincecum is a superstar, and he’s part of a core of budding superstars.
So it wasn’t purely a triumph of an elite team, because there were many mismatched parts. And it wasn’t purely a triumph of a misfit team, because there are certainly elites on that roster. It was simply a triumph of a team. An imperfect team with low expectations and clear weaknesses but with underrated strengths and impeccable timing. We get these sorts of champs more often than we typically remember. The 2006 Cardinals were one. The White Sox in ’05. The Marlins. The Diamondbacks. The Angels. Really anyone who isn’t the Yankees, Red Sox or recent-vintage Phillies, all of whom seem so . . .formidable.
And when we do get a champ like this — a team with human-scale personalities and human-scale expectations — it reminds you of everything that is good about baseball. How anything can truly happen in October. And — when a past-his-sell-date shortstop gets hold of a pitch from a seemingly superhuman lefty — anything can happen on the first of November too.
UPDATE: Jason Beck of MLB.com confirms that it’s a two-year, $18.5 million deal.
8:00 p.m. ET: Chris Cotillo of MLB Daily Dish reports that the Tigers have avoided arbitration with outfielder J.D. Martinez by agreeing to a two-year contract. No word yet on the terms involved, but Robert Murray of Baseball Essential reported earlier today that he was hearing rumblings about a two-year, $18.5 million deal.
Martinez filed for $8 million and was offered $6 million by the Tigers when arbitration figures were exchanged last month. There has been some talk about a long-term extension, but we heard last week that the two sides were discussing both one- and two-year deals. This new deal will buy out Martinez’s final two years of arbitration, so as of now, he’s still on track to go into free agency after 2017.
After a breakout 2014, Martinez batted .282 with 38 home runs and an .879 OPS over 158 games last season.
Veteran reliever Eric O'Flaherty is coming off the worst season of his career, but there’s still plenty of interest in a bounceback, as ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick reports that he’s deciding between four teams and “should sign a deal by the weekend.”
You really can’t sugarcoat O’Flaherty’s 2015. The 31-year-old was flat-out bad, posting an 8.41 ERA and 21/18 K/BB ratio over 30 innings of work between the Athletics and Mets. Opposing batters hit .343/.427/.482 against him. I keep going back to check if that’s a misprint, but nope, it’s real. He also missed some time with shoulder inflammation. On the bright side, Tim Brown of Yahoo Sports reported last month that O’Flaherty feels healthy and believes that he has fixed his mechanics.
O’Flaherty’s career has veered off track since Tommy John surgery in 2013, but he has enjoyed plenty of success in the past and throws from the left side. He’s the kind of guy who will continue to get chances.
Veteran outfielder Roger Bernadina has agreed to a minor-league contract with the Mets that includes an invitation to spring training.
Bernadina was a semi-regular for the Nationals from 2010-2012, but never developed as much as hoped offensively and didn’t play in the majors at all last season.
At age 32 he’s a career .236 hitter with a .661 OPS in 548 games as a big leaguer and given the Mets’ outfield depth–they already have Alejandro De Aza and Juan Lagares in bench/part-time roles–Bernadina seems likely to begin the season in the minors.
Rhett Bollinger of MLB.com reports that Twins reliever J.R. Graham has lost “roughly 30-40 pounds this offseason.” It’s not a result of workouts, though. Just a change in diet. Bollinger says that Graham cut out sugar, alcohol and foods heavy in carbs and focused on a high-protein diet with lots of salads, meats and vegetables.
That’s an awful lot of weight to lose in four months, but the dude is only 26 and guys in their 20s lose weight just by thinking about it. Which is so very annoying to those of us who aren’t guys in their 20s.
The real test, of course, will come when he is working out far more strenuously once spring training starts and gets into the season. Normal schmos like me can keep up that kind of diet without much of a hitch as long as we have the willpower. An athlete’s energy requirements are far greater and far more specialized, so he’ll need more fuel than he’s probably been getting this offseason. Word is, however, that professional sports teams have people on staff that, you know, have made monitoring that kind of thing their life’s work.
In the meantime:
“I can just feel the change,” Graham said. “The energy. Everything. I feel great. I’m excited to see how it’ll translate into spring. I know I shouldn’t have any problems because I’m stronger than I’ve ever been. I’m faster. All that. So it’s really exciting.”
It’s very exciting indeed. Because, with that, Graham becomes the latest baseball player to be . . . In The Best Shape of His Life.