It’s been 56 days since the San Francisco Giants won their third World Series championship in five season. I know the days. It’s tattooed on my brain. That’s how long it’s taken me to write this article–enough time to heal and get up from off the floor.
I couldn’t watch the World Series this year. Not an inning. As a huge Los Angeles Dodgers fan, seeing our time-tested rivals play for yet another title was just too much for me to grit through. It was a feeling I had become accustomed to—a very same set of stomach acid-inducing ulcers that burned the lining of my gut two years ago. And then two years before that. Worse yet, I knew it was coming.
From the moment that Brandon Belt hit a monstrous home run in Nationals Park during their 18-inning slugfest with Washington (the same night as the Dodgers’ lone playoff win), I knew that there was no stopping the Gigantes as they walked down the golden road they were all-too familiar with. It was the same formula I had seen twice already in the last five years—dominant starting pitching, an unheralded bullpen that would bend but not break and a motley set of hitters whose stars aligned all at the same time. I knew the recipe. I could smell it.
Unlike in many of my sports prognostications, I wasn’t happy to be right. The Giants escaped the Washington Nationals and trounced the St. Louis Cardinals in five games, capturing another National League pennant—an accomplishment that the Los Angeles Dodgers hadn’t even gotten within two wins of since 1988. San Francisco then faced the upstart Kansas City Royals, an all-pitching and all-defense squad that rode solid starters, a dominant ‘pen and all of the suddenly timely offense to their first pennant in 30 years. In many ways, the Giants were playing distorted mirror images of themselves.
While SF looked much better on paper, it was a fight that went down to the wire, with only the heroic performance of NLCS and World Series MVP Madison Bumgarner truly separating the two clubs in the end. One day after being the winning pitcher of Game 6, Bumgarner entered into Game 7 in relief, throwing four shutout frames to end the game. With a Salvador Perez pop-up and a Pablo Sandoval catch in foul territory, the Giants won their seventh World Series title, passing the Dodgers for fourth-most in MLB history. Then, I cursed very loudly in a bar. And had several more drinks.
No truly dedicated fan ever wants to see their biggest rivals win it all. In many ways, it’s even worse than watching your own squad lose in the championship round. While all these scenarios are truly uncontrollable (because we’re all psychopaths who invest far too much in events we have zero sway over), at the very least, watching your team in the finals means you made it. Meanwhile, watching on as your rivals play for the chip isn’t just that gut punch—it’s the sting of knowing your team was left behind writhing in the ditch.
The first title in 2010 was horrifying. The Giants hadn’t won in my lifetime—hell, barely even in my father’s lifetime—and that ignominious distinction was always the greatest trump card I had over any San Francisco baseball fan that came near. Sure, they had won several pennants in the past 20 years while the Dodgers struggled to win even a playoff game, but…I could always think to myself “1954. 1954. 1954.” It brought me joy. A few Pat Burrell ABs later, I was splayed out on the floor.
The second title was a much more numbing situation. In 2012, as soon as I saw the manner in which they beat the St. Louis Cardinals in the NLCS, I knew the Detroit Tigers were toast. Checking in four games later and watching the disbarred-but-then-suddenly-reborn-as-a-dominant-reliever Tim Linecum take the ball from the ‘pen, I was splayed out on the floor. Again.
You would think that the third time around would be the same festering pain, with my nerves and gut set into smoldering embers rather than a full-blown inferno. But this third title was the worst one yet.
The Giants have done what few teams have ever done before. The core of this San Francisco team had joined historical distinction only shared by several New York Yankees squads, the 1970s Oakland Athletics, the 1940s St. Louis Cardinals and both the turn of the century Philadelphia A’s and Boston Red Sox. Three titles in five years. This wasn’t just three championships—it was three championships with style. Historical style.
San Francisco did all of this as the Dodgers set payroll records and “won” the offseason. They captured some these titles without even beating LA for the division title. Manager Bruce Bochy consistently has put together a line-up of misfits and has-beens, but General Manager Brian Sabean picking up the right misfits and has-beens as the zenith of their seasons—and sometimes, careers. They’ve won these titles with hitters like Aubrey Huff, Pat Burrell, Edgar Renteria and Marco effing Scutaro, each of which were on their last baseball legs. SF pitched their way to three titles with notorious salary albatross Barry Zito contributing, as well as a 39 year-old Tim Hudson, Pittsburgh Pirates wash-out Ryan Vogelsong and both Matt Cain and Lincecum not even pitching at their bests. Their best hitters have been Burrell, Scutaro, Angel Pagan, Gregor Blanco, Renteria and Pablo Sandoval, who was a healthy scratch for their 2010 title. This season, they had their downright dominant 20-something left-handed wunderkind blaze a trail to glory–while the Dodgers saw theirs self-destruct twice in a week. As my friend Nick (no doubt giddily reading this line by line) wrote several weeks ago “WS MVP > NL MVP”. It took almost all the joy I had over seeing our ace do what no pitcher had done in decades.
What the Giants have done wasn’t just surprising—it was downright improbable every time. In many ways, it’s worse than your biggest rival rolling to a dominant postseason run with the most talented team because…they could have lost at any moment. The fact that they escaped by the skin of their collective teeth? Gut-wrenching. In every way.
Now, no matter what the Dodgers do in 2015, our greatest rivals can still diminish our accomplishment. Winning the first LA title in now 27 years would be one of the greatest days of my life—but no matter how many clouds add to nine, I’d still watch three of them disappear every time I saw that interlocking “S-F”. Even back-to-back titles in 2015 and 2016—an achievement no National League team has notched since the 1975-1976 Cincinnati Reds—a San Francisco Giants fan can still calmly, coolly flash three fingers at me…and I’ll have to sit down. Don’t get me wrong—a set of titles would make me incredibly happy. It would probably bring me to tears. But part of my happiness would be taken away by a simple gesture from a cretin in black and orange.
With this third title, the Giants have made it nearly impossible for the Dodgers and their fans to stand on equal footing. The odds of LA taking three of the next five chips are extremely long—historically long—and without that trump card to combat the trash talk of one-half of one of the greatest rivalries in sports, our words will all be left woefully short of even this 1,000 word therapy session.
I hate the Giants. But more importantly, I hate that they’ve made it almost impossible to ever even the score. Now excuse me while I splay out on the floor. For a fourth time in five years.