Programming note: Giants Game 1 starter Jake Peavy and manager Bruce Bochy will address the media in Washington at 12:45 p.m. Watch the live stream right here.
So it’s agreed, then. The Giants have mystical powers that enable them to cheat postseason elimination, and this is an extraordinary benefit in their pursuit of a third World Series in five years. It is indisputable, it is all-powerful, and it will be obeyed.
Well, okay. Have it your way.
But let’s say this anyway. That reputation is built almost entirely on the 2012 team, of which half the roster is now elsewhere.
Beating the Pittsburgh Pirates Wednesday night because Four Beers At Once Bumgarner was Nasty McFilthy really shouldn’t count as part of the discussion.
But it does, because you want good fortune to carry over from one team to the next – at least when it’s your team. And, shockingly, it actually doesn’t work that way.
At least not yet.
You see, the Giants have a few core players who have created this juggernaut-ette since 2010 – nine have survived from that roster (nine if you count the injured Matt Cain, who really isn’t part of the 2014 legacy through no fault of his own).
From the 2012 team, there are 15 (16, if you include Cain and Angel Pagan, who won’t play in this postseason).
But the greater truth is this: Each year is different, and each team is different. The deeds of the 2012 team should stand alone because those Giants went about their tasks differently than this one.
Those Giants were built on a stout starting rotation and bullpen; this one clearly is not. Those Giants survived with a more well-rounded offense than this one. Indeed, in many ways, the 2012 team is better. It is surely different.
Moreover, when you take the other six elimination game wins, you’ll find two rough commonalities you didn’t think you had – a big early inning, and shutdown bullpen work.
Hardly the stuff of myth, really. Nothing like, for example, Bumgarner’s almost singlehanded muzzling of the Pirates.
[BAGGARLY: Quiet riot from Crawford, Bumgarner fuels Giants]
In the division series against Cincinnati, none of the three starters (Ryan Vogelsong, Barry Zito and Matt Cain) got out of the sixth inning. In game 3, it took a Scott Rolen 10th inning error to win; game 4, an early lead held and then widened, and a stout bullpen; game 5, a six-run fifth.
In the LCS, there were 4-run, 4-run and 5-run early innings against the Cardinals. Zito and Vogelsong pitched well in Games 5 and 6, and Vogelsong was almost Bum-dominant.
And the bullpen was brilliant throughout: 20.2 innings, 17 hits, 6 walks, two runs. An ERA of 0.87, a WHIP of 1.11, against two prominent hitting teams.
And all of that has nothing to do with how this team will forge its identity either way.
Oh, the mysticism warms the fan heart, and the search for illusory advantages never ends. The only bad thing about the baseball postseason is the period before each series, when people seek out advantages and edges and throw numbers and small sample-size assumptions about as though they came straight from Steven Hawking’s head.
But here’s the kickiest kicker of them all. Nobody, all the way up to general manager Brian Sabean, really understands how this team did what it did, or does what it does.
How else do you figure one of the best teams in baseball that became one of the worst teams in baseball that became one of the best teams in baseball again ands then had to white-knuckle their way through land mines like San Diego?
If 2010 was Torture (which it wasn’t, but why rob Duane Kuiper of his big moment?) and 2012 was Cheating The Reaper (which it wasn’t until the playoffs and stopped when it got to Detroit), 2014 is Everything You Know Is Wrong.
That is, unless you’re a liar who says he or she called the Brandon Crawford grand slam.
Thus, assuming that there are carryovers in alternate years (which there aren’t unless you’re the old Yankees), this team has yet to forge its enduring identity or even its battle cry, and stealing from an old one is cheating.
So let’s calm down before the division series with the Nationals and the hunt for new commonalities begins. What the Giants are as of this moment is Madison Bumgarner and The F-Bombing Heard ‘Round The World.
The real tale, good or ill, has yet to be told. This is a different team with different touch points, and nobody knows what they will be until we see what they are. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.