I think I have finally settled back on Terra-sorta-firma after an ebullient night of celebration and joy at my San Francisco Giants’ 2014 World Series victory last night in Kansas City.
Regular readers of this little corner of the blogosphere know that I am not only a longtime Giants’ fan and a life-long baseball fan, I am also a one-time sports writer. I’ve seen way more than my share of games over the decades (six of them now). So I believe I can bring some perspective to the 2014 World Series that may be lacking in many of my friends’ views.
Here, then, in no particular order, are my reflections on the 2014 World Series of Baseball.
MadBum is a Player for the Ages. I’ve seen Sandy Koufax, Bob Gibson, Randy Johnson and Denny McLain. I never saw but have read a lot about Christy Matthewson. Madison Bumgarner may be the best pitcher of the modern era; it’s too soon to tell. He’s only 25. But his Word Series statistics are literally off the chart. Bumgarner’s final line for the 2014 World Series boggles the mind: 2-0 with a save and a 0.43 earned run average, with nine hits, one run, one walk and 17 strikeouts in 21 innings. All impressive but the one that stands out for me is his strikeout-to-walk ratio of 17:1. Most pitchers try for 3:1 or 4:1. The greats hit 5:1 or 6:1. But 17:1? That’s all but unbelievable. If you look at all his World Series appearances together, his ERA is 0.25, the all-time best for pitchers with 25 or more innings of World Series experience. Did I mention he’s only 25? (If you want to read one of the best print journalism pieces to come out of this Series, check out Tyler Kepner’s piece on MadBum in the New York Times. This is baseball writing as it used to be.)
Joe Panik, Brandon Crawford Unbeatable Combo. The start of the double play in the bottom of the third that I think was the turning point — the crushing point if you will — for the Royals was one of the finest defensive efforts I’ve ever seen in my years of watching baseball. Joe Panik’s diving catch and gloved toss to Crawford for the relay to first was impossible to believe even in slowmo. You can watch it over and over and over again here, as I just did for about five minutes. As one of the Fox commentators said in the immediate aftermath, “You can’t teach that.” Only the fact that Panik got called up so late prevents him from serious consideration for NL Rookie of the Year. The Fox broadcasters seemed to have a crush on the Royals’ outfield (which is surely one of the best in baseball) but never really mentioned the Giants’ infield, which has to rank among the best in Major League Baseball. We watched two or three 5-4-3 double plays in this World Series, one of the toughest plays to pull off in baseball, particularly given the fleet feet of the Royals.
One of Best Series Ever. This was one of the best World Series I ever watched. It had drama, explosives, blowouts, nail-biters and dazzling defensive highlights. It lacked home runs, which is just fine with this old geezer of a fan who vastly prefers Little Ball and the emphasis on strategy that the National League has upheld all these years that what we once called the “junior circuit” has been futzing with the DH. (About the only thing that would make me happier as a baseball fan than the Giants winning this pennant would be for the AL to admit it was wrong to adopt the DH and go back to the game we call baseball.) I honestly can’t remember enjoying a World Series nearly as much as this one.
The D Word. Immediately after the Series ended — actually, starting when Game 7 was under way — there was serious talk that if the Giants won the pennant they would be declared a baseball dynasty. I was right up there with them on this point. But this morning as I perused day-after coverage of the season, I ran across this piece by Cork Gaines on, of all places, BusinessInsider. Now, I don’t have a lot of respect for BI as a business news site, let alone sports. But Gaines makes an interesting point. Gaines says we should consider that, “the minimum definition for a dynasty would seem to be a team that is consistently very good and occasionally wins championships. That’s where the Giants fall short. It’s not just about winning three championships in five years. It is also about what they did in the other two years, which is not much at all.” He’s right. In 2011, the Giants played .531 ball and wound up in second place, eight games off the lead. Not bad, but not dynasty numbers. Then in 2013, they really stepped in it, finishing at .469 in third place, 16 games back. So I’m going to re-think the whole dynasty thing. But I do think 3 World Series rings in 5 years (and as many attempts) makes them one of the best all-time teams, and that may have to be good enough in an era of parity and rapidly moving player parts.
So Much More to Come. In coming days and weeks, I’m sure I’ll find a few more tidbits as I reflect on a truly memorable season in which the G-Men battled to earn a Wild Card spot and then burned through the NL before facing the other league’s Wild Card team (second time that ever happened) in an epic struggle that came down to the Royals with the tying run 90 feet away and two out. And Madison Bumgarner on the mound. Going forward, what happens to Pablo “Panda” Sandoval? What Giants are free agents? Which ones do we need to keep? What about our aces-gone-bad, the two Terrible Timmys? Yes, the Hot Stove League will have plenty to yak about in coming weeks.
But for now, just for this Now moment, let me savor the Best World Series I Ever Saw.