Have the San Francisco Giants Re-Written What it Means to be a Dynasty in Major League Baseball?
San Francisco Giants 2014
Three championships in five seasons
At first glance, there seems to be no doubt that what the Giants have done over the past five seasons is the creation of a dynasty in Major League Baseball. The first glance may be deceiving though, as a further look at what the Giants have done, shows they have not been the favorites before each championship run because they have missed the playoffs the season before each of their recent championships. Typically a dynasty in professional sports will be dominant for multiple seasons in a row, and may even win back to back championships at some point. The Giants have not followed the typical pattern with their recent domination of Major League Baseball, even though they have had a variety of different players display a transcendent level of play in each of their championship runs. Overall the roster for the Giants and the core players on each championship team have been similar, with their management team placing expectations on a group of players that they have kept together. However, with more than one factor that differs from the a typical dynasty in professional sports, have the Giants re-written the meaning of what it is to be a dynasty in Major League Baseball?
Giants enter each championship season without being favorites
With the Giants championships happening in 2010, 2012 and now in 2014, a look at what they did in 2009, 2011 and 2013, will tell us why they were not the favorites entering each championship season. In 2009 Tim Lincecum won his second of back to back National League Cy Young Awards, but it was not good enough to get the Giants into the postseason. They finished that season with 88 wins and 74 losses, seven games back in the National League West, along with being four games back of the National League Wildcard playoff berth. While the Giants were competitive in the 2009 season, they failed to qualify for the National League playoffs, which in turn made it difficult for them to be considered favorites to make a championship run in 2010. However, even though the Giants did not make the playoffs in 2009, Tim Lincecum had proved that he was among the elite of the elite starting pitchers in the National League, and Matt Cain was becoming a top of the rotation starter as he approached his prime years. The development of top pitching prospect Madison Bumgarner, also gave Giants fans hope at that time, that their team could put one of the better starting rotations in baseball, on the field.
In 2011, the Giants started the season with what some considered to be a World Series hangover with the team playing mediocre baseball in the early months. The Giants were able to bounce back from a slow start to the season, when they reached their high water mark of 17 games above .500 at 61-44. The Giants inability to generate run production without Buster Posey in the lineup down the stretch run of the season, ultimately cost them as they finished the rest of the season seven games below .500 after reaching their high water mark. Great seasons from both Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum were not enough for the Giants to get back into the postseason to defend their title. 2011 was a much different situation than the scenario facing the Giants in 2009 though, because the Giants returned a team that was made up of mostly all the same players that had won the championship the year before. It was a significant disappointment for the Giants not to be able to return to the playoffs, and as a result it appeared that the Giants championship run had just been a case of them being in the right place at the right time. The 2012 Giants proved that theory wrong with a season long display of resiliency to suggest that they were not a team that had to rely on good fortune to earn a championship.
It was in 2013 that the Giants had some misfortune derail their season, as both their top of the rotation pitchers from previous championship runs were not able to find any of their previous success. Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain had seasons that did not meet their typical standards. This resulted in a season where the Giants fell completely out of contention and finished 10 games below .500. With the Giants being able to avoid serious injuries to key offensive players in 2013, it was apparent that the Giants needed some change in order to return to contention. With Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum no longer the top of the Giants rotation, youngster Madison Bumgarner was able to take over the role of Giants ace in 2013 as well as 2014. With Michael Morse joining the Giants in 2014, they were able to shift their team identity to one that relies on more run production to win ballgames. With the Giants highest win total in the regular season over the past five years reaching 94 wins, they have never been the most dominant regular season team. Playing nearly each season right on the border of playoff contention, the Giants were able to make their mark with strong performances in tournament play to decide the championship.
Is this group a dynasty?
After taking a closer look at what has happened in between Giants championships, the overall talent level on the Giants roster has to be considered as well. While some of the names have changed from 2010 to 2014, the key names and roles have remained the same. Buster Posey emerged as a star with his performance as a rookie in the 2010 postseason, and current staff ace Madison Bumgarner was able to do the same with his performance in the World Series against the Rangers. With Posey, Sandoval and Bumgarner being standout players from each championship run, those three have helped the Giants to become a dynasty. Lincecum and Cain were key contributors to the first two championships to get the Giants on their way to becoming a dynasty, but in the most recent one they were unable to contribute much. Overall the turnover on the Giants roster in between championship runs, is a strong indicator that the Giants coaching staff is doing a great job as they ready each player for their role. The Giants ability to construct a bullpen has been a huge factor in each of their championship wins, with underrated left handed relievers, Javier Lopez and Jeremy Affeldt putting together some gutsy performances to help the Giants protect leads.
With Major League Baseball having the fewest playoff berths of any professional sport, and the way the Giants have played in the postseason when they have qualified recently, means that they are a dynasty. The Giants have missed the playoffs in between championship runs because it is so difficult to earn a postseason berth in Major League Baseball. In 2015 the Giants can further solidify their position as a dynasty in Major League Baseball, because of the level of difficulty in getting to the playoffs. Even if they don't however, teams still will not want to have to face Madison Bumgarner and pitchers will still be uncomfortable facing Buster Posey. That is what makes them a dynasty. Having the talent in place to regularly earn a postseason berth, and in turn playing well enough in tournament play to earn multiple championships is dominance that other teams in baseball currently are unable to match. The Giants have mastered every aspect of the MLB postseason, including the in game management, the pressure each player faces in big situations and the pressure of taking the mound in a winner takes all situation. By doing this, the San Francisco Giants have created their own meaning of what it is to be a dynasty in the current era of Major League Baseball.