If the past truly is prologue, you better have your tickets in hand already if you want to be a part of the Giants’ spring training party.
The last time Scottsdale, Ariz., played host to the defending world champs, way back in 2011, the vibrant little city and its charming stadium were packed throughout camp. Otherwise sane people were paying scalpers upward of $200 for the right to burn the skin off the backs of their thighs on the sun-sizzled metal bleachers down either foul line.
The same is expected this year, and that’s not where the similarities end. As was the case after Bruce Bochy’s “band of misfits” ended San Francisco’s big-league title drought by beating the Texas Rangers in the 2010 World Series, the Giants are bringing back the bulk of the roster that stunned the Cincinnati Reds, St. Louis Cardinals and Detroit Tigers on the way to reclaiming the crown in 2012.
Actually, this time the team took things a little further with a couple of because-we-can moves: 2010 cult hero Andres Torres, traded away after his 2011 season was somewhat emblematic of the team’s failure to duplicate the previous year’s magic, has been brought back along with reliever Ramon Ramirez, who played a subtly significant role in 2010, too.
Call it supersizing the status quo.
Also call it more than a bit risky, for in banking on the same cast of characters to pull off the same sort of success is to risk another round of the quiet complacency allegations directed at general manager Brian Sabean and Giants ownership in the wake of 2011’s playoff-ineligible squad.
Never mind that the 2011 team almost certainly would have made a little October noise were it not for Scott Cousins’ leg-Buster of a breakup play at the plate. Anyone who doesn’t think a full season of Mr. Posey puts that team back in the postseason wasn’t paying attention in 2010 or 2012.
The man, when you boil it all down, does something only truly special players can do for a team on his or her own: make everything make sense.
In truth, bringing everyone back made sense in 2011 — and it makes sense for 2013.
The rotation, assuming Tim Lincecum’s haircut shaved away the jarring lack of confidence that served as the root of his issues last season, is back intact. Good luck finding a deeper, more accomplished five.
The bullpen is back intact, too, and there’s no reason to think it won’t be even better now that the roles will be clearly defined from the get-go.
Brandon Belt will be better. Book it. He knows he belongs now. Ditto Brandon Crawford, and a similar dynamic will serve Hunter Pence quite well. His comfort level should allow him to produce at the proverbial “next level” — think his All-Star seasons in 2009-11.
Add a full season of Pablo Sandoval, supremely confident coming off a big World Series, and Marco Scutaro doesn’t even have to be “Blockbuster” again. He can just be Marco, because Marco is pretty damn solid every year.
Barring an injury to Posey, or a series of major injuries to a collection of three or four other significant contributors, the team Sabean reassembled should have no problem getting itself into position to defend the latest crown with a spot in the rapidly expanding postseason tournament. Magic Johnson and the Los Angeles Dodgers can go buck-wild with their more-money-than-God approach to team building, but all the money in the world can’t create what the Giants had coursing through their veins last fall.
The Giants played with a sense of personal pride and integrity that’s not often seen at the professional level in any sport. And once that sense gets developed, it sticks. It’ll be there this spring.
And so will the talent, of which there’s plenty. That’s going to be a tough combination to beat.
Mychael Urban has covered Bay Area sports for more than 22 years as a contributor to Comcast SportsNet, CSNBayArea.com, KNBR, MLB.com, ESPN The Magazine and various newspapers. Follow him on Twitter @BigUrbSports. His website is UrbsUnchained.com.