Despite multiple local examples to the contrary, some writers insist that team chemistry was essential to the Giants success this year.
Really? How then, do you explain the success of the 2002 Giants, who had no “chemistry” at all. Jeff Kent absolutely hated Barry Bonds. We’ll never know what Bonds thought of Kent because he didn’t talk to anybody in the clubhouse, taking up four lockers as he spread out on a couch to ease his aching back. But both Kent and Bonds played their best throughout a World Series the Giants should have won.
In 1987, Will Clark sat on one side of the locker room at Candlestick and glared at Jeff Leonard, but they both played well as the Giants got into the postseason. It was more of the same in 1989 with Clark and Kevin Mitchell. No “chemistry” on either team, but the ’89 Giants got to the World Series.
And let’s not forget the battling A’s of the early ’70s, who had fights in front of writers in the locker room. Today, we’d call that “bad chemistry” but those teams won three straight World Series.
This shouldn’t surprise anybody because baseball is an individual sport wrapped in a team concept. If a baseball player hits. 300 with 30 home runs, he can get a fat free agent contract even if his team finishes in last place. Why should the team be his primary concern?
A successful team is really a group of individuals playing well, and that’s exactly what’s happened to the Giants since Melky Cabrera was suspended for violation of baseball’s anti-drug program. They’ve gotten a significant contribution from Hunter Pence, who was not on the roster at the start of the season. They’ve gotten a huge contribution from Marco Scutaro, who has filled a hole at second base and contributed with some big clutch hits.
That’s no surprise to anybody who saw him with the A’s; Scutaro may be the most underrated player in the majors.
And they’ve gotten a big season from Buster Posey, who has come back from that horrendous collision at home plate that sidelined him for the rest of the season in 2011 to win the batting title, and perhaps the MVP, as well.
Along the way, the Giants have learned how to hit with men on base, a skill that totally eluded them last year, and they’ve scored far more runs than they did even in 2010, when they won their first World Championship since coming to San Francisco.
They’ve also benefited from the collapse of the Los Angeles Dodgers, whose big trades haven’t been enough to overcome key injuries, especially to their ace, Clayton Kershaw.
The postseason in baseball is always a crap shoot, or do you really think the Cardinals were the best team in baseball in 2011? The Giants are entering it with a much different team than won in 2010, a better hitting team but one with significant questions about the starting rotation. Both Cincinnati and Washington also appear to be better teams. But whether the Giants win or lose, I can tell you one thing: Team chemistry won’t have anything to do with it.
Glenn Dickey has been covering Bay Area sports since 1963 and also writes on www.GlennDickey.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.