If the Giants fail to recapture the magic of last summer and fall, nobody will be stunned. Repeat champs are a dying breed in big-league ball, for a variety of reasons.
If one of the reasons for the Giants’ inability to repeat is the World Baseball Classic, add that to the long and obvious list of reasons to shout at the top of your lungs for major reform in regard to what should — but never will be — the greatest event in the game.
Ten Giants, including seven major contributors to the 2012 title, will have left camp for WBC duty by the time you pick up next Sunday’s Examiner, igniting a fuse that could be connected to the bomb that blows up the best-laid plans.
After the Giants won the World Series in 2010, their relatively good fortune on the health front, particularly down the stretch and throughout the playoffs, was duly noted.
The 2012 season was a different story — sort of. Yes, the players crucial to success were hearty and hale when the Giants needed them most, but to say the team didn’t overcome its fair share of injuries along the way would be inaccurate.
Brian Wilson. Pablo Sandoval. Jeremy Affeldt. Santiago Casilla. Sergio Romo. All of them landed either on the disabled list for extended periods or on the sidelines as a precaution at various junctures.
And go ahead and add Melky Cabrera to the list. That was a health issue, too, although you could make the case that it was mental health (i.e., lunacy).
That said, the starting rotation remained largely intact all season. Of course, you also could make the case that Tim Lincecum suffered from some form of mental illness — hypoconfidence, if you will — for most of the season, but the ability of Matt Cain, Ryan Vogelsong, Madison Bumgarner and Barry Zito to take the ball with metronomic regularity was, with apologies to Buster Posey’s borderline-inhuman comeback, the key to reclaiming the crown.
The pitching staff’s health will be the key to success again this season, too. This is no secret, mind you. Keep those presses rolling; breaking news this is most definitely not. The Giants make no effort to hide the fact that they are built from the mound down.
And that, my friends, is why Giants fans should be wringing their hands in advance of the WBC.
Vogelsong (USA), Romo (Mexico), Casilla (Dominican Republic) and Affeldt (USA) — the team’s No. 2 starter and its top three relievers — are among the group headed out for the ill-timed international tournament, and in the wake of an offseason shortened by the extended playoff run, the thought of so many crucial arms cranking up to full intensity after a shortened spring training has a lot of people associated with the Orange and Black justifiably jittery.
That Sandoval (Venezuela), Marco Scutaro (ditto) and Angel Pagan (Puerto Rico) are among the soon-to-be bailing is more than a tad troublesome, too. Not only is Sandoval’s level of fitness when not under direct Giants supervision always an issue, but it’s also worth noting that the clubhouse vibe that, according to Zito, is currently “off the charts” in the best possible way will take a bit of a hit in the absence of so many of its colorful, charismatic characters.
Look, the World Baseball Classic is a great idea. In theory. It’s a true “World Series.” But unless the powers-that-be find a spot on the calendar that makes sense from a player-readiness standpoint, such as an extended mid-season hiatus in lieu of the annual All-Star Game, it’ll never be what it could.
Instead, it’s far, far less than that on a number of levels, including sea level at McCovey Cove.
And the Giants are hosting the thing’s climax. You’re forgiven if you’re not sure to be excited by that, or scared as hell.
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.