San Francisco Giants: a 'dynasty' in a distinctly 21st-century way

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How San Francisco Got It Done

By ALEX PUTTERMAN
College Contributor Network

One day when we look back on the early-2010s in Major League Baseball we'll see an era dominated by the San Francisco Giants, winners of three World Series in five years.

Of course, that won't be quite right.

The Giants have won their three titles fair and square, but they haven't done so by stomping an overmatched league, as their hardware collection might suggest. They haven't set records or invited comparisons to the best teams in league history. In none of their three championship years have they held the best regular-season record in the National League or won their division by double-digit games. Their 88 wins this year are the fourth fewest ever for a World Series champ in a 162-game season.

And in this way, the Giants are a perfect 21st century "dynasty."

As Bud Selig's commissionership has wound down this year, he's touted "competitive balance" as his defining legacy. And it's true, revenue sharing and playoff expansion have given more and more teams opportunities to compete.

So although a team winning three out of five championships doesn't scream "parity," the fact that the Giants won their titles with regular season win totals of 92, 94 and 88 games respectively, is emblematic of baseball's current era of balance.

In past eras -- when the top team in each league went straight to the World Series and then later when two division winners from each league fought in the League Championship Series -- the Giants would have been structurally prohibited from this type of success.

Consider the other teams with World Series runs equal to or better than the 2010-14 Giants.

Team World Series titles Winning % those years
Philadelphia Athletics 1910-11, 1913 .680, .669, .627
Boston Red Sox 1912, 1915-16, 1918 .691, .669, .591, .595
New York Yankees 1936-39, 41, 43 .667, .662, .651, .702, .656, .636
St. Louis Cardinals 1942, 1944, 1946 .688, .682, .628
New York Yankees 1947, 1949-53 .630, .630, .636, .636, .617, .656
New York Yankees 1956, 1958, 1961-62 .630, .597, .673, .593
Oakland A's 1972-74 .600, .580, .556
New York Yankees 1996, 1998-00 .568, .704, .605, .540

Now compare those winning percentages to those of the Giants' three title teams: .568, .580, .543.

Clearly, San Francisco doesn't quite fit with past "dynasties." The Giants exist in their own category, a pretty good regular season team that has either discovered a magical postseason formula or stumbled upon a whole lot of luck.

But this Giants' run contradicts conventional wisdom of baseball dynasties in another major way: they haven't had all that much roster continuity.

San Francsico's 2010 team was fueled by Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain in the rotation, Brian Wilson and his beard in the bullpen and Aubrey Huff and a cadre of castaways in the lineup. In 2014, the offense is almost entirely different, and the pitching staff's roles have been drastically shuffled.

Aside from the bullpen, which has generally maintained its core (Sergio Romo, Santiago Casilla, Jeremy Affeldt, Javier Lopez), here are the players who played some role in all three of the Giants' World Series titles:
  • Buster Posey -– a rookie on the 2010 team, he's become the face of the Giants. Still, the 2014 run was hardly his doing; he didn't log an extra-base hit all postseason and hit .154 in the World Series.
  • Tim Lincecum –- the ace in 2010, a flexible relief option in 2012, irrelevant in 2014.
  • Madison Bumgarner -– secondary factor in 2010, larger role in 2012, fire-breathing, Royal-crushing ace in 2014.
  • Pablo Sandoval -– how easy to forget he was benched for Juan Uribe and Edgar Renteria in the 2010 World Series before contributing substantially to the last two titles.
That's it. Considering Sandoval and Lincecum were not active participants in all three titles, really only Posey and Bumgarner have remained constant throughout the five-year stretch.

The '90s Yankees, by contrast, had four of the same starting position players and two of the same starting pitchers in 1996 as in 2000, all six of those guys playing essentially the same roles four years later.

And even that level of continuity is a decline from the pre-free agency era. Given the speed at which players -- especially non-star players -- switch teams in the 21st century as compared to the first 80 years of the 20th century, the Giants and their revolving-door roster (relatively speaking) again seem representative of their time.

Play transience aside, one man in the dugout has in fact been directly and dramatically involved in all three Giants titles. Manager Bruce Bochy may very well end up the guy we most associate with this age of Giants teams.

But like the Giants as a franchise, Bochy has attained his success without superlatives. He has not won a Manager of the Year award during his time in San Francisco and only recently seems to have entered the conversation for best manager in baseball.

His reputation over the years has been of a solid, unspectacular manager, near the top of the league but never quite thought of at its pinnacle, at least in the regular season.

And yet somehow he's presided over a dynasty.

Alex Putterman is a junior Journalism major at Northwestern University and sports editor of the Daily Northwestern student newspaper. He has fairly eclectic interests but loves baseball above all. Follow him on Twitter: @AlexPutt02
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