|ESPN.com: MLB Playoffs 2012||[Print without images]|
DETROIT -- Navigating the narrow confines of the visitors clubhouse inside the Detroit ballpark can be challenging, particularly when the hallway and rooms are as full as the Tokyo subway at rush hour with champagne-wielding teammates and family, plus microphone-shoving, path-blocking reporters.
And you're built like Pablo Sandoval.
And you're carrying a large, glittering MVP World Series trophy under one arm.
|Kung-Fu Panda hefts his personal bit of hardware.|
"I'm excited, man, I'm excited!" Sandoval shouted to a wall of cameramen and writers halting his already slow progress. "This is my second championship in three years but I earned this one more."
When the Giants won the World Series in 2010, Sandoval struggled so much that he played only one game that series and went hitless in three at-bats. This time, he hit three home runs in his first three at-bats and finished with a .500 average. "You learn from the things that happen in your career," he said. "You get up and down. You never give up. All the things that happened in my career, thank God it happened early rather than late. I'm just blessed to be here and be part of the 2012 World Series. ...
"I'm going to ask my brother to pinch me so that I can wake up from this dream."
Sandoval certainly was a deserving MVP winner but there were several other Giants who could have won as well. Asked whom he would award the MVP, Sandoval instantly replied, "Barry Zito. Barry did a great job. For him to come back to the roster and start the first game of the World Series and win, it was a big deal."
Like Sandoval, Zito had a poor 2010 season, and the Giants left him off the postseason roster. He spent the World Series that year on the bench, cheering his teammates. This time, the Giants kept him on the roster and started him against Detroit's Justin Verlander. Few gave Zito much chance in a matchup against the reigning Cy Young winner that night but he instead held the Tigers to one run in 5 1/3 innings. By beating the Tigers' ace in the opener, the Giants grabbed a crucial series advantage that loomed far larger than the 1-0 lead.
"This is apples and oranges compared to 2010," Zito said. "You certainly want to be part of a team that wins a World Series, and to contribute in the regular season is great, but to go out there on the big stage and help the team get to [the] next level -- and vice-versa -- it's something that you can't put words to."
|Pablo Sandoval's bat delivered decisive results from the outset.|
Zito's example in the 2010 World Series -- teammates say he never complained and never let his disappointment show -- played a part in the way Tim Lincecum handled his move to the bullpen this October. Approaching the role in a positive way, Lincecum became a weapon out of the bullpen, blowing away batters in the middle innings of two games. The Tigers not only had to get past San Francisco's tremendous starters, but they had to get past the bullpen. And Detroit never did.
Or perhaps the award could have gone to catcher Buster Posey, who missed most of last season after a collision at home plate fractured his leg. He came back with an MVP-caliber season, then made a crucial sweep tag on Prince Fielder in Game 2 to save at least a run and probably more. He also hit a two-run homer in Game 4.
Or perhaps it could have gone to left fielder Gregor Blanco. At this time last year, Blanco didn't have a contract with a major league organization. "I was just waiting for an opportunity," he said. The Giants gave him that opportunity, and Blanco rewarded them when he replaced Melky Cabrera when the outfielder was suspended.
Blanco had an RBI triple that gave the Giants the lead in Game 3 but it was his defense that really shined. While Detroit center fielder Austin Jackson twice refrained from diving and let balls drop just in front of him for run-scoring singles, Blanco made several diving catches and had a fine running grab in the corner in foul ground in Game 3.
Or maybe the MVP could have been manager Bruce Bochy. Until recent years, he's been best known nationwide for having the largest head in baseball of any non-PED user. But with two world championships in three years -- plus a World Series appearance in San Diego -- he's shown that head also holds a fine managerial mind.
"Bochy is an unbelievable person," right fielder Hunter Pence said. "He's great at setting the environment and giving everyone a chance to succeed."
Or perhaps the award could have gone to Game 3 winner Ryan Vogelsong, who started his career with the Giants, only to wind up pitching in Japan before finding his way back to San Francisco. Or perhaps second baseman Marco Scutaro, who singled in the 10th inning Sunday to score the player he replaced this season -- Ryan Theriot -- with the series-winning run.
"You know what, when Theriot wasn't playing, I told him, sincerely, he could be the hero," center fielder Angel Pagan said. "It's happened so many times before. Here, anyone can be a hero."
Indeed. Just look at shortstop Brandon Crawford. Crawford is from the Bay Area, and his parents have been Giants season-ticket holders for many years. His name is even on a commemorative brick outside the Giants' ballpark that his parents bought a dozen years ago. He sat in the stands at the 2002 World Series when the Giants lost. When they won this World Series, it was partially due to his extraordinary fielding at shortstop.
As people squeezed by him in the narrow doorway of his boyhood team's clubhouse and while celebratory champagne dripped from his hair, a representative of the Hall of Fame asked Crawford whether he could have his cap so it could be displayed at Cooperstown. "Pretty cool," Crawford said.
Quick, get Sandoval's brother to pinch Crawford right after "Panda." Then they both will realize they aren't dreaming. They are simply on top of the world.