Only the edges of seats should have been sold for the Giants' remarkable postseason. Sweet tension, an intangible that postseason baseball often enhances beyond what other sports provide us, was everywhere. It was delicious and compelling, must-see programming. Only one change would have made Giants' World Series greater than it was -- best of nine. I would have enjoyed a reprise of Justin Verlander vs. Barry Zito.
No complaints though. Really, the Tigers can't moan either. They were smothered. The Giants took the straitjackets they used to restrict the Cardinals in the National League Championship Series, forced the Tigers to wear them, tightened them even more and performed brilliantly.
Good for Jim Leyland and his guys for discounting the effect of the layoff between their sweep of the Yankees and their being steamrolled by a team with less star power but that executed in a way that would have delighted John McGraw, Branch Rickey, Gene Mauch, George Kissell and all the other fundamentalists. Leyland graciously acknowledged which team deserved to win.
It wasn't only that the Giants did so little wrong -- they committed one error, as did the Tigers -- they did so many things well. What impressed me to no end was Brandon Crawford's first-pitch sacrifice bunt in the 10th inning Sunday night. It was as critical a play as any in the 37-inning engagement, and it was flawlessly executed. Left-handed hitter vs. left-handed pitcher. Footage of it ought to be saved, duplicated and shown to every player in every Spring Training camp next year and forever more. Perhaps the stars who routinely dismiss their bunting responsibilities in daily batting practice will gain a better sense of what is occasionally essential.
Crawford's bunt had as much to do with the Giants winning Sunday as Ryan Theriot's 60-yard sprint and energized slide or Marco Scutaro's final stroke of heroism. Traditional National League baseball can be as handsome as a Steve Nash assist or any catch made on any given Sunday. Sadly, Crawford's contribution is likely to fade from baseball's consciousness, ever to be obscured by Pablo Sandoval's swings, all the zeros Ryan Vogelsong accumulated, Tim Lincecum's selflessness, Zito's renaissance and Scutaro's two-way brilliance. It will remain with Bruce Bochy, Brian Sabean, et al, though.
Giants' World Series-winning managers
Leo Durocher *
Bill Terry *
John McGraw *
John McGraw *
John McGraw *
* -- in Hall of Fame
The bunt was a piece of precision, as was Scutaro's relay to the plate in the second inning of Game 2 that cut down Prince Fielder. The throw was reminiscent of the one Derek Jeter made in Game 1 of the 2000 World Series to cut down Timo Perez. Buster Posey's tag was precise, too.
The precision that was most entertaining -- and devastating -- during the Giants' postseason-closing, seven-game joyride was that of their pitchers. Dave Righetti's guys were akin to Catfish, Mad Dog and Eck. They put their pitches where they wanted them and, as a result, put the Tigers in their place. The Giants transformed the Tigers' bats into balsa wood for the most part -- five extra-base hits in 126 at-bats, 36 strikeouts in 37 innings, six runs (two of them academic) in four games -- against the American League champions, including the Triple Crown winner.
The Tigers didn't the lose World Series, the Giants won it.
And they achieved all of it with a degree of class. Scutaro did his best to unplug whatever unwanted tensions that might have developed after Matt Holliday's needlessly late slide in the NLCS. And the Giants kept the chest-beating to an acceptable level. The Tigers couldn't beat their chests or the team in the other dugout.
This World Series left a fresh taste in the mouths of those of us had who monitored the game since mid-Feburary. The Giants' smothering sweep was an appropriate ending to a terrific postseason, and the postseason did justice to a regular season that had to satisfy devotees of dominant pitching (seven no-hitters, three of them perfect games, and a 20-win knuckleballer), hitting (a Triple Crown winner, four home runs in one game) and drama (the A's remarkable push and the added Wild Card machinations).
And -- I like this too -- the World Series ended without a goat. For decades, the late Bill Gallo, a wonderful cartoonist of the New York Daily News, identified one player from each World Series team as the hero or the goat and drew their likenesses. The 2012 World Series might have frustrated him.
The Giants had heroes galore. The Tigers had no goats, only conquerors. Fielder can't be blamed because the Giants pitched him so tough. And the failure of Verlander to win the first game was merely 25 percent of the Tigers' trouble.
Miguel Cabrera can't be blamed either. He wasn't the force in the World Series he had been in the regular season, nor were any one of his teammates. And yes, he took a third strike for the final out of the final game when he could have tied the score with a mighty swing. But he did make a two-run contribution in the third inning of Game 4.
Detroit is disappointed, but it isn't condemning the probable American League MVP. I think to 2006 when Carlos Beltran took Adam Wainwright's absurdly sharp curve for the last pitch of the NLCS betweeen the Mets and Cardinals. Beltran was condemned beyond all logic. Seems that the fans involved in the 2012 postseason made the right call, too.