Giants' World Series title built on homegrown pitching

San Francisco hoping young rotation leads it to many postseasons to come

November 02, 2010|By Bill Shaikin, Tribune Newspapers

ARLINGTON, TEXAS — Brian Wilson attracted a crowd of reporters; so did Buster Posey and Tim Lincecum. The president of the San Francisco Giants did a round of interviews, and so did the owner, the former owner, former players, even the clubhouse manager.

As the celebration raged in the San Francisco clubhouse late Monday night, all those interviews giddily interrupted by streams of champagne and beer, Dick Tidrow stood in an adjacent hallway, cameras and reporters rushing past him.

There were plenty of romantic tales to be told about the first World Series championship in San Francisco history. Tidrow, perhaps most responsible for the victory, would not be beamed live across America.

Tidrow was a fairly obscure player back in the day, hidden behind the spotlight of Reggie Jackson, Thurman Munson, Ron Guidry and Catfish Hunter on the New York Yankees teams that beat the Dodgers in the 1977 and 1978 World Series.

Yet he just earned a third championship ring, for the rotation he assembled for the Giants -- Lincecum, Matt Cain, Jonathan Sanchez and Madison Bumgarner, none older than 27, all drafted by Tidrow.

This is the quartet that has the Giants dreaming of a World Series encore, of a decade of Octobers.

"This," Cain said, "is just something to start."

It starts with the starters. It starts with the draft.

Lincecum, Cain and Bumgarner were selected in the first round, Sanchez in the 27th.

Tidrow, the Giants' player personnel chief, whisked them to San Francisco. Lincecum started 13 games in the minor leagues, Bumgarner and Sanchez 48 apiece, Cain 75.

"Tidrow is pretty good at getting guys to the big leagues pretty fast," general manager Brian Sabean said.

The Giants finished 15th in the National League in runs scored two years ago, 13th last year. They had not qualified for the playoffs in six years.

The solution was obvious, at least to the outside world -- trade one of the four young starters for a big bat.

"We decided we weren't going to trade any of them," Sabean said. "We started every meeting and ended every meeting by saying, 'How could we replace anybody we traded?'"

Sanchez, at that point, had a career ERA of 4.81. The Giants had faith.

"We knew we couldn't replace Sanchez from the outside world," Sabean said.

So much for the old saw that a guy who plays every day is more valuable than a guy who plays every fifth day.

"When I first came into the game, you would never trade a position player for pitching," said Sabean, a major league executive since 1986 and Giants GM since 1996.

"Now, it's just the opposite. I think it's baseballwide. Pitching is too much of a commodity."

As revenue sharing enables smaller-market clubs to retain young pitchers through salary arbitration, and sometimes to buy out years of free agency, the supply of quality free-agent pitchers has been depleted.

The price, accordingly, has gone up. Better to draft and keep your own pitchers than to pay $48 million for Carlos Silva, or $42 million for Jeff Suppan, or $36 million for Oliver Perez -- or, as the Giants' owners would tell you about their moment of weakness, $126million for Barry Zito.

It is a tribute to Tidrow and to Sabean, and to the Giants' baseball people, that they could bench Zito for the playoffs and still win the World Series.

They won with the first entirely homegrown rotation in the Fall Classic in 24 years, one that combined for a postseason ERA of 2.23 against the likes of Ryan Howard, Josh Hamilton, Chase Utley and Vladimir Guerrero. Better yet, they won with a rotation under their contractual control through 2012.

"It'll be nice to have for years to come," manager Bruce Bochy said.

In 2007, the farewell season for Barry Bonds, the Giants finished in last place.

"They were talking about rebuilding," said Wilson, the closer and cult hero, "and here we are three years later, winning the World Series. Props to the management."

The Giants must hope that the glorious postseason run did not exact too heavy a toll on the four core starters.

Sanchez had lost 5 mph on his fastball by the World Series; he pitched 50 more innings this year than last. The workload for Bumgarner jumped by 63 innings, for Cain 27, for Lincecum 22.

Baseball's great untold story is the variety at the top.

The Yankees and Boston Red Sox have appeared in the World Series once apiece in the past six years, the same as the Giants and Texas Rangers, the same as the Colorado Rockies and Tampa Bay Rays and Detroit Tigers, the same as the Chicago White Sox and Houston Astros and St. Louis Cardinals.

History says the Giants won't be back soon.

"Why not?" Ross said. "This team is built around pitching. We've got a lot of young guys who are really good.

"Why not?"

wshaikin@tribune.com

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