For fans that want a reason to tune into this year’s World Series, it’s always fun to root for the underdog, especially the quirky underdog, the band of misfits, castoffs and fresh-faced rookies that are as unconventional and diverse as the city they represent.
The year’s San Francisco Giants have finally shed the reputation of being a one-man show led by the haughty and much-despised Barry Bonds, who last appeared on this biggest national stage while losing the World Series in devastating fashion to the Anaheim Angels in 2002.
Rather than being led by a muscle-bound, steroid-fueled superstar, the 2010 Giants have a scrawny, long-haired pitcher known as “The Freak” who was busted for marijuana possession in the off-season.
But Tim Lincecum, who happens to be the two-time defending Cy Young Award Winner, is only one face on the 25-man roster of misfits and castoffs that General Manager Brian Sabean has cobbled together to form a squad that is now playing like a well-oiled machine.
The roster includes the likes of slugging outfielder Pat “The Bat” Burrell, who was released by the Tampa Bay Rays in May, Aubrey Huff, who has played 11 years in the Majors without ever being on a winning team and who sported a red rally thong this year that helped him break out of a mid-season slump, and ex-rodeo clown-wannabe Cody Ross, the unlikely NLCS MVP who hit two homeruns off presumptive Cy Young favorite Roy Halladay of the Phillies after being claimed off waivers as an afterthought in August.
For fans who are tired of watching their favorite players shuffled from team to team in today’s age of free agency and constant trades, the Giants, unlike the Ranger—whose number one starter Cliff Lee has played on four teams in his career and two this season—feature a home-grown starting pitching staff that also happen to be one of the best in baseball. The Giants’ starting rotation, led by “The Freak” and featuring Matt Cain, the sometimes combustible Jonathan Sanchez, and rookie Madison Bumgardner (whose 21st birthday came just in time for the Giants champagne celebration after becoming NL West Champions), have all played their entire career in San Francisco. The rotation relies on battery-mate and unlikely clean-up hitting catcher Buster Posey, who is also a product of the Giants’ farm system and who, in his only his first full-season in the Majors, has made a strong case for being named National League Rookie of the Year.
In the late innings, fans can turn to cheering for the black-bearded bullpen anchored by pirate-like closer Brian Wilson, whose way of making the ninth inning a nail-biter has given rise to the slogan “Giants Baseball: Torture.”
Both World Series contenders have their own chance at making history, but I don’t need to bash the Rangers to explain why fans should root for the true underdogs in this series. Sports Illustrated has already forecast these scrappy Giants to lose in five games, favoring the Rangers and their tough lineup. But if they can once again overcome predictions—just like they did against the Phillies in the NLCS, and something they did again Wednesday when their supposedly sub-par offense unleashed eleven runs to beat the purportedly unstoppable Cliff Lee in the first game of the Fall Classic—they will make history for the city of San Francisco.
Since the Giants moved west from New York in 1958, they have never won a World Series in San Francisco. The Red Sox finally broke the Curse of the Bambino in 2004, which leaves the Giants and the Cubs as the only long-standing teams that seem to be cursed with coming up short. So, if you want a reason to tune into this World Series, jump on the bandwagon and watch this band of misfits restore hope to its foggy City by the Bay that has never experienced the joy of a World Series title.