With their 3-2 victory over the Kansas City Royals on Wednesday night, the San Francisco Giants have now won three World Series titles in the last five years and established themselves as the latest dynasty in American sports.
The Giants became the first team since the 1979 Pittsburgh Pirates to win Game 7 of a World Series on the road, defeating the Royals before a raucous Kauffman Stadium crowd of 40,535 that had waited 29 agonizing years to see its team compete in the postseason once again.
Kansas City’s magical Cinderella run through the playoffs was truly remarkable and earned the team supporters throughout the country, and Royals fans now should be extremely excited about the future of the franchise. However, this October belonged to San Francisco and its ace, Madison Bumgarner.
It’s almost impossible to overstate just how spectacular Bumgarner was during this postseason. He posted a 4-1 record to go along with 45 strikeouts, a 1.03 ERA and two complete-game shutouts. Bumgarner also recorded the longest save in World Series history by tossing five shutout innings on two days’ rest to clinch the championship in Game 7. He was named MVP of both the NLCS and World Series, and his 52.2 innings pitched were the most by any pitcher in a single postseason.
Curt Schilling, regarded by many as one of the greatest playoff pitchers in MLB history, even took to Twitter to share his thoughts on where Bumgarner’s performance in this year’s postseason ranks all-time.
Best post season performance ever #amazing
— Curt Schilling (@gehrig38) October 30, 2014
It’s certainly not a stretch to say that Bumgarner’s 2014 postseason was the best in baseball history, and it definitely is fair to say that the Giants might not have won the World Series without him.
In the World Series, San Francisco starting pitchers not named “Madison Bumgarner” allowed 18 runs in just 16.1 innings pitched, an ERA of 9.92. Bumgarner has already staked his claim to being one of the best postseason pitchers that baseball has ever seen, posting a 7-3 record and a 2.14 ERA in 14 appearances. In the World Series, he has a ridiculous 0.25 ERA, giving up just a single run in 36 innings pitched.
Of course, the Giants haven’t built a dynasty and didn’t win the World Series this season because of just one player.
Travis Ishikawa’s walk-0ff home run in Game 5 of the NLCS will forever live in baseball lore, Pablo Sandoval batted .366 during the postseason and continued to show his flair for the dramatic, the quirky Hunter Pence hit .333 with one home run and eight RBIs, Joe Panik helped turn a crucial double play to keep the game tied in the third inning of Game 7 and reliever Jeremy Affeldt was the unsung hero of the playoffs as he threw a total of 11.2 innings while allowing no runs.
Even Buster Posey, who didn’t record a single extra-base hit during the postseason, remained an integral piece of the team’s success with his game-calling and defense behind the plate, holding the speedy Royals to just one stolen base during the series.
There’s also the man that is the glue that holds everything together, manager Bruce Bochy, who almost certainly punched his ticket to Cooperstown with last night’s win. Bochy has yet to lose a playoff series with the Giants, and his penchant for pulling the right levers at just the right time is unparalleled. His career .502 regular-season winning percentage might not jump out at you, but there isn’t a manager in the game today that you’d rather have in the dugout when the calendar turns to October.
Of course, longtime general manager Brian Sabean, who has been the subject of plenty of criticism during his tenure, deserves a ton of credit for assembling a team that has won three championships in five years. After winning the World Series in both 2010 and 2012, the Giants missed out on the playoffs the following year. Whether or not they can buck that trend in 2015 remains to be seen, but it’s hard to imagine that they won’t be contending for the postseason each year for the foreseeable future.
Bumgarner and Posey are arguably the best pitcher-catcher combination in baseball, and both are similar in their business-like approach to the game. As long as they are Giants, the team will have an incredible foundation to build upon.
Therefore, it was only fitting that perhaps the most lasting image from Wednesday night will be their celebration after the final out, where Bumgarner told an uncharacteristically emotional Posey that he loved him as they shared perhaps the most iconic Buster Hug yet.
The only thing that remains to be seen is whether or not this image will go down as the moment a dynasty reached its peak, or a stepping stone to even greater success.
If I had to guess, I’d bet on the latter.