NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. -- In an October 25 post on his team-run blog, shortstop Brandon Crawford said he didn't watch the NLCS.
"The World Series starts tonight," Crawford wrote. "I won’t be watching."
Crawford was hardly alone in that respect. Many of the Giants avoided baseball in the weeks after a crushing NLDS loss to the Chicago Cubs. In an interview with CSN Bay Area on Tuesday -- two months after his season ended -- manager Bruce Bochy said the defeat was the "toughest game I’ve ever had to bounce back off of." There's little good that comes in looking back, and yet, the loss will forever be part of the organization's history. You take the bad with the good. It will also be a huge part of Chicago's story about the first title in 108 years.
The Cubs have not forgotten how hard it was to cross the first hurdle. Those close to the team say the potential of having a Game 5 at home is brought up often within the organization. A Cubs executive said Joe Maddon mentioned Johnny Cueto during a front office gathering leading up to the Winter Meetings, saying he is still grateful that he didn't have to face Cueto and Madison Bumgarner in a must-win game at what would have been a nervous Wrigley Field. During his Winter Meetings press conference on Tuesday, Maddon again brought up that thought without being asked.
A reporter asked him what stood out about the World Series as Maddon drove home for the winter. He pivoted to a different round.
"It wasn't that (the World Series), it was Game 4 against San Francisco," Maddon said. "We did not want to see Game 5. I thought facing Cueto in Game 5 would be the most difficult thing we had to do. I thought it was necessary that we won Game 4 in San Francisco to progress as well as we did. I was more focused on that win than anything else."
That won't help much for a Giants organization still feeling the sting of a blown three-run lead. To a man, from team executives to scouts to coaches to players, the Giants are sure that they would have won in Chicago with Cueto and Bumgarner throwing every pitch. Vice president of baseball operations Brian Sabean confirmed Wednesday that Bumgarner was ready to reprise the role he played in Game 7 of the World Series two years ago.
"Everything at that point was 'the kitchen sink' and we've seen Boch operate under those circumstances and we've seen our players step up," Sabean said.
The Giants always intended on pursuing Mark Melancon -- they tried at the trade deadline and came up short -- but the Game 4 collapse was the final straw. It became 100 percent clear that there was no other way forward. The Giants could not rely on in-house options or a second-tier free agent. Melancon signed a four-year, $62 million deal on Monday that the Giants hope will prevent another first-round exit.
"It became pretty obvious to the ball club, obviously, and moreso our fan base," Sabean said. "It was our greatest need and a huge move ... You have to win the games you're supposed to win."