Giants

Giants of this decade: What it was like covering 2012, 2014 title runs

Giants of this decade: What it was like covering 2012, 2014 title runs

At some point, I realized I didn't really remember two weeks of 2012. 

The 2012 Giants team was the first I covered as a beat writer, and when that magical run was over, people often asked me what I did once I got back from Detroit. I couldn't really tell them. I covered the parade, and after that I don't really remember anything about my life until about Thanksgiving.

I know I got really sick for a few days. I think I probably slept 14 hours a night. I can guess that I probably ordered a lot of Mexican food and watched Fast and the Furious sequels on TBS, but I don't really know. 

The postseason is unbelievably draining physically and mentally for players. For reporters, it's simply a blur, a daily battle to get to a new city, make all the media availabilities, cancel that flight to Chicago you no longer need, get one of the chicken pesto sandwich boxes before your fellow reporters eat them all, and try to catch a few hours of sleep when you can.

It's a grind, which is probably why the Chronicle's Henry Schulman gave me some good advice when the Giants were about to clinch in 2012: "Take a day or two off after they clinch, because you never know how long this will last." 

I didn't listen.

I was young and dumb and full of energy, and to be honest I never thought I would be standing there in Detroit on Oct. 28. That probably explains why my brain shut down in November. 

So what did I do after covering my first title team? I have no idea. But I do remember everything the Giants did during the latter two title runs, and when I was asked to write about the decade the franchise just had, these are memories that came flooding back ... 

Cincinnati 

In the spring of 2013, I was sitting in the dugout with a veteran Giant and I asked him what he really thought was going to happen as Sergio Romo and Jay Bruce had an epic 11-pitch at-bat. Romo had told reporters that he got through that moment in part by looking around and seeing the confidence his teammates had in him. The player laughed.

"To be honest," he said. "I thought Bruce was going to hit it in the f------ river."

That was the thing about Romo, though. He'll never get enough credit for what a remarkable career he's had. In-person, it's amazing how slight he is, and it shouldn't make sense that a right-hander with that kind of velocity was staring down the Reds and later closing out a World Series. But he had that slider, and as Johnny Cueto would say, he always had the coconuts.

St. Louis

I still have no idea how Barry Zito did it.

There were a lot of stunning moments during those Octobers, but Game 5 of the 2012 NLCS is at the top for me. That spring, I hung around Scottsdale Stadium as camp broke and watched Zito throw an emergency bullpen session in front of Dave Righetti, who was wearing a suit and standing in the dirt in his dress shoes because the flight home was about to take off. 

Zito was completely lost. He would have lost his rotation spot if Eric Surkamp had stayed healthy. And seven months later he's keeping the Giants alive? 

I have no idea how that happened, but when I think back to the 2012 NLCS, I'm always reminded of the fourth game of that season. Zito was in the rotation because the Giants didn't have another option, but in his first start, he went out and threw a shutout at Coors Field. Afterward, a team official told Bruce Bochy the media was ready for him. 

"They are? I figured they had all passed out," Bochy cracked. 

It was probably at that point that we should have known 2012 would be special. 

Detroit

It's a mess when a team wins a World Series. The clubhouse is full of players, coaches, MLB officials, family, friends, and dozens of reporters and cameras. In the middle of it all, I found an emotional Brian Sabean leaning up against a hallway wall. He looked spent. His eyes were red and there was a drink in his hand. But his message was clear.

"He's a Hall of Fame manager," Sabean said of Bochy. "Enough said."

Pittsburgh

I'll never forget how quiet it got. PNC Park was absolutely rocking, but by the time Brandon Crawford rounded second base, all you could hear was the players cheering in the visiting dugout and their wives screaming a few rows back. It was like someone hit the mute button on an entire city.

Washington D.C. 

It was so cold in the Nationals Park press box that reporters were gathering in the bathroom between innings because that was the only spot with a heater. Sometime around the 14th inning, Andrew Baggarly turned on the hot dog roller in the press box dining room and the two of us warmed our hands with it before heading back to our seats to write. 

So thank you, Brandon Belt, for ending Game 2 when you did. 

That blast should have ended the Belt Wars, but some fans will never give Belt, who came back from a concussion to play in that postseason, his proper credit. An hour after that 18th inning, I found Belt standing with his family near a truck that was loading up the Giants' bags.

"I'm delirious," he said, smiling. "I'm just trying to soak it all in."

St. Louis

One of the coolest parts about covering the postseason is that reporters are let down onto the field during the trophy ceremonies, and those are some of my favorite interviews. I got to talk to Marco Scutaro a few minutes after the rain came, and Travis Ishikawa about 15 minutes after he became a legend. 

That's not what I remember about covering the Ishikawa Game, though. I'll never forget standing on the infield with a couple of other beat writers and asking Jake Peavy, "What were you thinking?!?" Peavy started laughing and explained his role in amazing detail:

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Kansas City

No Giants fan will ever forget what Madison Bumgarner did, and I don't think we'll ever see something close to that again. But when I was told I needed to write a personal piece about the last decade, I didn't immediately think of Bumgarner or Bochy or Ishikawa.

My first thought was of Matt Duffy.

Duffy was a rookie in 2014 and got just six at-bats during that title run, but as national reporters descended on the Giants, I found myself talking to the 23-year-old infielder before just about every game. When the Giants came out to stretch and take BP, Duffy always had the biggest smile on his face. Before Game 7, I was standing on the field when Duffy walked up and took it all in. He pretty much summed up the decade with just four words.

"How cool is this?" he said. 

Zac Efron reveals epic Dusty Baker autograph story as young Giants fan

Zac Efron reveals epic Dusty Baker autograph story as young Giants fan

When he was the Giants' manager, Dusty Baker might not have known it at one particular moment, but he was signing a ball for someone who would one day be one of the most well-known actors in Hollywood.

All he knew was a young kid with bleached hair wanted his autograph. That fan was Zac Efron.

Efron, a long-time Giants fan, recently told a story about his encounter with Baker on an episode of "Hot Ones."

Without skipping a beat, Efron talked about a special baseball he has that was signed by the former skipper. But there was a fun story behind it. 

"He drove by, and he was on a motorcycle, so he didn't have a window he could roll up," Efron said. "I ran up to him with a baseball, and I was like 'Will you sign this?' I had a blue pen and the sweet spot of a brand-new ball, and I showed it to him, and Dusty was like 'Ah, I can't right now, I gotta go to church.'"

Efron said after hearing that response, he assumed that just meant Baker didn't have time to sign the ball but said he would be back in 30 minutes.

Baker left. Efron was sure the three-time Manager of the Year wouldn't return, but the motorcycle and Baker returned 45 minutes later.

"I was like 'No way!' And he literally pointed right at me, and was like, 'Come over here.'"

The "High School Musical," star got his autograph. It meant a lot to him with Baker making a special trip to come back and get him that signature. And I'm sure the motorcycle was a nice extra touch. 

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"It was really cool," Efron said of the event. 

Baker was the Giants manager for a decade from 1993-02 and finished with an 840-715 record. He's now managing the Houston Astros.

Giants release several veterans, including lefty reliever Jerry Blevins

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AP

Giants release several veterans, including lefty reliever Jerry Blevins

Major League Baseball put a freeze on transactions when an agreement was reached between MLB and the Players Association, but before that happened the Giants reportedly released several veterans, including one who came to camp with a decent shot at winning a job. 

Left-hander Jerry Blevins was one of 17 players released by the organization between March 1 and April 1, according to Baseball America. Blevins, who has pitched in the big leagues for 13 seasons, had allowed nine earned runs in 3 2/3 Cactus League innings before baseball went on break because of COVID-19. He entered camp with a shot at winning a job as a lefty in the bullpen, but the Giants got dominant spring performances from Wandy Peralta and Jarlin Garcia, who should join Tony Watson whenever the season resumes. 

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The Giants also released right-hander Matt Carasiti, who was throwing well in camp before his elbow flared up, leading to Tommy John surgery. Rehabbing pitchers often re-sign with the team on a different contract, although it's unclear if the plan is for Carasiti to do that. Brandon Guyer also stood out on the list. The veteran was signed as a depth outfielder who can hit lefties well, although he was not in big league camp. 

The others released were right-handers Jamie Callahan, Israel Cruz, Dylan Davis, Logan Harasta, Trevor Horn, Andy Rohloff and Ben Strahm; lefty Deiyerbert Bolivar; catcher Chris Corbett; second baseman Kyle McPherson; and outfielders Gio Brusa, Mikey Edie, Jose Layer and Randy Norris. Brusa. 

Blevins and Carasiti were the only players on the list who were in big league camp.