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Jeff Blair

Pitching, defence, timely hitting – the Giants were just too multidimensional Add to ...

They were still cleaning up the streets of San Francisco Monday morning when baseball’s off-season business had begun.

No fewer than 137 players filed for free agency, options were picked up, and Toronto Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos woke up with the knowledge that the World Series no longer gave him any cover for his manager hunt. He probably shouted “Let’s go Raptors!” because with no NHL to panic about, something or someone will have to drive the sports dialogue in this starved city.

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So, meet Alex Anthopoulos, biggest fan of Jonas Valanciunas.

That’s pretty much the way life goes in the major leagues. The grave containing Prince Fielder’s reputation is still fresh, Miguel Cabrera has barely taken that bat off his Triple Crown shoulders after freezing on a hittable fastball to end Game 4, and already baseball people are keeping on keeping on.

Seems as if there’s little time to digest what happened in the San Francisco Giants’ World Series sweep over the Detroit Tigers, which is a shame because with two World Series championships in three years, they have become the dominant team of the poststeroid era.

Yes, it’s a flawed description of the period, because for most skeptics, “poststeroid era” is polite speak for “They’ve probably just found something better.” And yes, the Giants did lose Melky Cabrera to a failed drug test.

But here’s the thing: In winning once again with a team that doesn’t hit homers but relies on pitching, defence and timely hitting, it’s wrong to call it small-ball. Doubles and triples aren’t small-ball.

While operating on a prudent budget, manager Bruce Bochy’s team has set a standard.

There will be a rush to say it’s a template, but the nature of the Giants’ World Series wins suggests it might be something unique to Bochy.

No, the real cautionary tale involves the Tigers, a one-dimensional offensive team that was easy to pitch to after it had been advance scouted for a couple of weeks. It wasn’t until the fourth game that Tigers manager Jim Leyland put a runner in motion, and in a startling admission, he told Fox’s broadcast crew in a pregame meeting that what the baseball world was seeing in the World Series was why the Tigers won 88 games instead of 95.

Is there any reason to think the Giants won’t be a factor again in 2013?

It all depends on Tim Lincecum. It’s nice that he took to his bullpen role in the postseason, but he’ll need to find the missing five or six miles per hour off what used to be a Cy Young Award-winning fastball if he is to become a dominant starter again.

At any rate, the Giants have pitching depth, a certifiable star in Buster Posey, and a bunch of useful pieces that would seem to require one more core offensive player, possibly a corner outfielder. Possibly Cabrera, who was left off the playoff roster but might be welcomed back if he gets down on bended knee and takes a discounted first-year contract loaded with options. And they have Bochy, who on balance must now be considered the best manager in the game, no?

The Giants are sustainable because of the excellence of their manager and shrewdness of general manager Brian Sabean and an ownership group that gives him just enough wiggle room, but not a penny more.

The Tigers have questions: Leyland might shoulder the blame for his club’s puzzling lackadaisical approach; Phil Coke might not be effective enough against right-handed hitters to be a lights-out closer; and Fielder will spend the early portion of next season asking uncomfortable questions about his World Series no-show.

But the Tigers should be as good if not better next season, with Victor Martinez healthy and owner Mike Ilitch a year older and perhaps more motivated to spend. Josh Hamilton, anyone?

 

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