Giants are worthy champions

Remember when Cliff Lee was unbeatable? Seems like a vague memory now ...

While Lee matched Tim Lincecum on the scoreboard for the first six innings of Game 6, he wasn't really matching him.

In the second inning, Pat Burrell lined one of Lee's pitches into deep left field (where it was caught).

In the third inning, Freddy Sanchez lined one of Lee's pitches up the middle, and Lee somehow snagged the ball on its way into center field.

In the fourth inning, Buster Posey lined one of Lee's pitches into the right-field corner, just a foot or two foul.

In the sixth inning, Posey lined one of Lee's pitches deep into right-center field, where Nelson Cruz was able to flag it down.

You give up enough line drives, and eventually some of them are going to start falling in for singles and doubles. Which is what happened in the seventh inning, when three Giants hit Lee's pitches hard; one went for a ground-ball single, one for a line-drive single, and one for a fly-ball home run.

And with those three swings -- and particularly the last of them -- Game 5 and the entire World Series felt essentially over. Which it was. Because Lincecum -- as he was in 2008 and 2009, and in April and September of 2010 -- was simply too good to lose.

Yes, the Giants' dominance in this World Series did surprise most of us. But there have been far, far bigger surprises:

  • In 2006, the 83-78 Cardinals beat the 95-67 Tigers in five games.

  • In 2003, the 91-71 Marlins beat the 101-61 Yankees in six games.

  • In 1995, the 90-54 Braves beat the 100-44 Indians in six games.

  • In 1990, the 91-71 Reds beat the 103-59 Athletics in four games.

  • In 1988, the 94-67 Dodgers beat the 104-58 Athletics in five games.

  • In 1974, the 90-72 A's beat the 102-60 Dodgers in five games.

  • In 1969, the 100-62 Mets beat the 109-53 Orioles in five games.

  • And perhaps most famously, in 1954 the 97-57 Giants swept the 111-43 Indians.

  • In most or all of those cases, the eventual winners entered the World Series as big underdogs. In every case, what had come before quickly seemed irrelevant to the proceedings. Sometimes the winners benefited from more than the usual good luck (the '69 Mets come to mind). Sometimes the losers just flat-out beat themselves (the '06 Tigers come to mind). Usually, the winners just flat-out outplayed the losers.

    Which was pretty obviously the case in 2010. In retrospect, the Giants shouldn't have been big underdogs against the Rangers ... and in retrospect, it's not clear that they were big underdogs. While it's true that most of the pundits predicted a Rangers victory, the predictions were mild: Rangers in six games, mostly, or seven. One computer simulation showed the Rangers with a 54 percent chance of winning ... which meant the Giants had a 46 percent chance of winning.

    And it's probably worth mentioning that the Giants actually won more games than the Rangers during the regular season (and finished with a better run differential).

    It's fair to be surprised that the Giants won in five games. Historically, most World Series have lasted longer than five games. It's fair to be slightly surprised that the Giants won the World Series at all, because most of the numbers suggested that the Rangers were the slightly better team.

    Anyone who is shocked by the 2010 World Series hasn't been paying attention, over the years. The Giants were a very good team that played better than another very good team over the course of five games. If they play another five games next week, everything might be different.

    They're not going to play another five games. This one's over. The great majority of Giants fans have never seen their team win a World Series. No Giants fan has seen their team win a World Series since moving to California more than a half-century ago.

    Now they've got one. And as anyone who followed the Royals in '85 or the Twins in '87 or the Reds in '90 or the Cardinals in '06 will tell you, the only thing that matters is getting one. All the rest is details.

    Meanwhile, as a baseball fan (as opposed to a Giants fan), it's really easy to enjoy this team's success. The Giants wear classic uniforms in a beautiful ballpark. Their roster is studded with fascinating players like Tim Lincecum, Pablo Sandoval and Brian Wilson. Their manager was forced to make any number of tough decisions down the stretch and into the postseason, and nearly all of them worked brilliantly.

    This one's for the fans who love the Giants, mostly. But there's plenty left over for the rest of us, too.