It was a year marked with injuries and suspensions for the Giants — and big moves by the archrival Los Angeles Dodgers. The Orange and Black rallied to win the NL West anyway, but their postseason looked like it would be cut short as they dropped their first two NL Division Series games to the Cincinnati Reds.
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The Giants came back to win three in a row, then did so again when they fell behind 3-1 to the St. Louis Cardinals in the NL Championship Series. By the time the Giants reached the World Series, momentum was on their side, powering them to a clean sweep of the Detroit Tigers for their second championship in three years as Pablo Sandoval was named World Series MVP.
2. 49ers back in the postseason
Under new coach Jim Harbaugh, the 49ers made a return to the playoffs in January and defeated the New Orleans Saints for their first playoff win since 2002. While they fell to the New York Giants in the NFC Championship Game, the team looks poised for another playoff run after Colin Kaepernick replaced Alex Smith under center for the Red and Gold this season.
3. Stanford and Cal athletes strike gold at Olympics in London
The Bay Area’s biggest college sports programs sent nearly 100 athletes to the London Olympics this summer. Stanford alumna Kerri Walsh-Jennings led the way, dominating beach volleyball alongside Misty May-Treanor for their third Olympic gold medal. Cal and Stanford laid claim to 16 medals each, including 12 gold medals for the Cardinal and 11 for the Golden Bears.
Giants catcher Buster Posey was lucky to be back on the field after a horrific injury ended his 2011 season, but the young star showed no signs of slowing down in 2012. After a streaky start to the season, his bat came to life in the second half as he won the NL batting title (.336) and took home Comeback Player of the Year and MVP honors.
5. A’s shock the West
The AL West seemed like a battle between the Texas Rangers and Los Angeles Angels for much of the season, but the A’s, fueled by their usual makeup of rookies and castoffs, made their move late, culminating in a three-game sweep of Texas to claim the division title before falling to the Detroit Tigers in the playoffs. Manager Bob Melvin earned AL Manager of the Year honors.
6. Golf greats visit The City
San Francisco’s Olympic Club played host to the U.S. Open for the first time since 1998 and the fifth time overall, drawing the world’s top golfers to the City by the Bay. After a rocky start, Webb Simpson shot a pair of 68s over the last two days to close out his first major championship win.
7. End of the Ellis era
The Warriors’ new owners promised to shake things up when they took over, and their first big splash was trading fan favorite Monta Ellis to the Milwaukee Bucks in a deal that brought Andrew Bogut to Golden State. Shortly after, owner Joe Lacob was booed loudly during a halftime speech. Bogut has since played only four games for the Warriors, but they are off to a hot start as the new year approaches.
8. Tedford loses winning touch, gets the boot
After Cal lost its final five games of the season, finishing 2-5 in its first year at the newly remodeled Memorial Stadium, coach Jeff Tedford was dismissed after 11 seasons. Tedford won a school-record 82 games with the Golden Bears after turning around a program that had won only one game in 2001, the year before he arrived. Sonny Dykes was hired from Louisiana Tech to take his place.
9. Lucky No. 1 leaves Farm
After a disappointing overtime loss to Oklahoma State in the Fiesta Bowl, Stanford’s Andrew Luck capped a stellar college career by getting picked first overall in the NFL draft by the Indianapolis Colts — who have morphed into a playoff team under his guidance. The Cardinal will try for a better bowl game result without Luck as they face Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl on New Year’s Day.
10. Boats on the Bay
With two events in 2012, the America’s Cup World Series came to San Francisco for the first time in its long history. Oracle Team USA spoke glowingly about the support of the crowd as the San Francisco-based defending champions swept events in August and October and The City prepares to host the main event in 2013.
One to forget: Performance-enhancing drugs put stars on hold
On back-to-back weeks, the Bay Area baseball scene was rocked by big-name stars being busted for performance-enhancing drugs. First, Giants All-Star left fielder Melky Cabrera was popped for 50 games while leading the NL in batting average. We later learned of a complex cover-up attempt by Cabrera and his handlers involving a fake website. In the end, it didn’t slow down the Giants, and Cabrera signed with the Toronto Blue Jays in the offseason. A’s veteran right-hander Bartolo Colon got caught the following week. But unlike Cabrera, Colon will wear Green and Gold again after up signing a one-year deal in the offseason.