The fact that the Giants didn’t repeat as division winners, let alone as World Series champs, is less surprising than the fact they stayed in the race as long as they did.
They were bucking history in trying to repeat as world champions. In more than a century, only two National League teams have repeated: the Cincinnati Reds (1975-76) and the Chicago Cubs (1907-08).
Their own franchise history was against them, too. The last Giants World Series championship came in 1954, when they were still in New York. The next year, they finished third in what was then an eight-team National League, 18½ games out.
It’s easy to pinpoint their main problem this year: injuries.
Some, they could overcome. It was a blessing when Barry Zito went down, and Jonathan Sanchez wasn’t missed because of the emergence of Ryan Vogelsong.
It was impossible, though, to overcome the brutal season-ending injury to Buster Posey, who was not only developing into an outstanding defensive catcher but was the Giants’ best hitter.
Repeated injuries to Andres Torres took away the leadoff hitter who had often started rallies with a stolen base. Second baseman Freddy Sanchez went down early and his replacement, Jeff Keppinger, was not as good as Sanchez — either in the field or at bat.
And losing closer Brian Wilson was a killer. The Giants had no real replacement for Wilson. Without him, they were doomed.
It didn’t help, either, that the front office made some serious miscalculations, mostly by thinking they could repeat the same formula that had won in 2010.
When Juan Uribe bolted for the Los Angeles Dodgers, Brian Sabean signed Miguel Tejada, once a great shortstop but now a mere shadow of that great player. Eventually, Tejada was released after a petulant display when he was called on to bunt a runner along.
But perhaps the biggest proof that 2011 was not 2010 was Aubrey Huff’s play, and the way manager Bruce Bochy stuck with him. Except for a three-season run with Tampa Bay when he was in his athletic prime, Huff has been inconsistent. In 2009, he had been released by first Baltimore, then Detroit because both teams thought he was through. The Giants were the only team to pursue him in the offseason, and they got him for a relative bargain, $3 million for 2010.
Playing for the first time in the National League, where pitchers didn’t know him, Huff prospered.
Sabean signed Huff for two years at $11 million a year. Perhaps because of that contract, Bochy remained loyal to Huff, playing him regularly despite a steep decline in offensive production.
Despite all these problems, the Giants stayed in the race, mostly by winning one-run games with great pitching overcoming a weak defense.
In the end, it was too much and they collapsed in September. The killer was a three-game home series against Arizona at the start of the month. They needed to win at least two of the three but instead lost two of three.
The dream is over, but not for a lack of effort. The Giants can be proud that they fought valiantly against very tough obstacles in their futile attempt to repeat.