It's impossible to replicate last year's Giants magic

This spring will be much different from any other in San Francisco and not just because The City is doing its best Seattle imitation these days.

It will take a lot more than steady rain to wash away the memories of the recent baseball season, which should make the upcoming one an unusual if much-anticipated test for Giants fans.

Should we anticipate winning? Sure. Can we expect another playoff run? Maybe. Will it be like the miracle of 2010? Are you crazy?

As much as Bay Area baseball fans would love a repeat of a glorious October stretch, there will never be another season to match last year’s magical World Series championship — even if the Giants manage somehow to repeat.

For starters, no one — from the top club executives to the most casual fans to the players themselves — expected it to happen. They may have all wanted it and driven hard for it, but reality says it took a lengthy dive by the San Diego Padres and a remarkable stretch by the Giants just to make the National League Division Series last year.

The late push was like an extended playoff, and no team was more equipped to handle the tough games through three postseason series than the Giants, who used their top-flight pitching, some tight defense, and clutch hitting to run the table.

Of course, they had a collection of veteran players and young stars to carry them to the finish — some added in mid and late-season trades — a few of which have already packed up and left for other teams.

Plus, the beard, the rally thong and the Freak are all still here, but the combination was more of a playoff formula than a full-season fight song. At the rate Brian Wilson’s facial hair is growing, he might need a tie-clip before he takes the mound by late summer.

And as if you needed another reason to know that things will never be quite the same, there’s the upcoming reality TV series, “The Franchise,” which doesn’t come with surprise teams. The trailer is already out and hokey doesn’t adequately describe it. It’s fawning and predictable and puts Wilson front and center as the team’s clubhouse comedian.

But it also points to one thing (again and again): The Giants are starting out on top. Kind of scary for anyone who sat through, oh, 54 years without a World Series ring.

All you have to do is remember how long the team promoted itself through the never-ending journey of the World Series trophy, which seemed to show up in just about every city in Northern California during the past few months.

The orange and black merchandising has been nothing but green since the Giants roared through the playoffs. Forbes.com estimated that the organization realized a 16 percent hike in value due to its winning ways last fall and the franchise is now worth an estimated $563 million. Ticket sales are off the charts. If the Giants don’t unload the bloated contracts of Barry Zito and Aaron Rowand before the season starts, it’s only because the team can now afford them.

The World Series win was such a dramatic turn for the club that officials are still doing victory laps, helped mightily by the fact that most observers are saying the Philadelphia Phillies — with the best pitching staff money can buy — are the favorites to win the National League. Usually that’s an opinion held by the returning champs, so some of the pressure is off.

Or is it? Deep down, the fans are quietly hoping for another magical march, even if it doesn’t go down to the wire. The Giants will be considered front-runners for the West Division, so anything less will be considered a disappointment.

Yet after going five decades without a crown, management also knows it will get an intentional pass if the team doesn’t repeat. Hey, it’s baseball — even the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox don’t win every year.

But secretly, fans are anxious about the season. Will they be one-time wonders, or still the greatest collection of rag-tags to ever be known for their hair and mettle?

There’s a fair amount of fear. But it’s different this season.

Bay Area NewsGiantsNews ColumnistsSan Francisco

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