With the decade coming to a close (can you believe it's already been ten years since Mays Field opened? Scary), I thought I'd go through and rank each Giant team of the decade. The aughts were split into sort of two parts. The first half was the power years of the Bonds/Kent glory era, featuring a near-miss World Series appearance and a buttload of hitting. The second half was a more depressing slide into sub-mediocrity, as Brian Sabean tried his best to run the team into the ground in a sea of gawdawful veteran free agent signings.
Despite the losing in the latter half of the decade, I think we can all agree that it was a pretty fun ten years, featuring six winning seasons against four losers. That's nothing to complain about. Just ask any Pirates fan if they'd accept that level of success. With no more need for useless banter, let's start the ranking, from worst to first.
10. 2007 Giants (71-91)
Without a doubt the worst, most unwatchable team the Giants trotted out all decade, and probably the most uninspiring since the horrible 1996 squad. This team was the result of several years' worth of poor front office decisions and an offseason free agent spending spree that degenerated into a smoldering pile of WTF. Barry Bonds's home run record and Tim Lincecum's debut were the only reasons to watch, but even then, it was pretty hard to take. I think the point of the season where it became clear how bad it had gotten was at a game I attended where the team got shut out 1-0 by Lenny freaking DiNardo.
9. 2005 Giants (75-87)
What would the Giants ever do if Barry Bonds got hurt? Well, we found out the hard way when he missed almost all of the season, and Pedro Feliz had to take his place in left field. The answer was: lose a lot of ball games. Due to a horrible NL West, they inexplicably stayed in the race until the last week of the season, but they had no business sniffing the playoffs. Two miserable free agent signings (Armando Benitez and Mike Matheny), a bad year from Jason Schmidt, and several veterans falling off a cliff mixed together to provide one hell of a bad, boring team.
8. 2006 Giants (76-85)
They barely edge the '05 squad just because Bonds was around to provide a modicum of respectability, but they were still pretty terrible. A midseason winning streak led to an ill-advised trade for Shea "Why In Blue Hell Do People Think I'm Good?" Hillenbrand, and it was all downhill from there. Ray Durham's monster year and Schmidt's semi-return to form made things a little more watchable, though we had to sit through a full season of Matt Morris and Armando Benitez, which is no one's idea of a good time.
7. 2008 Giants (72-90)
It was a season that started off with a series of Bocockian question marks and ended with everybody on their feet at Mays Field, eagerly looking forward to the next season. Their record was worse than the '05 or '06 versions, but they rank higher because management was finally letting some young guys play and they ended the season on a high note, nicely foreshadowing the 2009 resurgence. Oh, and there was Tim Lincecum mowing batters down left and right, winning his first Cy Young and single-handedly making this team entertaining.
6. 2009 Giants (88-74)
It was a fun, inspiring season, but this squad was clearly the worst of the winning Giants teams, simply because they couldn't freaking hit. An insanely good pitching staff and defense led the team to a surprising run to 88 wins, albeit peppered with more than its fair share of emotionally devastating losses (dare I bring up that game in Colorado?). All I have to say about next year is: beware the Plexiglass Principle
5. 2001 Giants (90-72)
You know your supporting cast sucks when you get historic performances from your left fielder and shortstop, and another All-Star-caliber year from your second baseman, and you still don't have enough offense to make the playoffs. This was probably the most underachieving Giants team I've ever seen. Black holes at center field, right field, catcher, third base, and first base, not to mention Livan Hernandez imploding in on himself, combined to sink a team that, talent-wise, really had no business missing October.
4. 2004 Giants (91-71)
A fun team that would just make you tear your hair out. The last Giants squad that could actually plate runs, they were an offensive machine with an ace pitcher and no bullpen to speak of. With even an average bully, this team would have blown by the Dodgers to win the NL West. Even with that carnage ensuing, the team still pushed the Dodgers into the last weekend of the season, before Wayne Franklin's last night on earth
sank things for good.
This season is especially memorable for me since, in my need to vent after watching the Giants crap the season away, I was inspired to start this blog the following offseason. It was just a weird year, starting with the acquisition of A.J. Pierzynski, then one of my favorite players, and a guy who I was thrilled was going to be on the team (it obviously didn't end well). The Giants got off to a miserable start, but then hit a hot streak, touched off by a Jeff Weaver bitch-fest, and rolled into a classic rivalry race with LA. It was up and down until the devastating final weekend of the season. Oh, and we had to tolerate 319 Neifi Perez at-bats. Can't forget to mention that.
3. 2003 Giants (100-61)
A wire-to-wire, 100-win season, and it was just a crying shame that it ended with J.T. Snow sucking dirt as Pudge Rodriguez bellowed in triumph behind him. They weren't as good as their record indicated, which perhaps says something about Felipe Alou's managerial qualities, or maybe just dumb luck.
Looking at it now, this isn't a team that looks like they had any business winning 100 games. They had a superstar hitter in Bonds, and a supporting cast that could hardly be called world-beating. They had a stud ace pitcher in Schmidt, but the rest of the rotation was spotty and they had to bring in Sir Wide Load to bolster the staff for the playoffs. They essentially relied on a good bullpen, a terrific defense, two superstars, and some timely breaks (remember Jose Cruz's catch in this game
?). Not a bad formula, but they were maybe the most vanilla 100-win team you'll ever see.
2. 2000 Giants (97-65)
Probably the most disappointing Giants team in memory. I mean, this team was good. They got off to a miserable start, but once the All-Star Break hit they started destroying everybody. Their pitching was solid, anchored by ace Livan Hernandez (yeah, you read that right), but it was the offense that carried them. Oh, that offense.
I seriously start to go gaga when I even start thinking about this team's ability to flat out hit the living shit out of the ball. I mean...look at this
. Not only did they lead the league in OPS+, they absolutely lapped the field. No one could touch this offense. The lineup
was a veritable Murderer's Row, filled with guys who bashed homers, took walks, and did just about everything you want in order to produce runs. With the paltry offense we have now, I look back at this with a nostalgic tear dripping down my cheek. God, look at Ellis Burks's batting line, then remember that he did this when Mays Field was playing like a pitcher's haven. That's insane.
Of course, once the playoffs hit, they forgot how to hit and Bobby Jones basically made them his bitch. Fans of other teams, you have no idea how embarrassing it is to type that. J.T. Snow's dramatic home run off of future Giant pariah Benitez made it look like the year was going to be magical, but instead it ended in a crumpled heap, much like Shawn Estes in Game Two. Just a friggin' tragedy.
1. 2002 Giants (95-66)
This team would garner the top spot simply because they came so close to the championship but, really, they were the best team in the NL that year. They were third in the league in ERA+ and first in OPS+ (it wasn't close), and they had a rock-solid defense, bolstered by some astute offseason moves by Sabean. Their Pythagorean record showed them to be a 98-win team (they won 95 in reality), and they had to fight in an extremely tough division. They proved their might by smoking through the Braves and Cardinals and then nearly beating a red-hot Angel team. All I have to say is...Damn you, Sandfrog