The 2014 baseball season ended Wednesday night. The Kansas City Royals fell 90-feet short in ending one of Major League Baseball’s most historic postseason (or was it the Yostseason?) runs with a a victory. That being said, the Royals earned the respect and admiration of the nation, and although ratings were down overall for the World Series, those who watched were taken on an amazing ride.
At the same very moment, in the other dugout, baseball fans were in fact treated to history. We watched the culmination of the best overall individual pitching performance in a seven-game series. We also watched the official birth of a dynasty. I think. Wait, did we?
The one thing that can’t be denied is that Game 7 turned Madison Bumgarner from a man to a baseball god. Bumgarner is no longer just one of the game’s best pitchers. He is a legend. As a Yankees fan, I have seen how important the dominance of an individual pitcher is in 2001 when Curt Schilling and Randy Johnson seemingly pitched every inning. But after watching what Bumgarner did, I can only imagine the Big Unit and the Bloody Sock were drooling at how their superhuman performances in that World Series were suddenly made mortal.
The numbers speak for themselves. Bumgarner hurled 21 innings (14 of which came TWO GAMES APART), and allowed one run. ONE RUN! In the 42 innings that Bumgarner wasn’t on the mound, the Royals scored 26 runs and won three games. That performance was clutch, and it merited the Chevy Guy presenting him with a new truck that has the top new technology and stuff.
When Bumgarner threw his final pitch and Pablo Sandoval reeled in the foul pop, the San Francisco Giants won their third World Series in five years. Does that make them a dynasty? Maybe the better question is what makes a team a dynasty?
Defining a team as a dynasty seems very subjective. What there is no denying is that a sports dynasty is a team that dominates their sport for quite a bit of time. Dominates is also a subjective term. Take for example, the Buffalo Bills. I am quite certain no one has ever considered the early-1990s Bills a dynasty, but in reality, this is a team that went to the Super Bowl for FOUR STRAIGHT YEARS. You know who else has done that? No one. It doesn’t seem fair. Players like John Stockton and Karl Malone are still legends despite never winning a championship, yet the Bills are an after thought simply because the dominated the AFC for four years, but never took home the Vince Lombardi trophy. So, there. We have come up with one stipulation, with no trophies, there’s no dynasty.
Do you need consecutive wins to be considered a dynasty? There is no question that the San Antonio Spurs are the most recent dynasty. 17 straight playoff appearances, 11 division championships, 6 Western Conference titles and one championship to put a ring on each finger of Tim Duncan’s right hand. But they never won back-to-back championships. Much like the Giants, they had a five-year run in which they won every other year. So, there is clarification number two, championships do not need to be back-to-back.
I think a big factor is how you win the championships. You can’t be a Miami Marlins of Florida-type team and buy a championship and then sell off all of your players the following offseason as if they were Beanie Babies on eBay (do people still use eBay? Even better, do Beanie Babies even exist?). Look at the aforementioned Spurs. Look at the late-90s New York Yankees. They rose to dominance amongst the beloved Core Four – four guys drafted by the Yankees and played together for almost 20 years taking home five championships together. Well, the Giants certainly meet that criteria. Buster Posey, Pablo Sandoval, Tim Lincecum, Jeremy Affeldt, Sergio Romo, Santiago Casilla, Javier Lopez, Matt Cain and the now-baseball deity Madison Bumgarner have won all three rings together. Throw in Bruce Bochy and Dave Righetti as a combo of two of the best coaches in the business and you have all of the makings of a dynasty.
Except one thing. The Giants were non-factors in the years between. The first year defending their crown (2011) they finished a respectable 86-76 good for second place in the NL West, but not relevant enough to make the playoffs. The second time defending their crown (2013), they were terrible. They finished 76-86, tied for third with the lowly San Diego Padres and very far removed from the playoff picture. So they can’t be a dynasty.
But wait! The Big Red Machine of the early 1970s are considered one of the top dynasties in the history of sport. The Cincinnati Reds made the World Series three times from 1971 to 1976, winning back-to-backers in ’75 and ’76. Here’s the thing. They missed the playoffs in 1974. Of course that ’74 squad finished 98-64. They were seven games better than the other three playoff teams that made it and four games behind the Los Angeles Dodgers who won the then-NL West. This was a time when there were only four divisions and only the winners made the playoffs. There were no wild-cards and it wasn’t like now where every one makes the playoffs at least for a game and even if you don’t we’ll give you a trophy for trying! The difference between that Reds team and the Giants’ teams that missed the playoffs is that those Reds would have won the World Series if they got their shot.
So where does that leaves us, folks? Are the Giants a dynasty or not? I think they need to break the trend in 2015 and return to the playoffs. Winning a whole bunch of titles in a short period of time does not solely constitute a dynasty. That’s why many sports experts don’t consider the early-2000s Patriots a “dynasty” (well, that and Spygate!). No, what makes a dynasty is consistent domination, and these Giants have not yet shown that. Are they great? Absolutely, and truthfully they are a mere inches from immortality. Make the playoffs next season, Giants from the Bay, and then we’re talking dynasty. Until then, congratulations on another amazing run.
So… what do you think? Dynasty or no?