It seems like only yesterday when Canadians were running wildly around the streets of Vancouver screaming hysterically and climbing up street signs in order to get above the shaking ground. 

The city had just experienced its first major earthquake in over 64 years. The epicenter was located about 800 miles south of the border in a small American city where 90 percent of the population stood watching their television screens with wobbling knees.

Brian Wilson zinged a fastball past Nelson Cruz for the final out of the World Series, and Giants fans screamed and stampeded the streets of San Francisco with such ferocity that even their neighbors to the north knew who was now the best team on the planet.

For a night, there was nothing else that mattered in the hearts and minds of Bay Area sports fans who longed to see a World Series celebration take place in their jeweled city by the bay.

It would be nice to see the same thing happen again without having to wait another 50 years. The Red Sox waited all of three years after 2004, and they did it convincingly by sweeping a very good Colorado Rockies team in the World Series.

No longer could the casual baseball fan equate their amazing 3-0 series comeback against their arch rival New York Yankees to a good episode of Two and a Half Men, because they proved that even with the decline of tenured players like Manny Ramirez, David Ortiz and Curt Schilling, they had a team good enough to be winning championships long after Charlie Sheen passes a sobriety test.

After doing the improbable last season, the Giants seem focused in on another championship run. Normally, this is the time of year when Giants fans throw chairs across the room every time Brian Sabean signs a washed-up athlete to a ridiculously absurd contract.

The worst thing I did after hearing that Miguel Tejada signed a one-year $6 million deal was peel off the scab that my girlfriend gave me the week before.


Most of us have grown accustomed to Brian’s habit of picking up players at National League yard sales. With the results that it produced last year, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Giants try replacing Cody Ross in left field with a two-legged chair, a turntable and a used game of Monopoly.

But this offseason has given Giants fans a reason to hope, as the franchise has retained most of the key players on their championship roster sans Juan Uribe and Edgar Renteria (who’ll probably be telling his kids that his three-run homer off Cliff Lee in Game 5 was the last at-bat in his career before he flew to Cincinnati to take a job as Dusty Baker’s locker room therapist).          

There were a few players at the top of my wish list that I projected would turn the Giants into a 110-win team, but as it is, I’m pretty happy with the 98-win squad Sabean put together since Buster Posey caught the biggest pitch in the Giants’ 117-year history.

As I look closely at the Giants this spring and reflect back on last year’s championship run, I can’t help but notice a few similarities between this team and the ’96 Yankees squad that won the World Series in one of the most bizarre postseasons in the twentieth century.

It was also a fun one to watch if you weren’t named Marquis Grissom or Andy Benes.

Any postseason that has the Dodgers getting swept, the Cardinals blowing a 3-1 series lead and the Braves choking away another World Series title makes the $29.99 monthly Tivo subscription worth it.                        

The Yankees were in the unlikely position of underdogs that year. They hadn’t been to the World Series since 1978 (which can feel like 170 years if you’re a New York baseball fan) and like the Giants, they also had to endure a brilliant Fox announcing crew explaining why the other team was going to win before every game.

That was also Joe Buck and Tim McCarver’s first World Series together. For some reason, Tim’s hair seems to get redder every year.

Someone could easily make the point that the only reason I’m comparing the Giants to the ’96 Yankees is because I want to see three more championship parades in San Francisco. I’d also like to see Natalie Portman in my living room, but looking at pictures of Josie Maran isn’t going to make that happen.

Each team had the same regular season record (92-70), went 11-4 in the postseason and outpitched their opponents in every series.

Even the road that both teams took getting through the October gauntlet was similar, squeezing out one-run victories in games that would often give their fans (like me) a stomach ulceration.

The Yankees were tested in every inning of their divisional series against the Texas Rangers. After dropping the first game at home, they came back from a three-run deficit in Game 2 and won in the 12th inning on third baseman Dean Palmer’s throwing error.

In Game 3, the Yankees trailed the Rangers 2-1 in the ninth before staging a two-run game-winning rally off Darren Oliver. They went on to close out the series in Texas.  

The Giants faced a similar grind against the Atlanta Braves in the opening round last season. With the series tied 1-1, the Braves were one strike away from winning Game 3 before the Giants rallied to take the lead behind a pair of clutch singles and the third error of the game by second basemen Brooks Conrad. They completed the road sweep with another comeback win in Game 4.

Both teams also caught breaks from inept officiating and timely screw-ups from the opposition. I’ve always believed that it’s usually more satisfying knowing that your team won games with good hitting and good pitching rather than because the other team blew it with bad defense and awful managing.

Then I remembered Dusty Baker used to coach the Giants.

If Karma was measured by how many years Dusty remained in San Francisco, then the Giants should win 10 more championships and go a regular season undefeated.

But they got their mulligan’s worth when the umpires blew three calls against the Braves in the LDS, and in the World Series when Ian Kinsler’s 400-foot blast inexplicably bounced off the top of the center-field wall for a double. 

The Yankees probably wouldn’t have made it anywhere in ’96 without the umpires driving Bobby Cox and Hal Westbrook up the crazy tree.

The funniest memory of the ALCS that year will always be Jeffrey Mauer pulling a fly ball over Tony Tarasco’s head for a home run. Shouldn’t have gotten in the way of the kid’s glove, said umpire Rich Garcia.

And who could forget Tim Welke hilariously backpedaling into Jermaine Dye in Game 3 of the World Series, prolonging the inning for Bernie Williams to hit a two-run homer?   

There is one final thing to remember. While the Yankees had Jim Leyrtiz, the Giants had Cody Ross. But unlike Leyritz who made just one good swing against the Braves in the World Series, Cody was outstanding throughout the entire postseason for the Giants.

As a Giants fan, you never expect your team to be defending something as monumental as a World Series title. They started off slow with a forgettable series against the repellent Dodgers, but there were several encouraging signs outside the fact that their defense forgot how to catch.

Tim Lincecum tossed seven dominant innings in his first start, allowing just three hits and no walks. Tim’s also got his own personalized logo for merchandising, so that’s pretty cool. I still think this one would have looked a whole lot better.

The first baseman on everybody’s radar, Brandon Belt, went 1-for-3 with a walk in his first big league game, and despite making the last out, showed a lot of poise in a gritty eight-pitch at-bat against the Dodgers’ 375-pound closer, Jonathan Broxton.

The next night, Belt sent the fourth pitch he saw from Chad Billingsley over the center-field wall for a three-run homer. He’s already seen more pitches than anyone in the majors and he’s only 22. Brandon will be hearing a lot of boos at the Old Septic Tank for many years to come.

Pablo Sandoval has also started looking closer to his old form. And by that, I don’t mean I’ve seen him hanging around my neighborhood Subways. He went 4-12 in the series and deposited a Hiroki Kuroda pitch into the 20th row of the right-field bleachers.

Although his defense still needs improving, he’s demonstrated his 2009 ability to field groundballs cleanly. Now all he has to do is keep himself from heaving the ball into the stands.

Despite making an error that ended up costing the Giants the game, Jonathan Sanchez was mostly brilliant throughout his first outing, striking out eight Dodgers in 5.2 innings of work, often abusing hitters with an unhittable slider that disappears two inches away from the plate. This could finally be Jonathan’s breakout year if he can retain command of his fastball and shave his goatee evenly on both sides.

I’m not going to make any excuses for the offense against Kershaw in the opener because they weren’t just bad—they were horrific. But the Giants were able to stage several rallies against Billingsley and Kuroda and they also did a much better job of working the count. They just need to regain some of the timely hitting that they used to ambush their opponents so efficiently in last year’s playoffs.  

The national media still hasn’t learned anything. They’re still stubbornly picking the Phillies to win the World Series even after spending an entire offseason trying to surgically remove the foot that was wedged up their keisters last November.   

We know it’s because they think Cliff Lee is going to steamroll every offense in the National League and the Phillies won’t have to score more than three runs to win games. That strategy works fine as long as Ryan Howard homers twice in every game.

Even though the media won’t admit it, the Phillies offense stinks. Chase Utley’s spent more time on the DL than Chris Brown in anger management therapy (neither one is really working out), and the departure of Jason Werth left a pair corpses (Jimmy Rollins and Raul Ibanez) to protect Ryan Howard in the lineup.  

Their bullpen’s still shaky and the Phillies hitters won’t leave them much room for error during the regular season. Brad Lidge will probably be blowing his 15th save of the season sometime in early June.  

He should probably bring an umbrella to home games just in case it starts raining batteries during his trip to the mound in the late innings.  

No, the Giants didn’t sign Carl Crawford or Adrian Beltre. That’s not what they’re about. And this might surprise you, but it wasn’t what the Yankees were about during their success in the late 90s. They discovered in ’96 that they already had the best team. So they just left it alone.

Two seasons later, they won 114 games and another World Series title.

The Giants may not be perfect (as the experts over at SI and Yahoo! Sports keep reminding us every day on Twitter and Facebook), but they’re good. Good enough to win.

They proved last year that ignorance in the media is synonymous with baseball and that the Bay Area will always be the main target of the superiority complex felt by the East Coast for the last two centuries.  

That’s all fine, of course. We learned to stop caring a long time ago. Take the first four games and recycle them. 2011 is the year of the Giant repeat.

I like their chances, just like I liked New York’s chances against New England in the Super Bowl, the Warrior’s chances against the Mavericks in the ’07 playoffs and Apollo’s chances against Ivan Drago in Rocky IV.

Well, scratch the last one, but you get the idea.

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