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Senior Baseball Columnist

As parade rolls in San Francisco, Giants glad to have Posey, Bochy


Posey tags out Prince Fielder in one of the 2012 World Series' most memorable moments. (Getty Images)  
Posey tags out Prince Fielder in one of the 2012 World Series' most memorable moments. (Getty Images)  

Who loves a parade more than the Giants? Nobody, these days.

On Wednesday, San Francisco will fete its elite champs with a Halloween party, the city's second ticker-tape parade for Bruce Bochy's club in three Octobers.

No ticker tape from this corner of the Internet. (Hey, it's dangerous to cut up computers and hard drives into small pieces!)

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Only a parade of points as the Orange and Black pass us by and roll into the winter. ...

1. Buster Posey: The Next Willie Mays or Willie McCovey? It's premature to usher Buster Posey into the Hall of Fame at 25, sure. But the first three seasons of Posey's have mirrored those of Yankees great Derek Jeter with two World Series titles. And while sitting by the Hot Stove this winter with a cup of hot chocolate underneath a cozy Giants World Series champs afghan, the imagination is bound to hop around like a Angel Pagan double off of the third-base bag.

What if Posey had not suffered that horrific ankle injury last summer? Might we now be discussing three World Series titles in three years for the Giants?

What if Posey stays healthy and productive from here on out? The future seems limitless for this throwback, clean-cut, humble guy who seems to have stepped right from the pages of a Chip Hilton: All-American book.

"He's cool, calm and collected," general manager Brian Sabean said late Sunday night as the Giants splashed champagne. "He did hit some struggles through the playoffs, but nobody's really talking about Buster and what he did to handle the pitching staff.

"He's really the unsung hero because he had to put the right fingers down, and there weren't many shake-offs in my estimation, and there weren't many trips to the mound. Those guys were in sync, and that speaks volumes to him because he's not just an offensive player. This guy is going to be a great catcher. He probably is already."

Though Posey only hit .267 with a homer and three RBI in the World Series, he won the NL batting title this summer (.336), ranked second in the NL in on-base percentage (.408) and fourth in OPS (.957).

Hall of Famers Mays and McCovey, both regulars at AT&T Park, could well be watching the next great franchise player who joins them on a Cooperstown wall with an "SF" on his plaque.

2. Speaking of which ... Bruce Bochy: Jon Heyman wrote about his legacy on Tuesday, so I won't get too far into Bochy other than to say I agree with my colleague. I have been watching Bochy for a long time now in his roles as both a player and a manager (I first met him in 1985), and it took him leaving San Diego before many started to appreciate just how good this guy is.

While watching Bochy and the Giants win again, there's one thing I still could not get over: A backwater baseball town for most of its history, allowing Bochy to leave should be a growing embarrassment for San Diego.

One, the guy didn't just suddenly figure it out. Bochy managed the Padres for 12 seasons, and they finished first in four of those and won the NL pennant once, in 1998.

But here's the real kick in the gut: Bochy was still under contract when the Padres allowed him to leave for San Francisco. Everybody understands why it happened: Owner John Moores was chopping payroll because of his divorce, and he and then-president Sandy Alderson viewed Bochy's $1 million annual salary as exorbitant. OK, fine. But. ...

Here's the part that should humiliate the Padres: While basically doing Bochy a favor and leaning on him to leave, they never even bothered to negotiate any form of compensation from the Giants. They simply let an NL West rival swoop in, pluck their manager away and they did not receive players, cash or even a thank-you note in return. At least the Red Sox got a relief pitcher for Theo Epstein when he left for the Cubs. At least the Blue Jays got a player in return when the Red Sox lured manager John Farrell to Boston.

Never forget: There are reasons why brilliantly run organizations position themselves to win two World Series titles in three seasons ... and why other organizations are doomed to decades of Roseanne Barr singing the national anthem and choosing Matt Bush over Justin Verlander in the draft (2004, the Padres picked Bush No. 1 overall, the Tigers snared Verlander second).

3. The Giants will return because of their pitching: And not just because of outstanding arms like Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner, Ryan Vogelsong, Tim Lincecum and others, but because the Giants excel in another area that gets overlooked: They keep their guys healthy.

As much handwringing as there was over the Nationals' decision to shut down Stephen Strasburg, look at the Giants. Cain threw 190⅔ innings in his rookie year (2006) when he was just 21. Now 28, Cain has worked 200 or more innings in each of the next six seasons. Bumgarner, 23, threw 111 innings as a 20-year-old in 2010, then followed that up with 204⅔ and 208⅓ in the next two seasons.

There was a time when every scout you talked with swore Lincecum was a ticking time bomb because of his slight frame and violent motion. Now 28, he's never made fewer than 30 starts in a summer.

The Giants are genius not only at identifying and developing young pitchers, but in keeping them in one piece.

"We work hard on delivery and arm action and make sure these guys get through their time in the minor leagues healthy and have a defined role," Sabean said. "And then, when they get here, we turn them over to two pitching coaches like Rags [Dave Righetti] and [bullpen coach Mark] Gardner and a manager like Bochy, and the development continues.

"The development doesn't stop at the major-league level. These guys are constantly learning how to pitch and win on the job. And that says a lot for those guys."

4. It's not just in the developing of pitchers: It's in the handling of them, too.

Most other teams leave Barry Zito off of the postseason roster like the Giants did in 2010, they lose him forever. It's humiliating enough that either he wants out or he shrivels into the fetal position and never produces again.

And how many other clubs would be able to successfully transition a two-time Cy Young winner like Lincecum into a bullpen ace on the fly in the middle of the postseason? Answer: Damned few.

But the culture these Giants create, starting with Bochy and Righetti, allows them to dream up and execute alternate avenues on which most other clubs would find road blocks.

So now, following his best season since signing with the Giants before '07, Zito (15-8, 4.15 ERA) again figures prominently in the Giants' 2013 rotation.

"Well, I hope so," Sabean said. "It's really happened to a great young man. He always stayed prepared and he always represented his name and, more so the organization, to the nth degree. I'd be shocked if he can't repeat what he did this year because he's so confident now throwing strikes and really understands that pitching to contact is the way he has to go."

And though the Giants promise Lincecum will return to the rotation in 2013 (and carrying a $20.5 million salary, that's a safe bet), what a thing it was to watch him in relief this postseason. He faced 16 Tiger hitters in the World Series and struck out eight of them without allowing a run.

"What Timmy did, and to have that arrow in your quiver, was unbelievable," Sabean said. "And I really think that allowed Boch to have an advantage, especially in a series like this."

5. Don't expect to see a flock of Giants on the talk-show circuit: Sabean, Bochy, Righetti ... these are not guys who spend time looking for the next national TV interview opportunity. Which maybe is one reason why this club continues to sneak up on most folks east of Arizona.

Now, having won two titles in three years, the secret is out. And maybe the next challenge will be to shield themselves from the high-intensity spotlights.

"We'll still keep a low profile," Sabean promised. "That's who we are as people, and that's who we are as an organization. That's not going to change."

6. Back to Bochy, one more time: He's not flamboyant like Bobby Valentine and Ozzie Guillen, and he's not always ready with the quick quip like, say, Jim Leyland (Leyland, for example, on looking at the past: "You can't chew yesterday's breakfast."). But Bochy is as good as there is in any dugout right now.

"Everybody knew Bruce Bochy before we hired him," Sabean said. "If you followed his career in San Diego, he always won, with maybe less talent and less notoriety and less payroll. He's had a knack for handling pitching and he's had some good teams that had pitching and bullpens. We were lucky to get him, and now he's taken it to the next level. I think he's a Hall of Fame manager."

7. How go the Giants foretells how goes October: Here's one for you:

"What's ironic with us in the playoffs, and you can look it up, every time we've been knocked out in the first round, that team's gone on and [played in] the World Series, and every time we punched you in the first round, we've gone to the World Series and won the World Series," Sabean said.

Not quite, but very close: Since Sabean, the game's longest-tenured GM, took charge of the Giants in 1997, they've made six postseason appearances. In three of them, they lost in the first round to the Marlins (1997 World Series champs), Mets (who advanced to the 2000 World Series and were beaten by the Yankees) and Marlins (2003 World Series champs).

The other three years, the Giants advanced to the World Series before losing to the Angels in 2002, and they won the World Series in 2010 and 2012.

"So I'll tell you," Sabean said. "Just get in the dance, and maybe good things will happen."

8. And now a word from our sponsor: Third-base coach Tim Flannery, a respected musician in his off-season night job, teamed with buddy Bob Weir of the Grateful Dead several months back in a benefit concert for Bryan Stow, the Giants fan who was savagely beaten in the Dodger Stadium parking lot on opening day 2011. Bam Magazine has the show available both on DVD and in a digital download, whatever your pleasure, with proceeds going to the Stow family.


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