DETROIT -- The Giants won't be able to duplicate their World Series win of 2012. They could easily repeat as champions. They might be parading down Market Street many times over the next decade. But the routine of being dismissed as lightweights, then proving everyone wrong by taking down a theoretically more imposing lineup? They're done with that.
It worked for them two of the last three years. They ran the scam in 2010 on the Rangers, with their unbeatable Cliff Lee and their terrifying Josh Hamilton. They trotted it out again for the Tigers, with the untouchable Justin Verlander and the doubly daunting Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder. The Rangers lasted five games. The Tigers turned kittenish in a sweep that ended Sunday with a 4-3 Giants win in 10 innings -- the only competitive game of the Series.
It will never work again. The pitching staff is fully developed dynasty material. The everyday lineup isn't there yet, but it's maturing. It just bought a razor and its voice cracks hourly. Underestimating this team would be folly.
Four of the five Giants infielders, excluding 36-year-old Marco Scutaro, have played a total of 1,296 regular-season MLB games -- or 216 fewer than the 29-year-old Cabrera. The four of them could be the core of a strong Giants lineup for a generation, pouring champagne over each other as a quasi-annual ritual. The Brandons -- Crawford and Belt -- teem with potential. Crawford's glove is a known asset already, likely to earn him several gold versions throughout his career.
The Giants have to hope that third baseman Pablo Sandoval's three homers in Game 1 and his .500 batting average -- plus the World Series MVP award that followed them -- motivate him to stabilize his fitness rather than discourage him from messing with what brought him historic success. Benched for erratic play during the World Series against the Rangers, the man known as the Panda barreled into the clubhouse Saturday night with his shiny MVP trophy, eager to show it to his teammates. He said he was grateful to them for putting him in a position to have "the game of your dreams.''
"I'm happy. I learned,'' he said. "I learned from my mistakes. … When you learn, you see all the results, you look more mature and you put all the pieces together.''
He and clean-up hitter Buster Posey should be a devastating combination, every bit as fearsome as Cabrera and Fielder were supposed to be. The Tigers as a team hit just .159, the third-lowest batting average in Series history behind the 1966 Dodgers (.142) and the 1969 Orioles (.146). Those teams have one thing in common, and it isn't hitters who gag on a big stage. They faced phenomenal pitching. The Giants suffocated the Tigers no more than they did St. Louis in the final three games of the NLCS. San Francisco gave up a total of seven runs in its final seven playoff games. Both the Cardinals and Tigers were shut out twice in that stretch.
Barry Zito and Ryan Vogelsong pitched four of those games, and their ages -- 34 and 35, respectively -- will restrict their places in any decade-long dynastic ambitions. But Madison Bumgarner, at 23, has already started two World Series games and not allowed a single run. Matt Cain's best stuff abandoned him in the postseason, yet he still shuttered the Cardinals' season in Game 7 of the NLCS and did enough to contain the Tigers in Sunday's Series finale.
The conundrum of Tim Lincecum remains the great mystery of this team, and perhaps its biggest impediment to becoming the West Coast's Yankees. How did the two-time Cy Young Award winner deliver nearly flawless relief work in the Series when he couldn't be relied on for a decent start? He may need to determine whether he dials back velocity for starting assignments because he no longer trusts himself to hit 93 mph on the radar gun and still last seven innings. If so, does it require mental adjustment, or does he have good reason to think he can't sustain throws at that speed?
Also, will he, after a regular season of pitching to backup catcher Hector Sanchez, return to Posey? Their rapport in the postseason appeared ideal, especially when the limber Posey grabbed an errant pitch as it started to sail behind him.
If there is one certainty on this team, it's Posey. The 25-year-old has played a total of only 308 regular-season games, and he has been Rookie of the Year, a batting champ, Comeback Player of the Year and the winner of two World Series. He is almost certain to be named the National League MVP on Nov. 15, and if that happens, he will be the first player to win an MVP and a Series ring in the same year since Kirk Gibson in 1988.
The postseason did not showcase Posey's bat at its best. He struck out 15 times in 60 at-bats and hit only .200. Posey seemed exhausted by the time the last game came around. He had spent most of 2011 unable to play or even walk because of a collision at the plate that tore up his right ankle. Then he returned and played his first full major-league schedule.
"He never said it, but I felt he was dragging a little,'' reliever Jeremy Affeldt said. "But he was catching and he was catching well. He never let his at-bats affect the way he was calling a game. It can happen. I've seen where a catcher gets mad about an at-bat and they get behind the plate and put a finger down without thinking. He stayed focused. He kept commanding that pitching staff. He never talked about his at-bats. I went out to dinner with him quite a bit, and lunch quite a bit, during the playoffs, and he never showed any frustration about it.''
When he homered to left to turn a 2-1 deficit into a 3-2 lead in the sixth, the usually stoic Posey borrowed some Carlton Fisk body language to beg the ball to stay fair, then fist-pumped as he reached first base. Teammates saw the fist pump as a big exhalation, pushing the frustration out of his system.
"I wouldn't say it was relief,'' Posey said later. "I was just glad I could contribute.'' His careful, economical mode of expression had returned. Posey is task-oriented. When the Giants spoke to the crowd at the City Hall celebration in 2010, everyone else spoke sentimentally or humorously. Only the rookie catcher laid down a plan. He told everyone to enjoy the victory for a week. "Then let's get back to work, and make another run at it," he said, pounding the podium as he stepped away.
That next run would have to wait a year. More than a few people would say it had to wait for Posey and his busted ankle.
"Some guys join teams and they just change the environment to win the World Series, and I think he's one of those guys,'' said Affeldt. "No telling how many rings that guy is going to have.''
After Game 3, reporters asked Posey why the Giants had been so dramatically underestimated both in 2010 and this Series. "Maybe it's because our games don't start until 10:15 in the East,'' he suggested.
Amid the celebration Sunday, he was asked whether a dynasty might be the Giants' future. "I don’t think we’re off the radar anymore, and that will present its obstacles,'' he told John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle. "It's a challenge we're all looking forward to."