SAN FRANCISCO (CBS / AP) ― All the formalities are almost over and the San Francisco Giants are moving toward defending their World Series championship.
The Giants kicked off a pre-spring training event for fans Saturday believing they have a stockpile of talent and experience to contend again next season.
San Francisco’s collection of misfits and castoffs came together at all the right times last season, lifting the franchise to its first title since 1954 and first since moving West in 1958.
The Giants have every reason to feel optimistic about a repeat performance with nearly their entire roster intact, except encores never seem to be that simple.
“We understand how difficult this is to do. We understand how difficult this is to go forward because we’ve raised the bar,” general manager Brian Sabean said.
Duplicating their success won’t be easy.
The Giants had midseason pickups turn into postseason stars – most notably Cody Ross winning NLCS MVP – a starting pitching staff that peaked in primetime and a bullpen that blossomed in the biggest moments. For some teams, it’s a once-in-a-generation accomplishment.
Or, in San Francisco’s case, once in 52 years.
The Giants still have ace Tim Lincecum anchoring the pitching staff to upstart Buster Posey doing wonders with the bat and behind the plate. But they didn’t clinch the NL West until the regular-season’s final pitch against the San Diego Padres, whose late 10-game losing skid might’ve helped San Francisco more than anything.
The challenge now is to stay motivated and avoid a championship hangover.
“We know what’s at stake,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “We did put a stake in the ground here, and we want to defend this championship. The last thing we want to be known for is, you know, last year was a fluke. That’s the last thing these players want.”
Distractions will loom large in 2011.
There’s a book coming out reliving the championship season and a TV series in the works tracking the Giants’ upcoming year, which includes a production team following every move. Cain, as San Francisco’s player representative, was among those to approve the project.
The baseball-crazed Bay Area is already giddy hoping for another downtown parade. The Giants held an event for fans at AT&T Park on Saturday, and some 40,000 showed – so many people that the overflow had to be turned away at the gates – to check out everything from Pablo Sandoval’s slimmer waist to Lincecum’s growing mustache.
“I’m getting a lot of comments on this,” said Lincecum, the two-time NL Cy Young Award winner.
All this for a franchise that had missed the playoffs for six straight seasons.
“I think we can still keep that edge. But I don’t think we’re going to be the underdogs that we were last year,” Ross said. “I doubt that’s going to be the case this year. But I think we can still have that chip on our shoulder that carried us.”
About the only subtractions from last season’s squad were World Series MVP Edgar Renteria – who had an otherwise forgettable summer – and utility infielder Juan Uribe, departed to the rival Dodgers. San Francisco also bolstered its roster with veteran Miguel Tejada.
And in the whisk of a cool San Francisco winter, a short offseason is all but over.
The Giants will have pitchers and catchers report for spring training in Scottsdale, Ariz., on Feb. 14. Even though they won’t receive their rings until the opening weekend at home in early April, they’ve already been reminded that anything short of repeating will be considered a disappointment.
“I’m trying to even remember who won the World Series before us,” Posey said, quickly reminded it was the New York Yankees. “You know what I mean? It’s kind of like that. We’re all starting on a clean slate.”
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