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Homegrown talent sparks Giants' rise

by
San Francisco Giants second baseman Marco Scutaro (R) celebrates defeating the St. Louis Cardinals with teammate Hunter Pence at the conclus
San Francisco Giants second baseman Marco Scutaro (R) celebrates defeating the St. Louis Cardinals with teammate Hunter Pence at the conclus

By Larry Fine

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A treasure trove of homegrown talent sparked the San Francisco Giants' rise to World Series success after the team moved on from the Barry Bonds era, according to general manager Brian Sabean.

The Giants ruled Major League Baseball after completing a four-game sweep of the Detroit Tigers on Sunday for their second Fall Classic crown in three years and San Francisco could be poised for more celebrations given their young core of talent.

"We went through an era, we were Bonds-centric and that was a big attraction," said Sabean, holding court in the Giants dugout during the Series. "And in '09 and especially in '10 we gained a different character throughout the team. It's unique."

Bonds, who set major league home run records in San Francisco under a cloud of suspicion that he was helped by performance enhancing drugs, was the face of the franchise before retiring after the 2007 season.

The Giants reached the World Series in 2002, spearheaded by Bonds and a veteran lineup that included only one player under the age of 30, but fell in seven games to the American League champion Anaheim Angels.

Since then, the Giants have undergone a massive makeover.

San Francisco's newest darlings include homegrown Series MVP Pablo Sandoval (26) at third base, season MVP candidate Buster Posey (25) at catcher, first baseman Brandon Belt (24) and shortstop Brandon Crawford (25).

Giants ace Matt Cain (28) and lefty Madison Bumgarner (23) were in a Series rotation spearheaded by Ryan Vogelsong, who did not blossom until late in his career after traveling many roads but did start out as a fifth-round Giants draft pick in 1998.

"With Posey and Sandoval, the core by and large has been through higher draft picks," Sabean said. "The timeline with the age has helped our continuity.

"To think Posey is still really young. You've got Belt young, Crawford young, Sandoval young, including the pitching staff, that bodes well. They're getting great experience with two World Series in three years time."

ENVIABLE SUCCESS

Developing young talent is the goal of most teams, and Sabean credited longtime scouting director Dick Tidrow and the skills of manager Bruce Bochy and pitching coach Dave Righetti among others for forging such an enviable success.

"We've got as good a coaching staff as anybody in the sport," said Sabean, whose 15 seasons on the job make him the longest tenured general manager in the major leagues. "It's a good group, a lot of continuity. Continuity helps.

"We have a lot of people who have a lot years in the game and with the Giants. There's a lot of loyalty and a lot of pride."

Another gem of the San Francisco system has been Tim Lincecum, a twice Cy Young winner and major figure in the 2010 championship, who after a disappointing 2012 as a starter became a key contributor in the bullpen this postseason.

"It's the toughest thing to do in baseball, to scout pitching, period," said Sabean.

"We spend a lot of time on what somebody's skill set is and how fast that they can matriculate through the minor leagues.

"They do a great job putting them in the right position as professionals and then we're not afraid to graduate them to the big leagues."

With regular closer Brian Wilson sidelined, the Giants had to navigate via a closer by committee, and Sabean gave both Bochy and Righetti credit for turning a potential weakness into a strength.

"I think the bullpen by committee succeeds because of Rags' experience and Bochy's experience," he said.

Sabean said former Yankees pitcher Righetti had credibility with his pitching staff because of "his history as a starter and a reliever and doing it at such a high level, especially in New York."

Sabean said Bochy's four years of managing in the minor leagues before launching his major league managing career beginning with the San Diego Padres, helped him learn about juggling pitchers.

"Where you really learn to manage is in the minor leagues because you're always short of pitchers. Somebody is always getting called up, somebody's sore and not available. Your staff is in a state flux, you've got doubleheaders. You still have to try and win the game and develop at the same time.

"There's a balance. All good managers are calm in the storm and they know how to do it, and when to do it," Sabean said.

"The only thing a manager can do in a baseball game as kind of a defensive time out is the pitching change.

"It can be a powerful thing when you know how to stop the opposition with a pitching change, then have it be executed on the mound."

Sabean said there would be no resting on laurels.

"We're humble to be here. We know this stuff is fleeting," he said. "You don't take it for granted."

(Editing by John Mehaffey)

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