The San Francisco Giants may have lost their place as one of Major League Baseball’s best teams, but their strong team chemistry can make the difference between the club staying afloat for a potential second half run and drowning in their struggles.
Following a June that saw the Giants’ 9.5 game lead over division rival Los Angeles disappear, the team has managed to stay within striking distance of the Dodgers going into the All-Star break and they will count on another second half surge to stay in the hunt for a playoff bid.
Team chemistry is a characteristic of the San Francisco Giants that cannot be overlooked going forward. The Giants have one of the tightest knit groups in all of baseball, anchored by several players who have experience overcoming adversity.
Adversity has been key in forging team chemistry in club’s past. In 2010, the Giants went on to win the NL West and the World Series after trailing San Diego by 7.5 games on Independence Day. The 2010 championship team was defined by characters such as Brian Wilson and Aubrey Huff, who helped give their team the ‘nothing to lose’ attitude that fueled their second half success
The 2012 team faced even more adversity; including the second half suspension of their best player Melky Cabrera, the injury of closer Brian Wilson, and the demotion of starter Tim Lincecum to the bullpen. While this combination of misfortunes would surely break most teams, the Giants seemed to bond over them en route to their second World Series title in three years.
Not to be forgotten in the success of the World Series teams was the mid-season acquisitions of Cody Ross in 2010 and Marco Scutaro and Hunter Pence in 2012. It would be hard to argue that the Giants don’t need to make a similar move to spark the ball club in 2014 but manager Bruce Bochy said recently the team is unlikely to be active in the trade market going forward.
When the Giants are at their best, they play as if their backs are against the wall and they have nothing to lose. If the past two championship teams proved anything, it’s that adversity brings out the best in the Giants. With their division lead now gone the Giants can return to playing with their backs against the wall. It may not work for everybody but it has seemed to work out for the Giants in the past.
While some will say that winning creates chemistry, the true character of a team is shown not in how they respond to success, but to failure. The Giants still have one of the best teams when all the pieces are in place.
However, team chemistry will not account for an injured Angel Pagan. Pagan was key to the team’s early season success, hitting a team-best .307 with a .356 on-base percentage prior to going down. Pagan’s replacement, Henry Blanco, has been exposed as an everyday player hitting a meager .167 in his last ten games.
Bottom line, the Giants need a healthy and productive Pagan going but he is not expected back until after the All-Star break at the earliest.
The San Francisco Giants have faced their fair share of adversity so far in 2014 and how they will respond going forward will speak volumes about the true make-up of this year’s ballclub.