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Why Those Awkward Division Title Flags Really Do Fly Forever

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Congratulations, Giants. Congratulations, us. The National League West title was well earned, well fought for, and despite what a few hooters and hollerers will say about Melky Cabrera's first-half contributions, well deserved. It's a silly thing to say in this mercenary day and age, but I'm proud of this team. They overcame so much -- and so much of it so deep into the season, what with the August double punches of the Cabrera suspension and the Dodgers' gluttonous spree -- and they ran away laughing. And dancing.


And dancing some more. 

I have to confess, I don't have the same electric thrill as 2010. That's a no-brainer, I guess. The gut-wrench of catching the Padres down the stretch and the final nails-on-chalkboard weekend, all with the looming background of the Giants' decades of championship drought, was pure baseball theater. This year, the Dodgers' spectacular fade despite their new owners' Donald Trumpian excess was delicious, but the Giants' story itself has been quieter, in a sense. Other than Buster Posey's inexorable march toward the MVP (an award that the division title all but guarantees), the top storyline has possibly been the savvy moves of Brian Sabean and Bruce Bochy's bullpen maintenance. And in the eyes of about 95% of the baseball world that storyline ain't sexy. 

Do I like the 2010 team better? You might as well ask me if I like one of my daughters more than the other. Actually, on any given day when, say, Miss Mouse is exercising her new-found gift of the word "No!" or Miss Monkeypants has forced an evacuation of the local swimming pool with an unfortunate, uh, evacuation, I might have an interesting answer to that question, just as on July 29 I might have had a more pointed answer about this year's team than today. But over the long haul, the Giants are the Giants are the Giants. I might not have the luxury of as many blog posts per week these days, but I got it bad, man, it's deep in my blood. 

Part of my equanimity toward this team and the 2010 team -- and toward every division-winning Giants team I've cheered as they leaned for the tape -- is knowing that we're about to enter the silly season, when well-built, well-run, well-oiled teams can be foiled by jamming a Cody Ross in their spokes. The juggernaut Braves of the 1990s win one World Series among their 35 division titles; the next decade, Billy Beane's shit don't work in the playoffs. Weird things are about to happen to good teams, and vice versa. 

Where these Giants reside along that cosmic weird-good continuum, I have no freaking clue. Very good starting pitchers, yep, absolutely, except that a couple of them showed signs of -- what, fatigue? mechanical discombobulation? -- the past few weeks. Not to mention the presumed #3 was practically the worst starting pitcher in baseball for the first three months of the year. 

Angel Pagan is double-plus exciting except when he isn't, and the same could be said about the Giants, who, let's not forget padded their bellies, Panda-like, by gorging on Rocky-Astro-Cub sundaes. Good teams do that, of course -- they crush the less fortunate -- but it's cold comfort to savvy veteran gamer-worriers like myself. Strasburg or no, Washington scares me. First in peace, first in war, 34th among developed nations in science and math education, and Bryce Harper running around with "F*ckn-A Romney!" written across his face in eyeblack. It could get ugly. 

Cincinnati scares me. Atlanta scares me. Playoff opponents in general scare me. They're all good enough to take 3 of 4, 3 of 5, 4 of 6, 4 of 7, from a damn fine upstanding team like the Giants, and it wouldn't be a reflection on 2012 at all. This is not a long-winded way of saying I'm preparing for the worst; it's more a way to say that I love this Giants' team for what they've done over 153 games, and the results of the games played after No. 162 won't change my opinion much. 

I used to think, bah, flying a "division title winner" flag is like the Peace and Freedom Party nominee bragging about getting 2.5% of the vote for U.S. President. But this season has definitively put to rest that misguided thought. A division title shows you can win the marathon. Imagine if marathon winners, after 26.2 miles, had only a few minutes to rest before they had to perform in a series of sprints of different but still indeterminate lengths. This first one will be somewhere between 50 and 125 meters, but we won't really know until the race gets going! And so forth. 

Hey, great if you can win 'em all. It's some crazy shit. But don't forget the 26.2 miles that got everyone here. This one's for all the fans who paid attention to every mile. The rest is gravy. 

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