Giants make 'torture' a delight for fans
Heartstopping season becomes a catchphrase
SAN FRANCISCO -- The phrase came from the lips of Giants broadcaster Duane Kuiper so easily, it seemed destined to live on beyond his deadpan delivery as a broadcast early in the season went to commercial.
Giants Baseball: Torture.
Not the kindest of thoughts in this day and age, and perhaps not the most complimentary of unofficial slogans on the surface -- yet so fitting for the 2010 Giants. And, ultimately, this brand of torture led to the ultimate ecstasy of the Giants reaching the postseason.
So if fans are carrying signs saying "Torture Never Felt So Good" or other such incongruous thoughts when the Giants open up their National League Division Series against the Braves on Thursday at 6:30 p.m. PT on TBS, there's a method to the seeming madness of such a thought.
"It's just the kind of mood it is around this club," said Mike Krukow, Kuiper's partner on the flagship Comcast SportsNet broadcasts. "This team, they take you through the wringer, they take you right to the brink of disaster and misery, and then they pick you right up again.
"I think we all appreciate drama, but this team kind of took it to a new level this year."
Indeed, this Giants team sometimes seemed to go out of its way to take the hard road -- right down to the end, when one win over the Padres was all it needed to get into the playoffs and it took until the third game of the final three-game series to get it done.
But that wasn't the start of it, not by a long shot. Almost half of the Giants' games this season were decided by two runs or fewer, with 80 of them split between one-run affairs (28-24) and two-run decisions (13-15). They were involved in 33 shutouts, winning 17 and losing 16 -- and were in four 1-0 games with their NL West combatants, the Padres, losing three of them.
They went up and down the first four slots in the division standings throughout the season, spending just 37 days in first place -- the all-important last one included. Every facet of the team, including the stellar starting rotation, had days or even weeks of struggle.
It never was easy, and right up to the final out Sunday, the Giants could either win a title or face the possibility of two tiebreaker games and possibly four games in four cities in four days.
Whew. At least they're not that much into torture.
"Believe me, we didn't want be tortured, either," said first baseman Aubrey Huff, whose wait of 1,479 regular-season games to reach the postseason ended with Sunday's victory. "When we're out on the field, we're out there having a heart attack as much as the fans are, but that's just the way it seemed to come down a lot this year.
"It always seemed to be the end of the game when we win it, and it just so happened that we had to wait until game No. 162 to get it done, even though we had a couple of chances before that."
There's a word for that: torture.
"That definitely seems to be our motto," Huff said. "It's catchy."
Said Krukow: "Now, it's just so fitting."
And it all goes back to a one-liner that became the perfect comeback to certain bumps in the road this resilient team overcame en route to the postseason.
"It was one of those things Kuip threw out there and we laughed about it, but we knew it was something that really fit with this club," Krukow said. "We kept throwing it out there, and it kind of caught on from there. It just kept coming up and kept making sense with how things were going with this team."
Along the way, there was plenty of get him on, get him over and ... don't get him in. There were moments when the best pitching staff in the Majors couldn't get it done -- and the entire month of August when the starting rotation struggled.
The T-word fit to a T.
"Everybody seems to identify with it," Krukow said. "It's part of the ambiance of this club."
The flip side of the backhanded compliment is that this team persevered through numerous roster changes and various ups and downs, yet through it all the Giants maintained a tight-knit clubhouse and a common work ethic and common goal of reaching the playoffs.
"It was tough coming down to the last game of the year like that," said starting pitcher Matt Cain. "But I think we all came through those last three games and the last month, really, with an extra energy that can help us now."
It probably helped that the Giants played like they were on fire the entire season anyway, almost always giving their fans a gut-wrenching experience. It practically became part of the team DNA.
Enough so that when the first goal of reaching the postseason was secure on the very last day of the season, manager Bruce Bochy couldn't help himself as he started to address the media.
"That's Giants baseball: torture," Bochy said.
John Schlegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.