Madison and the big Ps
An old friend of mine asked me how in the world could a team that looked and played like the worst team in baseball in June and July could turn around. My answer was Panik and Peavy.
Upon further reflection, John Shea noted that Juan Perez should be added in. I've been enormously skeptical about Perez but he plays the outfield in a top notch way. Anyhow, here's John Shea's take on the rooks for the SF Chron...
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — In the middle of Champagne Central, where Joe Panik was holding court after another World Series championship — who predicted that phrase was possible back in spring training? — he blocked out the noise, vapors and rowdiness to answer all questions.
With the same cool perspective he plays second base.
Someone asked, “How do you feel right now, Joe?”
“Oh, yeah,” he said, “I feel nice and cold from the beer being poured down my pants.”
As a teammate sneaked up from behind and stuck an open beer where the sun doesn’t shine, Panik made no attempt to see who did it. He probably knew. It was Matt Duffy. Rookie on rookie prank.
Thanks to Wednesday night’s 3-2 clincher, the Giants are champs again, with a twist. Manager Bruce Bochy inserted two rookies in his Game 7 lineup, and it’s a reason he’ll receive a third ring. Panik and left fielder Juan Perez were nothing close to front-line players when the season opened, but they made plays that made a difference in the finale.
“It’s crazy man,” Perez said. “You never know what could happen. This game, one day you’re here, one day you’re not. I’m lucky to be part of the organization that gave me a chance to play baseball. I’m here, and this is the World Series, and we won it.”
Panik and Perez were among five rookies on Bochy’s World Series roster, a far cry from the Giants’ veteran-heavy championship clubs of 2010 and 2012.
“If you told me in spring training this is where I’d be, I’d tell you you’re crazy,” Panik said. “Especially as a rookie and starting the year in the minor leagues; it doesn’t get any better than this.”
While Panik emerged in the second half to fill a gaping hole and help solidify the defense, Perez shuttled between the minors and majors all season and came off the bench most of the postseason.
Wednesday, Panik and Perez went 0-for-7, but who cares?
The lasting image of Panik was his diving snag of Eric Hosmer’s sharp grounder up the middle and, in the same fluid motion, his flip to shortstop Brandon Crawford to begin a crucial double play. The score was 2-2 in the third inning, and Lorenzo Cain opened with a single, so the double play not only silenced the Kauffman Stadium masses but wiped out Kansas City’s brief attempt at momentum.
“It was all instinct,” Panik said. “At the time, I was telling myself, 'Knock it down, try to get one.’ I caught it and was like, 'Get it out of the glove, he’s a fast runner.’ Instincts took over, and Craw did a great job turning it over.”
The next inning, the Giants scored the deciding run on Michael Morse’s single. Left field belonged to Morse much of the season, but an oblique injury sidelined him in September and through the Division Series. So Bochy turned Travis Ishikawa into a left fielder, and all he did was win the pennant with a walk-off homer.
Ishikawa’s defense has been shaky, and he was 3-for-13 in the World Series, so Bochy went to Perez, who came off the bench to hit a two-run double in Game 5 and got another hit in Game 6. “I just thought about it and said, 'You know what? We’re going to put our best defense out there,’” Bochy said.
As Panik did in the third, Perez helped stifle a possible rally in the fifth not only with his athleticism but his positioning. Perez played shallow against the lefty hitting Nori Aoki and glided toward the line to glove Aoki’s liner.
The night didn’t end without ninth-inning drama. With two outs, Alex Gordon’s liner skipped past center fielder Gregor Blanco, and Perez was slow to back up and mishandled the ball. Gordon got to third. No worries. Madison Bumgarner retired Salvador Perez on a popup, and another Giants party ensued.
“I thought Gregor had the ball all the way, and then he missed it,” said Perez, admitting the rookie mistake.
Perez, who scribbled “RIP O.T.” on his spikes for his friend Oscar Taveras, the Cardinals’ outfielder who died Sunday, made his second start of the Series. The Giants hadn’t started two rookies in a World Series since Game 4 in 2010 when Bumgarner and Buster Posey teamed up for eight scoreless innings.
Four years later, Bumgarner and Posey were at it again, Bumgarner working the final five innings in relief, completing one of the all-time World Series performances as Panik, Perez and three other rookies — Andrew Susac, Hunter Strickland and Duffy — gleefully rode his wave to the finish line.