Since moving from New York to San Francisco in time for the 1958 season, the San Francisco Giants have been, well, not inept, but highlights have been few and far between. Oh sure, they have had great players like Willie Mays, Orlando Cepeda, Willie McCovey, and other notable names. In 1989, they got swept in a World Series that was best known as the Earthquake Series. In 2012, Matt Cain joined a very exclusive fraternity by throwing one of only 23 Perfect Games in baseball history, and first in franchise history.
But in terms of winning, the Giants were not doing so. From 1958, the first year in San Francisco, until 2009, the franchise had only 7 playoff appearances. Think about that for a minute, 7 in 52 seasons, and only three of those resulted in pennants (1962, 1989, 2002).
Times have drastically changed in the City by the Bay. In this decade, the Giants have won three World Series titles, generating talk of whether of not the Giants have become a modern dynasty. At the same time, Minor League Baseball returned to Virginia’s Capital City, Richmond, in 2010, with the new Richmond Flying Squirrels, San Francisco’s Double-A developmental club.
Baseball fans in Virginia’s Capital have watched with pride as several former Flying Squirrels have gone on to stardom 3,000 miles away in San Francisco and help resurrect the Giants franchise.
1B Brandon Belt and SS Brandon Crawford both played for the inaugural Richmond Flying Squirrels squad of 2010. 2B Joe Panik (2013) completes 3/4 of the Giants starting infield that played here. OF Matt Duffy (2014) batted .332 in 97 games before bypassing Triple-A and going to the Giants, and at 23, was the youngest player on the Giants World Series roster.UTIL Andrew Susac (2013) batted .256 with 46 RBIs in 84 games with the Squirrels before debuting in San Francisco in 2014. On the mound, P Hunter Strickland (2014) recorded 11 saves for the Squirrels before heading west, and in the NLDS, he recorded the save in an 18-inning game against Washington-at 6 hours and 23 minutes, the longest playoff game in baseball history.
With the slew of players heading west from Richmond, who could be next? I like 2 names. OF Jarrett Parker (2014), a Stafford-native, hit .275 with 12 HR, 58 RBIs, and 11 stolen bases in 100 games with Richmond before actually getting promoted to San Francisco, where he sat in the dugout for one game, before getting sent down to Triple-A, where he hit .278 in 24 games. I also like SP Jack Snodgrass (2013-2014). Snodgrass has won 23 games while posting a 3.64 ERA at Richmond. Conventional wisdom says he will be at Triple-A to start 2015, but with the Giants rotation having some question marks after Madison Baumgarner, Snodgrass might get a chance to break camp with the big club.
After a lengthy season and postseason, the 2014 World Series is set.
Representing the American League will be the Kansas City Royals, streaking through their first postseason in 29 years. They earned their way here by beating Oakland in the Wild Card Game, then sweeping Anaheim and Baltimore.
Representing the National League will be the San Francisco Giants, who are no strangers to recent postseason action, as they have won 2 World Series titles this decade-2010 and 2012. They got here by pounding Pittsburgh in the Wild Card Game, then besting Washington and St. Louis.
When the two teams take the field Tuesday in Game 1, the Giants will do so with a strong Virginia connection.
Baseball fans in coastal Virginia will watch with pride, as former Norfolk Tides player Travis Ishikawa will go for his second ring. In fact, it was Ishikawa who got the Giants to this point; on October 16, Ishikawa hit a 3-run walk-off homer to win the game and the series for the Giants and send them roaring into the Fall Classic. Ishikawa played in 49 games with the 2013 Norfolk Tides.
Just up I-64 in central Virginia, baseball fans in Virginia’s Capital City will also be watching with pride. Since 2010, when pro baseball returned to Richmond in the form of the Richmond Flying Squirrels, not only has Richmond gone to 2 EL finals, but a slew of players who played here have gone on to the Bay Area and are on the postseason roster for the Giants. When San Francisco takes the field, 8 former Squirrels will be among them: starting 1B Brandon Belt, starting second baseman Joe Panik, starting shortstop Brandon Crawford, infielder Matt Duffy, outfielders Juan Perez and Gary Brown, catcher Andrew Susac and reliever Hunter Strickland.
When we head up I-95 to the Potomac Capital region, fans here, who are probably still smarting over the Nationals losing to the Giants in the NLDS, might still have an interest in watching two of their own try to win the World Series. Veteran LH reliever Javier Lopez grew up in Fairfax County, went to Robinson Secondary school, and went on to play at UVA. The 37-yr old Lopez won World Series rings previously with Boston in 2007 and San Francisco in 2010 and 2012. Also of interest to Northern Virginians is manager Bruce Bochy, who spent his teen years in Falls Church and still has a loyal following here.
Giants. Royals. Game 1 Tuesday.
The National League Championship Series kicks off tonight, pitting the St. Louis Cardinals against the San Francisco Giants to decide who will get to play in the World Series.
The Giants have won 2 World Series titles this decade (2010, 2012) and seem poised to make a serious bid to return to the Fall Classic, and baseball fans in the San Francisco Bay Area can direct their gratitude 3000 miles away to Virginia’s capital city for their chance this year. Richmond is the home of the Flying Squirrels, the Double-A affiliate of the San Francisco Giants, and some faces familiar to baseball fans in Richmond will be among those sprinting to their positions when the Giants take the field this evening for Game 1.
3/4 of the starting infield got seasoning in Richmond on their way to San Francisco-1B Brandon Belt and SS Brandon Crawford played for the Flying Squirrels in 2010, and 2B Joe Panik played here in 2013. Off the bench, Andrew Susac batted .256 in 84 games for the 2013 Richmond squad; he will be Buster Posey’s backup. INF Matt Duffy played just this year in Richmond, batting .332 with 62 RBIs in 97 games, and will be a valuable player off the bench. OF Juan Perez drove in 93 runs over two years (2011-2012) with Richmond. Fellow OFer Gary Brown played in 134 games for the 2012 Richmond squad.
On the mound, reliever Hunter Strickland notched 11 saves for the Squirrels in 2014 before bypassing AAA and going right to the Giants.
The National League Championship Series starts tonight, guess who baseball fans in Richmond will be rooting for?
Baseball fans in Virginia’s capital city were saddened and shocked in the fall of 2008 when their longtime team, the Triple-A Richmond Braves, citing the city’s failure to finally replace the aging Diamond, left town after more than 40 years for suburban Atlanta. But the void in the Capital City was not there for long, as the Connecticut Defenders, from the Double-A Eastern League, relocated south, and after a Name-the-Team Contest, the Richmond Flying Squirrels were born, playing their first game in 2010.
In that time, the Flying Squirrels have had some amazing success. Giants stalwarts Brandon Belt, Brandon Crawford, and Joe Panik played in Richmond on their way to San Francisco. In 5 years in Richmond, the Flying Squirrels have played in 2 EL championship series, losing to New Hampshire in 2011 and are playing in the 2014 finals against Binghamton.
Despite the fact that Richmond has made no progress towards a new stadium, promised to the relocating team in 2010, the Giants have signed a 2-year extension with the Squirrels, to run through the 2016 season.