The San Francisco Giants will raise the banner on Friday at their home opener against the St. Louis Cardinals.
Now the question is “Who will raise the banner?”
In 2011 — when the Giants also played their home opener against the Cardinals — reliever Brian Wilson took the honor of hoisting the World Series flag at AT&T Park.
While Wilson played a vital role in the 2010 championship, it should be pointed out that when the Giants opened the 2011 season, the 2010 World Series MVP (Edgar Renteria) was playing for the Reds. And the 2010 NLCS MVP (Cody Ross) was on the disabled list.
So on Friday, when the Giants hoist their 2012 World Series banner, the candidates for the honor are numerous. The Giants have been tight-lipped on who will get the honor and exactly how the act will be performed.
One thing we can say for certain: It won’t be Brian Wilson. Wilson was last seen shopping at a Southern California mall in a ketchup-stained T-shirt.
So who is it going to be? Well, here’s MoreSplashHits’ list of the top-ten candidates.
No. 10 — Barry Zito
If circumstances were different, Zito might be No. 1 on this list. He saved the Giants’ season with his masterful performance in Game 5 of the NLCS in St. Louis, when the Giants were on the verge of elimination. Then, he followed that up with another stellar outing in Game 1 of the World Series. The Giants won the last 14 starts he made in the regular season and postseason. And in the clubhouse after the Giants’ Game 4 World Series clincher, his teammates chanted “Barry, Barry, Barry.” So what’s working against Zito? Simple. He’s pitching Friday. It’s hard to be part of the pre-game hoopla when you’re getting ready to pitch.
No. 9 — Ryan Vogelsong
It was Vogelsong who kept the Giants in the game when they were being no-hit by Cincinnati’s Homer Bailey in Game 3 of the NLDS, the first elimination game that Giants would face — and win. It was Vogelsong on the mound when the Giants beat the Cardinals in Game 2 of the NLCS. It was Vogelsong on the mound when the Giants beat the Cardinals in Game 6 of the NLCS, the fifth elimination game the Giants would face. And Vogelsong pitched 5.2 shutout innings in Game 3 of the World Series. He finished the postseason 3-0 with 1.09 ERA. So why not Vogey? Well, he pitches on Saturday and Vogey gets locked in 24 hours before a start. If offered the honor, Vogey would likely turn it down, cuz that’s Vogey.
No. 8 — Gregor Blanco
Blanco only hit .235 in the postseason, including .267 in the World Series. But it wasn’t his bat that made him valuable. It was his glove. Blanco made diving catches to deny hits from Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder hits in Game 1 of the World Series. His throw started a highlight play that ended with Fielder being thrown out at the plate in Game 2. And he made several clutch catches in the outfield in Detroit. But the selection of Blanco would be a stunner, almost out of left field in a manner of speaking.
No. 7 — Tim Lincecum
Lincecum had a very rough 2012 season for the Giants, so rough the Giants left him off the postseason starting rotation. But he was lights-out filthy out the bullpen, where he gave up just one earned run in 13 postseason innings with two walks and 17 strikeouts. That earned him the tag “The X Factor.” Also, giving Lincecum this honor will remind him that he still is loved in San Francisco. Strike against: If they didn’t give Lincecum the honor in 2011 after two Cy Young Awards and a postseason MVP honor, why would they do it in 2013?
No. 6 — Marco Scutaro
Scutaro was huge for the Giants, no just in the postseason but ever since he joined the Giants in late July. Scutaro hit .362 in 61 games after being acquired from the Rockies. In the postseason, he hit .286 in the postseason, including batting .500 and earning NLCS MVP honors. Oh, and did we mention he had the game-winning hit in the 10th inning of Game 4 of the World Series. Scutaro was a “blockbuster” for the Giants, but would they give this honor to someone who has been a Giant for less than a year?
No. 5 — Hunter Pence
Pence was the inspirational leader of the Giants, starting with his pre-game pep talk in the dugout prior to Game 3 of the NLCS in Cincinnati. Superstition led the Giants to ask Pence to continue the pre-game ritual throughout the postseason. But Pence was more than just talk. He made great catches on the line in Cincinnati and St. Louis. He battled through a cramp in his calf to get a clutch hit that set up the go-ahead run in Game 3 in Cincinnati. He also had the highlight of the NLCS with his three-hits-in-one swing in Game 7. But to give the honor to someone who hit .219 for the Giants in the regular season and .210 in the postseason? Yeah, that would be awkward.
No. 4 — Pablo Sandoval
Sandoval battled through two stints on the DL to finish 2012 with 12 HRs and a .283 average in 2012, and also a start in the All-Star Game. In the postseason, he came up big — no pun intended (OK, maybe a little one) — by hitting six home runs and batted .325. He joined World Series lore by becoming the fourth different player to hit three home runs in a World Series game, including two off Justin Verlander. He’s a fan favorite, and who wouldn’t love to watch the Panda jog out to the center field flag pole. If nothing else, it would be good exercise. But you’d also have to worry about Sandoval making a stop at the concession stand on his way back. Plus, there’s always the injury factor.
No. 3 — Sergio Romo
Hey the honor went the closer in 2011, so why not in 2013? Romo’s got the beard, although much, much, MUCH cleaner that Wilson’s — even the 2011 version. And Romo has the resume. He gave up just one run on two hits with one walk and nine strikeouts in 10.2 postseason innings. In the World Series, he was 3-for-3 in save opportunities. And unlike Wilson, when Romo closed out games, he did so without theatrics, especially in the World Series when he set down all nine batters he faced, five of them on strikeouts. If there’s one thing working against Romo, it’s that the bearded-closer-raising-the-flag thing has been done. Plus Las Vegas airport security might not like it.
No. 2 — Buster Posey
Let’s face it: Buster is the face of the franchise. He’s the reigning NL MVP and batting champion. When Buster stays healthy, the Giants win the World Series. It’s that simple. His two-run homer in Game 4 of the World Series was huge. And the ink still isn’t dry on his big contract extension that will keep him under contract with the Giants into 2021. There is no good reason NOT to give this honor to Buster, except that he will likely catch nine innings on Friday, so …
No. 1 — Matt Cain
Cain has many things going for him. There was the perfect game in 2012, the All-Star start and win in 2012. He started the postseason opener. He started all three series-clinching wins against the Reds, Cardinals and Tigers. He signed a contract extension last year that will keep in black and orange through 2017, at least. He’s the longest-tenured Giant, making his debut in 2005. He’s a homegrown talent, being drafted in the first round by the Giants in 2002. His season-opening start in LA on Monday was reflective of so many of his starts early in his career: six shutout innings, zero runs of support. That’s why his 16-5 record last season only put his career record at 85-78. He doesn’t pitch again until Sunday. Cainer is a horse. There’s no good reason not to have him trot out the 2012 World Series banner.