Looking back at the San Francisco Giants' World Series win in 2010, what struck me is some of the change that occurred in the roster within that time. This is not to say the Giants experienced wholesale change between then and now, but many of the field players that played a part in their 2010 success have departed for fresher faces in 2012, with the results being the same.
The Giants were somewhat slow starters in the 2012 season, but regained their footing in August and cruised ahead to the National League West title by winning almost two-thirds of their games in the final three months of the season. Using fantastic hitting performances by catcher Buster Posey (.336 batting average, 24 home runs, 103 runs batted in) and left fielder Melky Cabrera, who was hitting at a .346 clip. Unfortunately, Cabrera was suspended for 50 games for violating Major League Baseball's drug policy. Their pitching staff was among the best, with starters winning mainly 14-15 games apiece in Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner, Barry Zito and Ryan Vogelsong. In the bullpen, Santiago Casilla and Enrique Romo made for an effective 1-2 punch.
The Giants opened the National League Division Series against the Cincinnati Reds, and following the Reds winning the first two games at the Giants' AT&T Park, San Francisco went to Cincy and won the third game in extra innings 2-1, and the offense regained its form to win comfortably 8-3 and 6-4 to advance to the National League Championship Series to play the St. Louis Cardinals. The Cardinals were running on adrenaline after a win in Washington 36 hours before and took Game 1 in San Francisco 6-4. Vogelsong evened the series with a dominant performance in Game 2, with the Cards limited to one run and five hits. Going back to St. Louis, the Cards won Game 3 and 4, and the Giants were forced to rally again, winning Game 5 behind a shutout from Zito. The Cards would continue to see goose eggs, scoring one run in Game 6 and none in Game 7 while the Giants steamrolled and won the Series, where they faced the Detroit Tigers and Miguel Cabrera, the first player to win baseball's Triple Crown (batting average, home runs and runs batted in) in almost half a century, and Justin Verlander, who was the American League MVP and Cy Young award winner in 2011 and in 2012 was only limiting offenses to one run, if any, per game.
While it seemed to be an interesting matchup, upon retrospect the Tigers did not have a chance. Verlander was chased in Game 1 after allowing five runs in four innings, partly due to third baseman Pablo Sandoval's three home runs, two off Verlander. After the 8-3 win, the Tigers were shut out in Games 2 and 3 in 2-0 losses, with Bumgarner (two hits over seven innings) and Vogelsong (five hits over 5 2/3 innings) leading the way. Game 4 in Detroit saw the Giants back on their heels initially, but eventually leveled the game with the Tigers after six innings. Second baseman Marco Scutaro singled home the winning run in the tenth inning and Romo went on to save the game (his third in the series) and bring the second Series trophy in three seasons to the City by the Bay.
Major League Baseball Video and A&E have released their customary Collector's Edition for the series, but have thrown a couple of interesting wrinkles into it. Along with the games, and the box score and buckets full of trivia on each slim line case housing the disc of the game, the clinching game against the Reds is included also, but curiously the clincher against St. Louis is gone, though the pivotal Game 5 is included. And the big leap here is that for the first time (in my experience at least), all of the material here is on Blu-ray. So every run, hit and error, regardless of context, is in glorious 1080p high-definition to witness over and over. The games include (where applicable) the pregame and postgame coverage from the MLB Network, which is also a positive sign that the folks at MLB Video are getting more of their footing in the home video market.
Is the resulting price point going to be higher than if you had eight standard definition discs? Sure, but the fact that MLB/A&E have taken this next step and have put the content out in a format that so many more people have now serves as an encouraging sign. The result at the end of the 2012 Series won't change, but hopefully future Collector's Edition have, and for the better.
The Blu-ray Discs:
All of the games are presented in 1.78:1 widescreen and in high-definition using the AVC codec. On these Blu-rays, the games' video quality is represented nicely, with no DNR to distract from the experience, colors and flesh tones are reproduced accurately and the blacks of the evenings and in some of the uniforms look good, especially next to the blue in the Tigers' uniforms. As is the case sometimes with MLB video titles, the League watermark is present, though not on the World Series discs, which is a thoughtful touch for the consumer.
Two-channel DTS-HD MA for all of the discs, with the end result sounding clear and accurate as it is going to be. The World Series games include a Spanish broadcasting track, along with the Giants' and Tigers' radio broadcast calls (generally the case in recent sets), and the NLDS/NLCS discs include the Giants' radio calls only. Still, any Jon Miller is better than none at all, and you get a bunch of it on this set.
If there was a spot that the set falters, it's here. While one disc includes the June 13 perfect game thrown by Cain against the Houston Astros, the other disc of bonus material is shallow. A group of postseason highlights (25:53) includes just the work of the Giants during their NLDS/NLCS wins, while the regular season highlights (17:53) include various pitching and hitting accomplishments, along with the Giants' clinching of the NL West title. "Walk-off Winners" (11:05) is a reel of the Giants' wins in the bottom of the ninth inning or later throughout the season. Come on MLB, you can include the official film (which oddly enough includes the Game 7 clincher against the Cards) in these things, you know you want to.
While in the past the World Series Collector's Edition sets started out strong but seemingly got a little complacent with recent releases, it appears that A&E has listened to the customer and improved in one key area, and it is a good thing. The lack of hearty non-disc extras or the team/World Series film is basically the only thing holding this set back from being part of the Collector's Series, but it is a strong recommendation for the Giants or baseball fan in your life.