SAN FRANCISCO -- Among the things falling from on high in San Francisco on Friday: Rain, confetti, Joe Panik’s jaw.
OK, the third was figurative and only relative to the amount of reaction a big situation -- such as Game 7 of the World Series -- normally gets out of the 24-year-old second baseman. But after riding down Market Street atop an open double-decker bus, past hundreds of thousands of people gathered to fete the Giants and their third World Series title in five seasons, Panik admitted:
"I got chills."
For Panik, who grew up watching Yankees victory parades on TV but never attended one -- "I wasn’t ever allowed out of school. Thanks, Mom." -- it was his first time experiencing this kind of celebration. For others, like Buster Posey and new October legend Madison Bumgarner -- it was their third. Yet even those who’d been down this road before seemed not to let that dampen their spirits, nor did intermittent rains keep the crowds from turning out en masse along the route and at its Civic Center endpoint.
There, players gathered briefly inside City Hall with their families before taking to a stage set up outside. The season was recounted, speeches were made, several by players. Hunter Pence urged the crowd to "paint the town red," then led a series of "Yes! Yes! Yes!" chants, one by asking if the fans want free-agent-to-be Pablo Sandoval back in a Giants uniform next year.
Posey handed the microphone to Ryan Vogelsong for a brief, impassioned and slightly rambling address, leading Posey to remark, "That was weird."
"We’re all a little weird here," Posey added.
Weird has worked for the Giants, though, and they celebrated again Friday to prove it. The news of the day was Sandoval, who figures to be a hot commodity when he hits the free agent market next week along with four other Giants players. Sandoval said he would "love to be back," but will take his time deciding. That and comments from Giants president and CEO Larry Baer on the Giants’ impending offseason can be found here.
Otherwise, the day was about the Giants letting loose on Halloween after a four-week postseason odyssey that brought them back to the same place they spent Oct. 31 two years ago -- enjoying a championship parade. A few highlights:
* Willie McCovey, recently released from a lengthy hospital stay due to complications from an infection, rolled into City Hall around noon, where he watched the parade on TV monitors and waited to greet the team’s arrival. McCovey said he had enjoyed watching the Giants’ entire run this October.
"I just like the way the team bounces back, never think they’re out of it, never gives up," said the Hall of Famer. "They were actually running teams into mistakes. It was fun to watch."
McCovey directed particular praise at Pence, whom he called "a godsend" since Pence arrived in San Francisco at the trade deadline in 2012.
"Boy, it’s great to have a guy like Pence, who does it on the field and inspires the team too in the clubhouse," McCovey said. "His inspiration, I don’t think the team could’ve won without him."
McCovey also called Panik "our new ‘Blockbuster,’" referencing the nickname given to second baseman Marco Scutaro after Scutaro’s huge second half and postseason in 2012.
"I mean, come on," McCovey said. "He’s been amazing."
* Panik looked wide-eyed when shown on camera during the parade and was still buzzing when he reached City Hall. He said the "coolest part was the first time (the confetti) got shot up and came down in your face. That’s what you see on TV."
Like Scutaro, Panik played a key role in the Giants’ title run after taking over as the everyday second baseman partway through the season. Scutaro’s following season in 2013, though, was injury-plagued, and while the veteran tried to play through a variety of issues, his nagging back caught up with him this spring, all but nullifying his season.
Scutaro is still under contract for next season, but his injury issues and the emergence of Panik this year would seem to make second base Panik’s job to lose in 2015.
Still, Panik said, "I’m taking it as nothing’s guaranteed. I always try to play with a chip on my shoulder. And there’s always someone coming to take your spot."
Panik, though, also now has a ring for his finger -- or will, when the Giants receive them next spring -- to go with a play that will appear on highlight reels for a long time -- the glove flip to start a pivotal double play in Game 7. One thing he probably won’t receive is a ton of votes for National League Rookie of the Year -- he batted .305 but didn’t get called up for good until June, while the Reds’ Billy Hamilton and Mets pitcher Jacob deGrom both had solid years spending the majority of the season in the majors.
Panik said he hadn’t given any thought to the award until somebody mentioned it a few days ago. "I got called up a little too late," Panik said. "But I got the thing that matters most."
* Travis Ishikawa said he had no regrets about not playing in Game 7 of the World Series, after spending most of the postseason as the Giants’ starting left fielder. Manager Bruce Bochy went with Juan Perez for defense in Game 7 -- a move that paid off when Perez ran down a line drive from Nori Aoki near the line in the middle innings.
In fact, Ishikawa said, "I went up to (outfield coach Roberto Kelly) right away and said, ‘That’s why he’s in the game.’ And I was so happy he was."
Ishikawa still played a significant role in the Giants’ title run; his walk-off home run to clinch the pennant in Game 5 of the NLCS is another secure-in-franchise-lore moment. That said, Ishikawa said he plans to dedicate significant time this offseason to working on his outfield defense. That means working to increase his speed and "Just trying to read as many balls off the bat as I can."
Ishikawa is arbitration-eligible this offseason, meaning he’ll wait to see if the Giants tender him an offer. He said he does hope to be back -- and will do most of his work in left field this winter as a result.
"If I’m back here," Ishikawa said, "I don’t think I’ll be playing much right field."
* Also expressing his desire to be back with the Giants next season was Ryan Vogelsong, who will be a free agent next week. Asked if he hopes to return, Vogelsong said: "That’s not even -- I mean, yeah. Where else would I rather be?"
Vogelsong went 8-13 this year with a 4.00 ERA, but he and Bochy have both argued he pitched better than those numbers would indicate and was the victim of low run support at times and bad luck. Vogelsong said he won’t be anxious waiting for the Giants’ call this winter.
"I don’t need to be anywhere at a certain time," he said. "I know they’ve got priorities before me, things to take care of before me. And that’s fine. I understand that, so whenever they get to me, they get to me."
* Baer said negotiations with each of the Giants’ five free agents will probably follow different timelines. Baer said the Giants’ payroll will increase this offseason, but not dramatically. They will consider the "all sorts of trade possibilities and all sorts of minor-league possibilities" they have before deciding how to proceed into 2015.
"Rarely do these things happen within days of the World Series," Baer said. "This could go through November, December, into January. That’s what happened last year, and it turned out the cake that got baked in November, December, January and even a little bit of February was a World Series champion. So let us bake the cake."
* Baer, Brian Sabean and the rest of the Giants leadership will soon be back in the kitchen. But at least for a few hours Friday, they took time to savor the results of the ingredients they pieced together in 2014: A parade, the third in five seasons.