By Jon Heyman
October 18, 2010

PHILADELPHIA -- The Giants' clubhouse is an eclectic mix, and that's putting it mildly. There's the superstar pitcher who looks and sometimes acts 15 -- though never when he's on the mound, where he's plenty mature. There's the MMA-loving, tattooed, born-again Christian closer who seems even more out there than most closers. And of course, there's the collection of castoffs that comprise most of a starting lineup that wouldn't ordinarily scare anyone beyond reporters but is putting a bit of fear into opposing teams lately with timely hitting and solid fielding (until their 6-1 defeat in Game 2 Sunday night, anyway).

"They really remind me of the Dirty Dozen, a bunch of castoffs and misfits who've coalesced as a group and play to win,'' the Giants' excellent manager, Bruce Bochy, said.

The Giants for years had baseball's biggest hitting star. Now instead, to go with a superb pitching staff, they have a collection of mostly low-paid position players who came for nothing or next to nothing. None of their new players are nearly as infamous for being as prickly as Barry Bonds, but a couple came to San Francisco with their own reputations for being slightly less than mannerly, deserved or not.

Tim Lincecum, a pleasant sort, is the new star in town and is called "The Freak." He had an offseason pot bust, for which he apologized, and has a girlish hairdo that incited whistles from the typically rambunctious Philadelphia crowd in Game 1. "I musta looked pretty good,'' he joked to a reporter.

It's surely a funny mix in that clubhouse. Beyond cleanup-hitting rookie phenom catcher Buster Posey, plus two well-paid players who rarely play (ex-Phillie center fielder Aaron Rowand, who received an misappropriated $60 million, five-year free-agent contract, and shortstop Edgar Renteria, who got an $18.5 million, two-year deal) it's mostly a team of last-chance position players.

Aubrey Huff, who may be their positional MVP, got a $3 million free-agent contract (they want to re-sign him but this time it'll have to be for much more than that). Cody Ross was a giveaway, courtesy of the cost-conscious Marlins, who saved about $1 million by letting the Giants have him after they claimed him on waivers. Pat Burrell, another ex-Phillie, had been released by the Rays. Andres Torres bounced around seemingly forever before the Giants got their mitts on him, and he finally has blossomed.

Huff was never known to be the easiest guy to deal with. Until he got here, anyway. He joked to one writer he knew from a previous stop, "Can you believe I got the Good Guy award?'' Hard to believe, but he did. Not only that, he seems to deserve it. He has been nothing but a gentleman, according to all around the team.

Burrell is an especially tough customer known for ignoring many reporters who request interviews but kowtowing to a couple of the media elite. Yet, by all accounts, he has been a delight. (You have to wonder if maybe they grade on a curve in San Francisco after dealing with Bonds and Jeff Kent for so many years.) Even Jose Guillen, who has been known to almost all his past teams, from the Nationals to the Angels to the Royals, to be an occasional troublemaker, is said to have been trouble-free by Giants people -- though he didn't make the postseason roster after a nice start in San Francisco.

Somehow, Bochy, one of the best in the business, makes it work. Naturally, he demurs.

"I give them all the credit for putting aside their egos and agendas,'' Bochy said. "That's a credit to who they are and how they've handled things.''

The credit for the Giants' turnaround goes to the whole group from general manager Brian Sabean to VP of baseball operations Bobby Evans to assistant GM Tony Siegle to all the other executives. But the Giants have a secret weapon. It's Dirt.

The powerful pitching staff was built through the draft, and Dick "Dirt" Tidrow, the former Yankees pitcher, was behind most of those great drafts.

"He has drafted some very good pitchers. It's not only their raw ability, but how their mind works and their competitiveness that he reads very well,'' said Dodgers GM Ned Colletti, who spent 11 years working in San Francisco with Tidrow and the others.

"The first thing is talent,'' Tidrow said, "Then you try to go deeper.''

Lincecum starred at the University of Washington but somehow slipped past nine teams before Tidrow insisted the Giants take him with the No. 10 pick in 2006.

"He wasn't a secret. We were just hoping he'd fall to us,'' Tidrow recalled. He also remembered several folks warning that Lincecum was a right-hander who was no more then 6-feet tall. But Lincecum didn't care (and he reminded Tidrow of his Yankees roommate Ron Guidry, a similarly-sized left-hander).

Matt Cain lasted until pick No. 25 in 2002 before Tidrow and his staff grabbed him.

"I remember I saw him in the first game of a doubleheader and liked him, and everyone we sent in there liked him,'' Tidrow said.

Madison Bumgarner was nabbed with the 10th pick in 2007.

"I really liked his competitiveness and his ability to pitch in and thought he was going to throw harder,'' Tidrow said.

Jonathan Sanchez wasn't highly regarded at all. He couldn't take his good stuff into games. But Tidrow saw him throw well on the side and thought he could work with him. He was a find in round No. 27 in 2004.

"He had a lot more talent than he showed,'' Tidrow said. "We just fixed a couple things.''

Brian Wilson was coming off Tommy John surgery. Tidrow got him in round No. 24 in 2003.

"I saw him as a sophomore at LSU and he was unbelievable, then I saw him at Long Beach State and he was obviously hurt,'' Tidrow said. "He had an unbelievable curveball and really good stuff. We took a flier on him, and got lucky.''

It's not luck, of course, if it keeps happening.

Their major-league scouts haven't done too badly, either. Torres, who became an overnight star, was a cheap free-agent pickup after Tidrow, Sabean and Evans had their eyes on him for years.

They tried hard for a big bat at midseason but didn't want to part with Bumgarner or Sanchez for Milwaukee's Corey Hart and couldn't quite pull the trigger on a similar deal with Toronto for home run sensation Jose Bautista. That's OK, the smallish Ross, who they got for nothing, is producing similar, eye-popping slugging to Bautista -- at least in this postseason.

The Giants put in a claim for Ross on the waiver wire at the deadline, and after the Giants rejected the Marlins' two requests for prospects (the second one much lower than the first), Florida simply handed over Ross. Part of the idea in claiming Ross was to block the even more offensively-challenged Padres, but today it looks like the genius move of the year.

The trade for Javier Lopez looks like another fine stroke now. They sent Joe Martinez and John Bowker to Pittsburgh for the situational left-hander who improved a talented and deep bullpen and enabled to get them through August, when Jeremy Affeldt and Dan Runzler were hurt. The Giants never got the monster hitter they sought during the season, but they improved themselves in several areas.

While the accomplished Sandy Alderson remains the favorite for the Mets' GM job (it doesn't hurt to have the backing of longtime owner Fred Wilpon, not to mention commissioner Bud Selig), their other candidates are strong and should not be taken lightly. It appears the Mets will interview a sixth candidate, and they've asked around about Rangers GM Jon Daniels (though he's still seen as much more likely to remain in Texas, where the new owners want to keep him). Here is a rundown of Alderson's competition so far:

Rich Hahn -- The studious Hahn (he has degrees from Harvard, Northwestern and Michigan) has managed to thrive and survive in the White Sox's soap-operatic hierarchy featuring GM Ken Williams and manager Ozzie Guillen. The well-regarded Hahn has turned down GM possibilities in Pittsburgh and St. Louis. The one negative is that he remains an assistant GM, like the Mets' own well-liked John Ricco, so their experience isn't all that dissimilar. Hahn's had more years in that role, though, and one competing exec said, "He's had a lot of experience with winning.'' The Chicago native is seen as the natural successor to Williams.

Josh Byrnes -- Extremely well-regarded throughout baseball circles, folks were stunned when his Arizona GM tenure ended abruptly with five years to go on his contract (one extra advantage would be that Arizona would pay a decent portion of his salary). Byrnes experienced highs (reaching the 2007 NLCS) and lows (the ending) in Arizona, and may be better for it. He showed a lot of loyalty for hand-picked manager A.J. Hinch, but some baseball people (apparently his old bosses included) think it was too much loyalty. Byrnes is a very bright guy who received a great recommendation for former Red Sox boss Theo Epstein and has also worked for the Indians and Rockies.

Allard Baird -- Great all-around baseball person and workaholic has assisted Epstein in recent years and put distance between a GM tenure in Kansas City that was nothing short of impossible. His hands were tied at every turn. Good to see him getting another shot here.

Logan White -- Dodgers scouting guru ultimately responsible for some savvy picks such as Clayton Kershaw, Chad Billinsgley, Jonathan Broxton, Matt Kemp, Russell Martin and James Loney. Recently had his own situation improved in L.A., but there's uncertainty about the ownership situation there. White himself acknowledged rumors that he might be let go before his situation was ultimately solidified in L.A.

• The Mariners acted fast to hire Eric Wedge (whose hiring will be announced Monday), possibly in part because they sensed he was the logical choice for the Pirates. Wedge is seen as an excellent, tough leader and organization man and less of a gamble than the brilliant Bobby Valentine. One person connected to the Mariners said Lloyd McClendon was very impressive in the interview (though obviously not impressive enough to get the job over Wedge). After one disastrous year in Seattle following an excellent first year there, a source said GM Jack Zduriencik has been led to believe this will likely be his last chance.

• Valentine turned down the Marlins, who had the good sense to make him an offer after turning him down in the summer. Perhaps they should have hired him then, though, because that rejection probably stuck in his mind. Would have been an interesting South Florida soap opera. Too bad.

Joey Cora, who does a lot of Ozzie Guillen's behind-the-scenes work for him, will be interviewed in Milwaukee and may also have a shot in Toronto or perhaps Florida. The Milwaukee derby is said to be "wide open,'' and someone suggested that the original perception of Bob Melvin being the favorite is not necessarily accurate.

Jim Fregosi, who was considered in Seattle, has been discussed in Florida and Toronto, as well.

• The Pirates were thought ready to act within a week or so, but if Wedge was indeed their top choice, they'll have to come up with someone else. Pittsburgh probably knows that acting fast is in their best interests though, as an organization with 18 straight losing seasons, they might not get their first choice.

• Some GMs are surprised Red Sox pitching coach John Farrell hasn't had more opportunities. Other Red Sox coaches Demarlo Hale and Tim Bogar seem to come up more.

• White Sox GM Williams has had his fill of closer Bobby Jenks it seems and is ready to move on with someone else in that role.

• The Phillies' offense has been spotty lately with 16 runs in their seven games heading into Game 2. But if Ryan Howard breaks out, that will help. One scout called Howard's first three at-bats in Game 2 "three of the best at-bats I've ever seen him have.''

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