Now the model of consistency, Giants once felt Cubs futility

Giants' Conor Gillaspie (left) and Cubs' Anthony Rizzo

Giants' Conor Gillaspie (left) and Cubs' Anthony Rizzo

(CHICAGO) — From the outside, the San Francisco Giants and Chicago Cubs franchises don’t have much in common.

After all, the Giants have won three World Series in the last six years while no one needs to remind the Cubs again about 1908. But before San Fran morphed into a modern baseball dynasty, they weren’t so different than the Cubs.

Fifty-two years in the Bay Area, eight playoff appearances, three World Series trips, and seven outs away from tasting champagne in 2002 against the Angels, only to fall short each time. Their previous Fall Classic parade came in 1954 when the franchise still played at Polo Grounds in New York. For the next 56 seasons they would carry the third longest active championship drought in MLB, behind only the Cubs and Indians.

But on November 1, 2010, they achieved something no San Francisco team with Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, Juan Marichal or Barry Bonds ever could. After beating the Rangers in five games, the Giants finally stood second to none.

A fan along the third base dugout at The Ballpark at Arlington stood holding the sign: “The Torture has Ended.”

Cubs fans may scoff at the notion a mere 56-year drought constitutes “torture,” but two generations of never seeing your team stand on top builds a large bundle of scars, heartaches and letdowns.

North Siders know this all too well.

In 2010, it all changed. A fan base that only knew failure at last tasted victory. A Giants team finally prevailed. Finally delivered joy instead of sorrow. Finally finished first.

We now look at the Giants, led by a future Hall-of-Fame manager, catcher and ace pitcher, and see a been-there-done-that attitude. 2010. 2012. 2014. Like clockwork. They’ve now won 11 straight postseason series, tied for the most ever.

“The Giants have what every team wants,” Cubs Game 1 starter Jon Lester, owner of two World Series rings, said. “Built from within. Starting pitching. Been consistent. Every year they’re in it to win a World Series. Model of consistency and impressive to see what they do.”

It’s the same way we view the Chicago Blackhawks, who also happen to have three titles since 2010. Like the Giants, the Hawks broke through for their first championship after a 49-year void.

But before the breakthrough lives the anxiety. The tension. The pressure. Sure, all those emotions exist in any postseason, no matter where you play. But when you can’t dip into a winning reservoir to reassure yourself, the doubt will linger. It can feel suffocating, like being trapped in water beneath a sheet of ice. Only winning can melt your fears and push you to the surface.

“I don’t see one scared bone in anybody’s body,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said of the Giants calm and focused demeanor.  “They are just out there playing hard, playing it right. At the end of the day they’re not afraid. That’s the number one requirement.”

No team in professional sports carries the burden of expectations and pressures of a century filled by futility like the Cubs. The losing feeds on itself like a black swallower, ultimately eating itself to death. But even the teams who feel most trapped can fill their lungs with success. Just ask the Red Sox. Or the White Sox. Or look across the dugout Friday Night to the road team in grey and orange uniforms.

So when the even-year Giants take the field against the favored Cubs, think more about 2010 than 2008, 2003, 1989 or 1984. Think less about failure and more about the road map to succeed. Who did the Giants need to topple to get over the hump that year? The Phillies, two-time defending pennant winners, and the only National League team to reach consecutive World Series since the 1995-’96 Braves.

The Mets may be the defending NL Champs, but the Giants are the perennial winners.

They represent everything the Cubs want to be.

They stand for what can happen, instead of what can not.

And they’re the right team for the Cubs to take down first if they want to finally feel what San Francisco knows too well.