And now they believe they have him: closer Mark Melancon.
That explains, in a nutshell, why the Giants took a relatively low profile to the 2017 offseason. Unlike many teams, they don't believe the race is for second place in the National League this season. History tells us there's potentially some logic to the belief. Recent history, in fact.
If it were Melancon strolling to the mound with a 5-2 lead last Oct. 11 in Game 4 of the NL Division Series, chances are All-Star Game starter Johnny Cueto would have been pitching two days later at Wrigley Field with a chance to eliminate the Cubs for a 108th straight year.
Instead, five members of the shaky San Francisco bullpen blew a 5-2 lead as the Cubs rallied for a 6-5 win. Suffice it to say, the Giants would love to be in the same position this season.
They brought back all of their key pieces -- making significant changes only in left field (where the loss of Angel Pagan isn't considered a big deal) and in the bullpen (where a younger group of setup relievers will attempt to set the stage for Melancon).
Oh, there is one other significant change: the year.
It is 2017, an odd-numbered year that just two seasons ago seemed to doom the Giants like a rigged roulette wheel before Madison Bumgarner even toed the slab on Opening Day.
If there was a positive to the four-run blowup in the ninth inning of the NLDS last season, it was that the mystical numbers game of even-year championships/odd-year failures was put to rest. The Giants won it all in 2010, 2012 and 2014, and they missed the playoffs in 2011, 2013 and 2015.
In 2017, the Giants actually have a chance to win it all. Don't think they don't know it.