OAKLAND (CBS SF) -The San Francisco Giants and Oakland A’s are in the middle of their annual “Battle of the Bay” struggle for local supremacy, and thus far the skirmishes have all been routs. So is it time for the Giants to close up shop and start thinking about next year? Nope. Would a sweep of the Giants be the biggest accomplishment by the A’s this year? Hardly.
Sure it’s fun to see the A’s play at AT&T or enjoy the Giants at a discount over at O.Co, but calling them true rivals has always been a bit of a stretch. Both teams have been pretty darn good in recent years, and still there isn’t any sense that the players care at all that local pride is on the line. There’s just no real history to get fired up about. The highest stakes series the teams has ever played was a 4-0 thumping in the 1989 fall classic, and even that was overshadowed by the Loma Prieta Earthquake. The fans seem to care a little, but I bet you could still turn a good trade if you started selling those split Giants/A’s hats outside the stadium again.
The problem is that the Giants have a true rival, the Dodgers, and the animosity there was built in from the very moment they skipped town in New York to set up shop in California. The A’s, on the other hand, have no equivalent AL team to direct their ire at.
Minnesota Twins – The teams have nearly identical “small market” payrolls this year (just take the Giants’ payroll and cut it in half), but share a history of staying competitive despite juggling smaller budgets. While the A’s have had more success over the last few years, neither team has made it all the way to the promised land since the late ’80s. Let’s make it a formal challenge, first team to win the series is the ultimate small market ballclub.
Philadelphia Phillies – This one is a bit of a throwback, but back in the 1950’s the teams were true crosstown rivals, before the A’s moved to Kansas City and eventually Oakland in 1968. Since they rarely ever play, barging rights from each individual series will last a while.
2001 Seattle Mariners – The A’s franchise has 9 career World Series titles, good for third all time. The Mariners? They’re as old as me, and we’ve played in the exact same number of Series games. Not really close on paper. That’s unless you consider the current Athletics facing off against the best regular season team in modern history, the 2001 Mariners. That team won a staggering 116 regular season games, chalking up a W seven out of ten times that they stepped on the diamond. The A’s are currently on pace to win 102 games, far short of the M’s squad that featured Ichiro, Freddy Garica and Edgar Martinez. So the A’s still have something to shoot for after they polish off the Giants.
1939 Yankees – Same theme here, the A’s are chasing a record for the best run differential ever (number of runs allowed subtracted from runs scored). The stat is considered one of the best indicators of overall quality, and the numbers back up the A’s as the best team in baseball . The A’s are dominating this category at +145, nearly triple the next best team (Dodgers at +53). Joe DiMaggio and Lou Gehrig’s ’39 Yankees have the all time at record at 411. Will the A’s get there? It’s going to be very tough, but it’s one more reason for A’s fans to hate on the Yankees, a popular pastime at the Coliseum.
Angels (of Anaheim) – Why isn’t this the rivalry? The Angels are a big spending team and the A’s are the not spending team, but the results have been quite similar (A’s 7 playoff appearances since 2000 to the Angels’ 6). The division rivals are both within reach of the AL West crown this year, but more importantly, the whole NorCal-SoCal animosity that keeps the Giants-Dodgers rivalry going is even more at play here. Is there any greater contrast than the activist Oakland vs. Disneyland’s baseball team? It’s time for Oakland to “occupy” their proper spot at the World Series. The Angels come to Oakland August 22nd.
What’s your vote for the top A’s rival?