Tables turned: Giants envy A’s

For the 1st time in a long time, the Giants wish they were the A's

Mychael Urban
October 05, 2017 - 4:37 pm

They’ll never come right out and say it. Too proud. Too historically superior in too many ways.

Too ... I don’t know. Too Giants.

The Giants generally don’t do envy. You might have noticed; they’ve been pretty successful. So have the A’s, of course. Just not recently.

While the most recent run of Giants glory includes three world titles and a riveting Wild Card win just a year ago, after which they gave the eventual-champion Cubs all they could handle until Santiago Casilla happened, the A’s can point only to something the Giants can’t: They made the playoff three years in a row in this decade (2012-2014).

Alas, they never advanced, twice falling to the Tigers before the epic implosion in a Wild Card loss to the Royals that we can now all agree was the beginning of an end. Not THE end, but an end.

(OK, let’s not kid ourselves. The actual end came when Yoenis Cespedes was shipped out a few months before that loss in Kansas City. Sorry, Billy. Gotta wear that one.)

((Oh, yeah, there was another end, too. The end of a pretty good run of bullpen work. That came when, um, THE A’S SIGNED SANTIAGO CASILLA. FOR TWO YEARS. COME ON!))

Then there’s this: The A’s never advanced during a run of four consecutive postseason appearances in the previous decade, either. Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder, Barry Zito, Eric Chavez, Miguel Tejada, Jason Giambi, Jermaine Dye, Johnny Damon. They all rocked Green and Gold during all or part of that run from 2000-2003. There were some fine complementary players in there, too, such as the late and vastly underrated Cory Lidle, Mark Ellis, Ramon Hernandez, Terrence Long, and pretty much every closer they plugged in.

But that insanely impressive and entertaining collection of talent never got over the proverbial hump. If you must work in the word “hump” to what happened during that time — and given what a swell word it is, why the hell wouldn’t you? — you’d have to settle on this: They were a four-year dry-hump for their fans.

So Billy blew it up. Traded away Huddy and Mulder, two pitchers so beloved they’re still being wistfully written about, still being honored with bobblehead days at whatever we’re supposed to call the Coli now. That was after the run of playoff appearances ended with a near-miss in 2004. That was followed by what appeared at the time to be the desperation moves of signing seemingly broke-ass Frank Thomas, promoting another group of young-stud pitchers saddled with the unrealistic expectations of being the next Big Three (with Zito still hanging around, no less), and picking up a couple of the saltiest vets/gamers/red-asses the modern game has ever seen in Jason Kendall and Mark Kotsay. Oh, and Milton Bradley. Unhinged, undiagnosed and unbelievably talented Milton Bradley.

But it worked! Manager Ken Macha, who took over for the similarly underappreciated (by the front office, at least) Art Howe, managed to do what Howe didn’t. He managed the A’s into the second round in 2006! Zito beat the seemingly unbeatable Johan Santana at the Homerdome, setting the tone for an Exorcism Series of sorts.

The Twins, remember, had inflicted some of Oakland’s recent playoff pain. Or did you forget A.J. Pierzynski — he was such a regular nuisance that I didn’t even have to look up how to spell that ridiculous last name — and the infamous “BOOYAH!”?

Good times, yo. Until they weren’t. The Tigers swept the A’s out of the American League Championship Series, Billy swept Macha out of the manager’s office, Zito cashed in with the Giants, and Bob Geren happened.

What followed was straight misery. For years. And then Bob Melvin happened. And then 2012-2014. Good times, yo.

And then they weren’t. The Cespedes trade haunted the club until, well, it still does. But Bob Melvin is still happening, and now Dave Kaval is happening. And let’s give David Forst a little love here, too.

But the real love, the kind of love that makes you look at a last-place team with an odd but legitimate sense of pride, is reserved for a new wave of young talent that — careful with these comparisons, folks; they rarely pan out — does indeed remind one of the early-aughts in Oakland.

Matt Chapman. Matt Olson. Chad Pinder. Franklin Barreto. Ryon Healy. Boog Freaking Powell. Bruce Maxwell. With Khris Davis and Marcus Semien in the roles of far-from-old vets to help lead.

Young. Athletic. Pretty damn good on defense. Lots of power. Lots of energy. Great chemistry.

There’s some young pitching talent there, too. Quite a bit, actually. But there’s no Next Big Three. It’s a work in progress on the mound. And Santiago Casilla is still happening. But again, so is Bob Melvin.

It bears repeating: Young. Athletic. Pretty damn good on defense. Lots of power. Lots of energy. Great chemistry.

Now let’s go back to the Giants, and the thing they’ll never come right out and say. They’ll never say the words, “We wish we were more like the A’s.”

But they will say this: “We need to get younger and more athletic.” Brian Sabean said that recently.

They will say this: “We’re very concerned about our defense.” Bobby Evans said that Tuesday, at the Giants’ end-of-season presser.

They will say this: “Lord know everyone loves power.” Sabean said that Tuesday, too.

And they’ll say this: “I want to see more fire in the belly.” Bruce Bochy said, also Tuesday.

Hmmm. Pretty safe to say we can all say this, even if the proud Giants won’t:

The Giants envy the A’s. And for the first time in a long time, they should.

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