Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Bay Bridge Series: A Worthwhile Interleague Rivalry That Needs to Continue

(First off, before I start this post, what an awful game to watch today against the Diamondbacks. The Giants had it, lost it, had it again and then lost it again.'s going to be a long season for Giants fans.)

Starting Friday, the Giants will play their first Interleague series of the year against the Oakland A's at Oakland-Alameda County Stadium.

There should be no excuse for Bay Area Baseball fans to miss out on this one. Sure, the A's stadium stinks. Sure, the A's don't have the marquee names they once used to.

Nonetheless, this is a great rivalry, and should be further reason why the A's should stay in Northern California (preferably the Bay Area).

Last year, I went to my first Giants-A's game in Oakland. First off, you can't beat the ticket prices. I got a pair of tickets in the lower section for $26 bucks. $26! You can't beat that, even if Oakland's stadium isn't the greatest place in the Majors. Major League Baseball and Giants baseball is still baseball.

Secondly, there is a unique environment at a Giants-A's game. There is a special kind of environment that you just don't get when the Giants or A's play other teams. Last year, the stadium was half-full with Giants fans (and this was an A's home game mind you!) and after Nate Schierholtz hit a home run over the right field wall, you would have thought you were at AT&T Park by the roars of the crowd. Throughout the game fans alternated between "Let's go Giants" and "Let's go A's" chants, and exchanged playful trash talk, which happened to be delightful to eavesdrop on.

Early in the game, A's third baseman Chad Pennington made an error, bobbling a slow roller. A few rows in front of me, a Giants fan in a Barry Bonds jersey (a rather large one to be frank) stood up and looked to his right at two, younger Oakland fans. He cupped his hands together and said this:

"Walt Weiss would have made that play! You hear me? He is no Walt Weiss!"

Really? The one home run per year Walt Weiss? I gave the guy kudos for the retro reference, even if the two younger fans probably didn't know Weiss played for the A's.

The Giants won the game 6-3. However, I learned something more important after the Giants win: Bay Area fans need this rivalry. Sure, there is the Giants-Dodgers and nothing can top that, but the A's-Giants is a close second. You can't beat that half-and-half split at AT&T Park and Oakland-Alameda County Stadium. You can't beat the coverage in the San Francisco Chronicle or San Jose Mercury. You can't beat that inevitable trash talk at bars after games when guys are decked out in black and orange or green and yellow after games.

Because these two franchises are so close yet so different. Look at the way the Giants have run their organization the last decade and look at how the A's have run things. Look at the difference between Brian Sabean and Billy Beane. Look at the difference between Bruce Bochy and Bob Geren. Heck, look at the difference between Athletics Nation and the McCovey Chronicles, the two main fan blogs for each team.

These two franchises are meant to continue this rivalry. They are meant to continue this rivalry in such close proximity. It would be a shame if the A's not only left Oakland, but left Northern California altogether. Bay Area baseball would not die, but it would be a little less interesting because the rivalry would lessen, if not die altogether. I mean, you think anybody cares about the Toronto Blue Jays playing the Washington Nationals, even though the Nationals used to be the Montreal Expos? No, because the Nationals are not in Canada anymore. The Blue Jays don't have that great "Battle of Canada" rivalry anymore, and baseball has suffered in Canada because of it.

I do not hate the A's. I actually like watching them. I really like players like Kurt Suzuki and Daric Barton and I really respect Billy Beane as a general manager after reading "Moneyball." However, when they play the Giants, all bets our off. I not only want the Giants to win the series, but I want them to win as many as possible, so I can gloat to my fellow friends who happen to be A's fanatics. That luxury would not exist anymore if the A's were gone.

The A's can move to Fremont or San Jose. Or they can stay in Oakland. It doesn't matter in my mind. However, the "Bay Bridge Series" needs to stay in Northern California. It's a series of pride for baseball fans in Northern California, a series the Northern faithful can call their own in the midst of the more popular "Subway Series" and "Chicago Series" that seem to dominate all the headlines come Interleague time. As a matter of fact, it's rivalries like the "Bay Bridge Series" that make me continue to pine for Interleague baseball each and every year.

Let's hope the Giants can bounce back and take this series from the Athletics after a painful sweep by the Diamondbacks. With Zito, Cain and Sanchez going on the hill for the Giants, they certainly have a chance.

That being said, Giants fans should have that soft spot for the A's. We will be sorry if they are no longer in Northern California.

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