For the first time since 2004, it isn't completely ludicrous to suggest there's a possibility of a second Bay Bridge World Series. In other words, for the first time in seven years, Oakland Athletics fans could have an opportunity to quickly regain the ability to loudly chant the same year over and over at San Francisco Giants supporters. The only problem is that "EIGHTY-NINE ... EIGHTY-NINE" sounds a little catchier than, "TWENTY-ELEVEN ... TWENTY-ELEVEN," but A's fans who've grown tired of the Giants love fest that's swept the region over the last six months probably wouldn't mind. Of course, another cross-Bay World Series would be considered a "best case scenario" for both teams, which according to some observers are starting to look fairly similar to each other.
If the A's make the playoffs, it will coincide with the opening of Moneyball in theaters, which according to IMDb is in post production and should be available for your viewing pleasure on October 9 (Philip Seymour Hoffman as Art Howe is something I'm very much looking forward to, just to see PSH look uncomfortable in an A's uniform). But after trading roughly 24 All-Star outfielders over the past few years, Billy Beane has lost most of the collateral he built with fans from all those low-money, high-win teams of the early 2000's. As a result, a relatively aggressive offseason showed that even though the A's seemed to be more interested in leaving Oakland than making the playoffs in 2010, they're ready to at least consider contending again.
Since the Giants won the World Series with what many considered to be an excellent pitching staff paired with a barely serviceable group of hitters, Beane's group of young starters, along with a bullpen stocked with proven arms, has been called almost a copycat version of the Giants. Beane has to take umbrage with that line of thinking, since he has been putting together good young staffs paired with strong pens since the days when Brian Sabean would sign guys like Michael Tucker on purpose to avoid having to use their 1st round draft pick on a player that would require annoying perks like a signing bonus and time to hone his craft in the Minor Leagues.
The A's didn't just sign relievers like Brian Fuentes and Grant Balfour this past winter, they also beefed up their lineup by acquiring Josh Willingham, Hideki Matsui and David DeJesus. While the A's are still unproven offensively and look to be a pitching-dominant squad, the same was said about the Giants before the 2010 season after additions such as Aubrey Huff and Mark DeRosa were widely panned as nowhere near enough to bring their awful 2009 offense up to league average levels. The Giants had Buster Posey in their back pocket, but the A's have Chris Carter lying in wait once Coco Crisp gets injured and/or if Willingham's left field defense proves too terrible to tolerate.
We know the Giants are capable of greatness since we just saw it five months ago. Can the A's win their first championship in 22 years, and could that possibly happen in a Bay Bridge Series sequel (preferably without the devastating natural disaster)? Let's take a look at the ceiling and floor for each local squad, with the Giants' and Athletics' best- and worst-case scenarios.
Best-Case Scenario: Oakland Athletics
- Gio Gonzalez carries the momentum from the second half of last season and spring training and proves early on he's the best pitcher on the staff.
- Brett Anderson gets over the injuries that plagued him last season and shows himself to be the best pitcher on the staff by the time the season concludes, with his superior control putting him just ahead of Gonzalez (and in the process making Anderson/Gonzalez the best one-two pitching combo in the AL).
- Andrew Bailey comes back healthy (soon), and pushes Fuentes and Balfour back a spot, giving the A's bullpen depth they haven't had since Tony LaRussa wore a green and gold cap perched three inches above his ears and his long, flowing mullet.
- Rich Harden gives them anything at all between oblique strains and bouts with the sniffles.
- Between Willingham, Matsui, Kurt Suzuki, Daric Barton, Kevin Kouzmanoff or Carter, the A's luck into at least one player hitting 20 or more home runs in 2011 (a feat only Jack Cust and Nick Swisher have accomplished in Oakland over the last four seasons).
- The A's can buy their own 50,000 watt radio station so fans can listen to a signal stronger than the FM stations used inside gyms or at drive-in movie theaters.
Ultimate best-case scenario: the A's rise, along with the Rangers' pitching struggles after losing Cliff Lee, help Oakland win their first AL West title since 2006. Their pitching leads to shocking postseason run, with series victories over the Twins, Red Sox and Giants, followed by a parade in downtown Oakland and Braden absolutely killing on George Lopez a few days later.
Best-Case Scenario: San Francisco Giants
- Pablo Sandoval's hunger to succeed continues to fight off his hunger for late night bamboo, leading to the Panda pushing Ryan Zimmerman for the crown of best third baseman in the National League.
- Each of the Giants' five starters pitches around 200 innings without a stop on the DL.
- Mark DeRosa recovers fully from his second wrist surgery, Freddy Sanchez doesn't have anymore surgeries, Pat Burrell scores as often on the field as he supposedly does in the Marina, Miguel Tejada regains his youth without the use of PEDs, and Aaron Rowand doesn't prove to be a distraction or excuse to move Andres Torres out of centerfield, where plays the best outfield defense of any Giants centerfielder since Darren Lewis (as long as Torres stays healthy and can replicate his amazing first full season in the Majors). In short: the Giants' many veteran position players perform up to their salaries, or at least don't actively detract from the product on the field.
- Brian Wilson shrugs off his back and oblique troubles and solidifies his standing as the best closer in the NL if not all of baseball, leading NBC to hand him Jay Leno's spot full-time during the offseason. Ratings immediately double, as Charlie Sheen agrees to be a guest on Wilson's talk show every other evening.
- Brandon Belt becomes the 2011 version of Posey, only without people asking, "Why is he still playing first base?"
Ultimate best-case scenario: pretty much a complete carbon copy of what happened last year, complete with another debaucherous victory parade and plenty of awkward sexual innuendo surrounding Wilson, Burrell and Huff. Okay, maybe that last part wouldn't be necessary.
Worst-Case Scenario: Oakland Athletics
- Bailey spends a lot of quality time with Dr. James Andrews in 2011.
- The American League finally solves the mystery of Braden's pedestrian stuff, smacking him around with such regularity that Stockton residents decide to sign a petition asking that Braden stop "repping the 209 so hard."
- Peter Gammons predicts Cliff Pennington will win an AL MVP.
- 37-year-old Matsui's warranty runs out, making A's fans pine for Jack Cust.
- The team's poor record leads to the only storylines from August on consisting of territorial rights battles with the Giants and rumored sightings in the Coliseum stands of Jonah Hill and PSH (who actually turn out to be ordinary hot dog and churro vendors).
- During a Thursday afternoon game against the Royals in June, one of the upper deck tarps in the Coliseum dislodges, flies through the air and covers the last remaining operational scoreboard. Alameda County and the A's refuse to remove the tarp, citing budget constraints and general apathy, and fans are left to decipher the count, outs and score by a code created by fans drumming in the bleachers throughout the rest of the season.
Ultimate worst-case scenario: injuries and losses mount, crowds barely touch 10,000 on a nightly basis, and the A's fight the Mariners for third in the AL West.
Worst-Case Scenario: San Francisco Giants
- Sandoval's weight loss doesn't stop him from continuing to hack away at high fastballs and sliders in the dirt with men on first base, or help improve his throwing accuracy after a drop off in that category from 2009 to '10.
- Barry Zito spends more time deciding whether or not he looks more like James Franco or Brandon Flowers than working on controlling his curve ball and getting out of the fifth inning every fifth day.
- Sergio Romo starts the year as closer, blows consecutive saves. Jeremy Affeldt replaces Romo as interim closer, blows consecutive saves. Santiago Casilla replaces Affeldt as interim closer, blows consecutive saves. Guillermo Mota replaces Casilla as interim closer...
- Brian Wilson's name gets uttered in a sentence by an anonymous scout who compares Wilson's injury issues to Harden's.
- An NC-17 scene in which Burrell reenacts one of his oft-rumored pickup lines in the locker room gets past Larry Baer's edits and makes it on Showtime's The Franchise: A Season with the San Francisco Giants.
- The feds investigate Bruce Bochy's hat size during the years Barry Bonds was on the team, conclude past HGH use led to Bochy out-managing guys like Don Mattingly, Bobby Cox and Ron Washington in 2010.
- Starting center fielder, Aaron Rowand.
Ultimate worst-case scenario: their pitching dominance last October can't be sustained, the veterans in the lineup regress and the bandwagon gets stuck in a set of MUNI tracks (leading to thousands of fans rushing to the Giants Dugout store and attempting to return used pink Giants caps, Zito socks, Panda Hats and Wilson beards to no avail).