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April 16 - Battle of the Bay II

Another baseball season is underway and despite the dark steroid cloud that hovers ominously over
the game, most fans are ready for another exciting season.

A new season brings new hope and a fresh start to every Major League city.  “This is our year” you tell
your friends at the park with your hand fit snug inside a large foam finger that reads “#1” as you open
up your program and have visions of a World Series in your team’s future.  (Warning: If you’re a
Royals fan and saying this, please get yourself to your local psychiatrist immediately.  Or if you are a
Marlins fan and can actually name five of your team’s players other than Dontrelle Willis and Miguel
Cabrera you may also be delusional.  Please refer to Royals medical recommendation, paragraph 1,
sentence 4).  

No fans are more excited than San Francisco Bay Area fans.  The 2006 campaign
opened up last Tuesday with more hope and promise than a frat boy with a bottle
of vodka inside of Tara Reid’s trailer.   I don’t have a crystal ball, Nostradamus on
my bench or even a Rick “Big Daddy” Reuschel budah stomach to rub to ensure a
successful prediction.  What I do have however is my gut baseball instinct and an
ability to claim that in my malaise, I was high off of red bull and moldy cheese
when I made this prediction:

The Giants and A’s will meet in Battle of the Bay II in the 2006 fall classic.

I realize the name lacks in originality and creativity and is basically stealing the
name from the 1989 showdown, but I figure Battle of the Bay II – “This time the orange and black are
on roids’ “ would be flippant and a bit in bad taste.  

Not since Sir Francis Drake discovered the beautiful Bay Area back in the 1500's has there been as
much excitement in the region. While Drake’s followers had the tough choice of choosing between
hunting and gathering, which from what I’ve been told is quite the difficult choice, Bay Area fans are
faced with even more of a conundrum: Giants or A’s in 2006?   Either way it will mark the return of
those goofy early 90’s Giants/A’s hats that were black with a Giants logo on one side and green with
an A’s logo on the other.  To me these hats show complete confusion.  Not only were these hats
extremely dorky and fashion clashing, resembling non-fraternal Siamese twins joined at berth, they
just screamed out – this guy has major decision making issues.   In comparison to New York,
wearing a Mets/Yankees hat in New York would not only result in a lifetime of ridicule from your
buddies, but also would probably get you jumped, mugged or maimed.     

The Giants have bolstered their bench with veterans Steve Finley and Mark Sweeney and re-inserted
a healthy Barry Bonds into the lineup.  Matt Morris was added via free agency to add to a great staff
which already includes last year phenom Matt Cain, wicked lefty Noah Lowry and of course Jason
Schmidt.  Obviously the key component to San Francisco’s season is the health of Barry Bonds, but
with Finley as well as second year speedster Jason Ellison, the Giants have some insurance in case
Bond’s knee doesn’t hold up in the outfield.  The Giants also need Jason Schmidt to return to his
2004 form when he struck out 251 batters.   There is the risk of course that Barry could be pelted in
the sternum with a syringe thrown by opposing fans and forced to miss the rest of the season. For the
integrity of this article however, we’ll assume that he’ll dodge the incoming arsenal and blast home
runs into the Bay all season.  

The A’s surprised everyone in the off-season by not trading away pitching ace Barry Zito as well as
adding Estaban Loaiza to their already stellar staff.  Rich Harden, Danny Haren and Joe Blanton
round off a young and electric rotation.  The A’s lineup doesn’t jump off the lineup card and scare
opposing pitchers right out of their jock straps, but it could be one of the most well rounded lineups in
the American League.  From top to bottom they are solid.  New additions Frank Thomas and often
whiny Milton Bradley* instantly improve the A’s lineup which was desperately in need of more
offense.   * Batteries not included-not liable for public outbursts, profanity and racial slurs during use
of this product

In my imaginary crystal ball I see the 2006 Western Divisions providing much more excitement than
the 2005 campaigns.  In all honesty, it doesn’t take Nancy Drew or a crystal ball to figure out that this
year will be more exciting than last year.  The  “Wild Wild West” divisions in 2005 had about as much
excitement as Billy the kid and Wyatt Earp squirting each other coyly with squirt guns.

I truly believe that the N.L West in 2005 was the only division that the victor could have been decided
by a ro-sham-bo game at some point in May and the outcome would have been the exact same. San
Diego, trying everything they possibly could not to finish atop the division, finished only two games
above .500 to claim division glory.  This included a far from stellar 8-17 in the month of July.

The A’s kept pace with the Angels for most of the 2005 campaign, but faltered late and left their faithful
with yet another disappointing chapter in A’s history.

2006 will produce different results. If you don’t believe me you can rub Big Daddy’s stomach yourself.  

Only seventeen miles separate the two teams which for those scoring at home is a twenty-four
minute car ride, thirty-minute boat jaunt, forty-minute BART trip, two-hour donkey journey, and a five
second catapult.  Don’t let the close proximity fool you – the teams couldn’t be more different.

Comparing the two teams would be like comparing a sea ravished, unshaven, brine invested, peg-
legged sailor to a petite, soft skinned, well-mannered, beautiful ballet dancer. (I’ve tried getting the
two together in a room, putting on some slow jazz, and some candles and it just didn’t work out).

The Giants are in the new and pristine AT&T Park while the A’s have been petitioning for a new
stadium for years now, but still reside inside the Al Davis controlled Network Associates Stadium.

The Giants core is made up of players who wouldn’t be carded at 7-11 because of their “We card
under 40” slogan while the A’s roster consists of at least 17 players that Peter Gammons, even with
teeth, wouldn’t recognize if they pulled up next to him wearing full A’s uniforms and pelted him in the
face with a rosin bag.  

The A’s have crafty lefty, guitar playing, long-haired, John Mayer-like ladies man,  Barry
Zito while the Giants have goofy lefty Steve Kline who probably couldn’t even get lucky
with Helen Keller, a bottle of tequila and full repertoire of scented candles.   

The Giants are completely dependent upon one player in Barry Bonds who will
ultimately decide if the Giants sink or swim in 2006.  The A’s have a collection of role
players and are not defined by a sole superstar.

The Giants have a payroll of over 90 million while the A’s, like a mother of four at Marshals, have
bargain shopped their way to just over 60 million.  
    
Both teams do share one similarity:  They’ve struggled in recent years in the playoffs.  The Giants
blew a certain World Series victory in 2002 against Anaheim and were exited out of the playoffs in the
first round versus New York in 2000 and Florida in 2003.  

The A’s have even managed to top that.  They’ve lost in a deciding game five in each of their four
recent playoff appearances.  Losses to Boston in 2003, Minnesota in 2002, and New York in 2001
and 2000 sent the A’s home early.  

Look for the A’s to keep tight pace with the Angels in their division before taking over in the second
half down the stretch.  The Giants will run away with the division despite an early push from Los
Angeles and San Diego.   The A’s will finally get revenge by taking out the Yankees in the first round
and the Giants will again meet the Cubs in the NLCS just as they did back in 1989.  From there the
table will be set and the half A’s, half Giants hats will be resurrected once again for Battle of the Bay
II.  

    
Post –Season Predictions … (they are a lot easier to do one week into the season)

ALDS:  New York vs Oakland
      Boston vs Chicago

ALCS:  Oakland vs Boston

NLDS:   St. Louis vs San Francisco
       NY Mets vs Chicago

NLCS :   Chicago vs San Francisco  

World Series  :  San Francisco vs Oakland

Winner :   Look to the Giants/A’s hat for your answer…   

AL West

1.        A’s
2.        Los Angeles
3.        Seattle
4.        Texas

AL Central

1.        Chicago
2.        Cleveland
3.        Minnesota
4.        Detroit
5.        Kansas City


AL East

1.        Boston
2.        New York
3.        Toronto
4.        Baltimore
5.        Tampa Bay

NL West

1.        Giants
2.        Los Angeles
3.        San Diego
4.        Arizona
5.        Colorado


NL Centeral

1.        St. Louis
2.        Chicago
3.        Houston
4.        Milwaukee
5.        Pittsburgh

NL  East

1.        New York
2.        Atlanta
3.        Philadelphia
4.        Washington
5.        Florida