The annual preseason Battle of the Bay starts tonight at AT&T Park, and while in reality it’s merely the final dress rehearsal for the start of the regular season for both teams, it’s more the end of the annual age of innocence and the last chance to enjoy big-league baseball in its most pure form.
And don’t give me that “We already started the regular season” nonsense, A’s fans. The standings might say that, but nobody else does. The two-game series last week at the Tokyo Dome should have been called the “Sham in Japan.”
If it ain’t on live TV in 2012, it ain’t all that important. Especially when the league’s own damned network didn’t deem it worthy of a live broadcast. It was a two-game exhibition and money-grab. Period.
The preseason Battle of the Bay is a money-grab to an extent, too, but on the field, it’s one last chance for the respective fan bases to dream.
The scoreboard is as irrelevant as those at T-ball fields across the country. All that matters is that the fans get one last look at their boys before the harsh reality of winning-is-everything either slaps them silly or gives them that warm, third-shot-of-tequila sensation that comes with feeling like everything just might be right in your little corner of the world.
As it stands, the Giants have a far better chance of bringing that latter feeling to their fans. They have more talent, they have more hope, they have more established pitching.
The A’s? Well, the weekend injury news relating to Dallas Braden, their most established starter still of career-prime age (sorry, Bartolo Colon), and Manny Ramirez, their most established position player (until Yoenis Cespedes gets a year or two under that superhero utility belt of his), says it all.
Until further notice, Oakland is cursed for one reason or another.
But not, officially, until they play the Seattle Mariners again on U.S. soil.
For now, they’ve got just as good a shot at winning one of the 10 playoff spots in Major League Baseball’s vomit-inducing playoff expansion plan as anyone, and while they’re taking on the Giants, who have a much better shot as grabbing one of those diluted postseason berths, unbridled optimism should be the prevailing sentiment for both sets of fans.
Until the bell actually rings, and really until the fat lady sings, you absolutely have to believe that your team can accomplish great things.
The bonus backdrop, of course, is the rivalry.
Honesty check: The rivalry is virtually nonexistent on the field and in the clubhouses. The players could care less if Giants fans detest the A’s or vice versa. Even if they say otherwise for public consumption.
But the rivalry is very real in the stands, where it’s more of a sibling rivalry than anything — with Giants fans in the role of arrogant, older bullies and A’s fans playing the I’ll-show-you-but-I’m-still-eager-to-please little brothers and sisters.
Don’t shoot the messenger, folks. You know it’s true. And that’s what makes it compelling. The same dynamic is at work with the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox, if you really want to break it down. The Yanks are the Giants. The Sox are the A’s. Think about it.
Or don’t. Better yet, just enjoy the last remnants of baseball that doesn’t really matter. Baseball played at a ridiculously high level, for sure, but it still doesn’t matter.
What matters is coming later in the week, in the form of the Mariners and Diamondbacks.
The Battle of the Bay is meant to be pure fun. Keep that in mind, and it will be.
Preseason Battle of the Bay
- Today, 7:35 p.m., at AT&T Park. TV: Comcast SportsNet California (live), MLB Network (tape-delayed at 11 p.m.)
- Tuesday, 7:35 p.m., at O.co Coliseum.
- Wednesday, 12:45 p.m., at AT&T Park.
All games broadcast on KNBR (680 AM) and KGMZ (95.7 FM)