The second half has begun. The Giants are poised to provide their fans with another summer of strangely glorious torture, and the A’s stuck in the big-league equivalent of the “friend zone,” wondering if it’s safe to try to take what they’ve got going to the proverbial next level.
Bay Area baseball hasn’t been this consistently compelling since 2004, when both teams won 91 games but missed the playoffs. Since then, either one team or the other has been flat-out bad or uninspiring; only once have both teams finished the season at .500 or better. That was in 2010, when the Giants took the World Series and the 81-81 A’s were managed by nondescript Bob Geren and dull as gray paste.
This year, we’ve got remarkable stories all over the clubhouse on both sides of the Bay, from out-of-the-blue All-Stars (Ryan Cook), to incredible comebacks (Buster Posey) and comedowns (Tim Lincecum), to emerging superstars of whom we’re still not quite sure what to make (Melky Cabrera, Josh Reddick).
Everywhere you look, there’s a bookworthy subject.
Sean Doolittle was an oft-injured first base prospect a year ago. Now he’s a rocket-throwing reliever.
Ryan Vogelsong, hell-bent on proving his sensational, Disney-esque season in 2011 wasn’t a fluke, but a reflection of lessons learned the hard way and still being put to good use, is doing just that as a true rock of the Giants’ rotation.
Brandon Inge and Jonny Gomes, proving there’s more to leadership than eye-popping numbers, are lending the young A’s a sense of belonging by perfectly striking the delicate balance between looseness and intensity.
In the first half alone, the Giants gave us a perfect game. The A’s gave us an MLB-best eight walk-off wins and the don’t-you-dare-leave-your-seat feeling, not felt in these parts since Barry Bonds retired, in the form of the Bay Area’s “other” freak, Yoenis Cespedes.
Yep, it’s a great time to be a Bay Area baseball fan. Nobody knows what the dog days will bring, but it sure is nice to know everyone’s likely to be involved in the hunt.
LA RUSSA’S LAST HURRAH: Didn’t Tony La Russa seem drunk on the sweet nectar of victory after his into-the-sunset gig as the National League’s All-Star skipper? His bizarre “Melky” chant at the postgame news conference conjured images of him lingering in the visitors’ clubhouse at Kauffman Stadium past sunrise early Wednesday morning.
I see him half-naked and disheveled — don’t ask why, because I don’t know; I skew ridiculous — and clinging to the lineup card as if it’s made of gold, still chanting but in hushed, indecipherable tones.
And you know what? If that’s what he did, good for him. The man won a World Series in his last season, and he went out for good with an All-Star triumph in his last competitive turn in a dugout, doing the Bay Area proper by handing the start to Matt Cain along the way.
When you think of La Russa, you think of intensity, loyalty, class and winning. We should all be so lucky to leave such legacies.
SPEED ROUND: Melky Cabrera asked his agent to get cracking on a long-term deal with the Giants. Give him some of that money that Lincecum turned down. NOW. ... But can everyone please knock it off with the notion that Cabrera made himself a ton of extra cash by being named MVP of the All-Star Game? Pretty sure everyone in the game — GMs in particular — knew of the Melkman before he homered in K.C. ... The Home Run Derby is my crack.
I’m ashamed when I’m using, but can’t seem to quit. ... Weak show by fans regarding Robinson Cano. Boo him once and be done; that’s his father out there. Show a little respect. ... Kudos to Cook, who verified that yes, he is absolutely impervious to pressure of any kind. Dude was a ho-hum starter in the low minors in 2010, he spent the majority of 2011 at Double-A learning how to work out of the bullpen, and now he’s an elite closer buzz-sawing his way through a perfect inning of work in the All-Star Game? Come on. That’s just nuts. ... And finally, welcome to Bud Selig’s Waffle House. Our special today is the Duplicity Platter, smothered in lies. The man is constitutionally incapable of telling the whole truth. See: panel, blue-ribbon ... or rights, territorial ... or replay, instant. Shameful.
Mychael Urban, a frequent co-host of The Wheelhouse (10 a.m.-2 p.m.) on 95.7 FM The Game, can be followed on Twitter @BigUrbSports. His website is UrbsUnchained.com.