Baseball bubble isolates from football foibles 

click to enlarge Spring Training
  • Lenny Ignelzi/AP
  • Baseball's spring training, which includes plenty of interaction between players such as Jarrett Parker, center, and fans, has been a good escape from the NFL headlines in the Bay Area.
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — We’re in a bubble down here, Sesame Street with Saguaro.

The Niners are coming unglued. Bruce Miller arrested? What next? Jim Harbaugh coaching third for the A’s?

From Florida, Pablo Sandoval has done what we knew he would, say the Giants disrespected him and his agent. Tsk, tsk.

Still, the chaos of the NFL, individual Niners fleeing, the Raiders en masse threatening to flee to Los Angeles, or even the Panda’s obligatory parting shot, hasn’t that much impact in the desert.

Here, the skies are as blue as the Los Angeles Dodgers’ hats and the important news was Matt Cain’s tidy 20-pitch return from 242 days of recovery for the Giants and strong performances by the A’s Jesse Hahn and Jesse Chavez.

The Bay Area was football country, from the times USF, St. Mary’s and Santa Clara in the 1930s carried their leather helmets to locales such as South Bend, Ind. Trains through the Sierra, a reverse Gold Rush as it were. Then along came the Niners in 1946, the big-time, afternoons at Kezar Stadium and we were enthralled. The arrival of the Raiders in 1960 only added to the sport’s appeal.

Two pro football teams? Only New York and Northern California had two pro football teams. Why wouldn’t we be enthralled?

But now, the Giants are the team of class and championships. And even the A’s, with their rotating roster and search for a home, have admirable qualities.

While Patrick Willis, Frank Gore and others were taking their leave from Niners Central, and while the story of Bruce Miller was trickling out, yet another Niner booked for allegedly attacking a female, a sellout crowd at Scottsdale Stadium was focused on the task at hand: Baseball and good times.

The Niners? The Raiders? This is March, when winter melts away and fans, not caring that the game was inconsequential, chanted “Beat L.A.! Beat L.A.!”

The Giants didn’t, but neither did the Dodgers beat the Giants, the game finishing in a 5-5 tie.

So depressing back home, the football stories. So upbeat down here, where the Giants store is selling T-shirts that say, “We like the odds,” a reference to this coming season after the three World Series wins have come only in even years.

“Beat L.A.!” Not “Go Giants!” Over in Mesa, the crowd yells, “Let’s go, Oakland!” Giants fans, even after all the success, find it more fulfilling to cheer against the Dodgers than for the Giants. Even in a Cactus League game.

Yasiel Puig homered for the Dodgers in that 5-5 tie and L.A., with a new front office and personal changes, may be more difficult to beat once the season begins. Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said a couple days ago that in the clubhouse a year ago, “There was a lack of professionalism.”

That can be interpreted anyway one chooses, but the implication is some of the players were not as committed to the team as they were to their own goals. The failing perhaps has been corrected, and Puig, said to be the game’s next star, perhaps has matured.

All this will be decided before the end of September, when the Niners will get on field with whatever players are left and memories of what used to be. Best to stay in the bubble.

Art Spander has been covering Bay Area sports since 1965 and also writes on and Email him at

About The Author

Art Spander

Art Spander

Art Spander has been covering Bay Area sports since 1965 and also writes on and Email him at
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