Who is the Best of Bay Area Baseball?


Jack Parodi, Staff Writer

The 2014 Major League Baseball season has been a rollercoaster ride for the fans of the San Francisco Giants and the Oakland A’s. Both teams made the playoffs, but in two completely different ways. And for one team, their season ended in sheer heartbreak.

The Giants started off the season as one of the hottest teams in baseball, making it look like they would run away with the National League West title over the Los Angeles Dodgers. As the first couple of months passed, the Giants didn’t just cool off, they went ice cold. In the beginning of June, the Giants were 9.5 games up on the Dodgers. Towards the middle of August, they were down 6.5 games; a 16 game drop in the division. Not only could the Giants not buy a run in their massive slump, the pitching staff was struggling more than ever.

General manager Brian Sabean made a questionable decision to not make any big-time trades before the July 31 trade deadline. The only acquisitions that San Francisco made were Jake Peavy from the Boston Red Sox and Dan Uggla from the Atlanta Braves. Both were easily having the worst years of their entire careers, so they weren’t expected to make much of an impact. Peavy was expected to be the Giants’ fifth starter in replace of injured Matt Cain and Uggla to be a reliable everyday second baseman and return to his old, all star caliber self because of Joaquin Arias’s and rookie Joe Panik’s struggles at the plate for the first half of the season; not to mention Marco Scutaro’s season-ending injury. Uggla turned out to be complete trash and the Giants sent him down to the minor leagues after he went 0-12 in five games. Peavy on the other hand has been a rock in an unstable Giants rotation going 7-4 with a 2.16 ERA for the time he has been on the team.

Peavy’s and ace Madison Bumgarner’s stellar pitching along with the hot bats of Buster Posey (.308), Joe Panik (.327), Pablo Sandoval (.296), and Hunter Pence (.286) has helped San Francisco make a complete 180 by bringing them into playoff contention, leading the Wild Card standings by a huge margin and at one point only being a single game back of the division-leading Los Angeles Dodgers. One questionable call during the Giants’ hot streak is manager Bruce Bochy’s decision to place two-time Cy Young award winner Tim Lincecum in the bullpen and replace him with Yusmeiro Petit. Besides one shaky start in Colorado against the Rockies, Petit has been an absolute stud, allowing only five runs in four starts as well as setting the Major League record for consecutive batters retired (46).

San Francisco has clinched a spot in the post season playoffs. When the Mirador went to press on Wednesday the Giants had made it as a wildcard team. San Francisco should go far because of their experience in the playoffs and their ability to come from behind and win close games. The Giants’ pitching staff is picking it up now and if the hitting stays hot, they very well could win their third World Series championship in five years.

Now to the other side of the bay. The Oakland A’s looked like the clear cut favorites to win the American League West for over half of the season. They were absolutely unstoppable with the stellar hitting of Stephen Vogt, Brandon Moss, and Derek Norris combined with the shutdown pitching of Sonny Gray, Scott Kazmir, and Jesse Chavez. At one point in the season, Oakland was six games up on the Los Angeles Angels.

Looking to improve their team even more and possibly lock up the top seed in the playoffs, general manager Billy Beane made two blockbuster trades in July to acquire Chicago Cubs all-star pitcher Jeff Samardzija, Jason Hammel who was having a great season for the Cubs, and  Boston Red Sox all-star pitcher Jon Lester. The only downside to those trades was that the A’s traded away Cuban outfielder Yoenis Cespedes to the Red Sox for Lester. In order to fulfill the absence of Cespedes, Oakland traded for a pure hitter and good fielder in Sam Fuld from the Minnesota Twins. All of a sudden, this team had a “World Series or bust” label pasted to their backs. With easily the best rotation in baseball and a team that can put up runs in a hurry, it seemed like no team could compete with Oakland.

A few weeks into the post-trade deadline part of the season, it was looking great. The A’s were winning games left and right. Then the struggles came in. Hammel looked terrible in his first few starts for the A’s and the hitting that was once one of the most prominent in the MLB just vanished, not being able to score if their lives depended on it. This slump began in August, and never ended. Oakland fell from six games up in the AL West to now 11.5 games back of the Los Angeles Angels, who just recently clinched the West title. To put things in perspective, the A’s have the worst record in the MLB after trading Cespedes to the Red Sox.

Although the A’s were playing horribly towards the end of the season, they had a series against a horrendous team in the Texas Rangers to close out the season and make the playoffs as a wild card team. They had to face an ace in James Shields of the Kansas City Royals who is having the best year of his career, not to mention Kansas City’s hot bats heading into the playoffs. It was looking great for the A’s, with Brandon Moss hitting two home runs helping Oakland obtain a 7-3 lead heading into the 8th inning of the wild card game. But then the Royals started the greatest comeback in playoff history, scoring three in the 8th, one in the 9th, and two in the 12th to win 9-8 and eliminate the A’s from the playoffs and shatter their World Series dreams.