Programming note: Watch Ray Ratto and Tim Kawakami tonight when they join host Jim Kozimor on "But Seriously" to discuss The Big Three reunion in Oakland -- 5 p.m. on CSN Bay Area
Life seemed so much simpler four days ago, so much easier to comprehend, so much easier to advocate for something that seemed so satisfactory in so many ways.
But life was a lot of things four days ago. It always is.
Four days ago, nothing made more sense than for the Giants and Athletics to collude to give Tim Hudson and Barry Zito a start against each other as a tribute to nostalgia and the good old days that never seemed to achieve the best days they could be. Everyone gets what they want, and life is good.
[RATTO: Hudson vs Zito must happen]
Except the Giants suddenly climbed back into the distant fringes of the National League West race because the Los Angeles Dodgers lost four consecutive games and the locals won two, and eight and a half games suddenly became six, and no hope of a miracle became a glimmer.
And suddenly questions arose about this grand homage to the romanticized past. Namely, is Hudson the Giants’ best choice in a postseason race that may not actually be one? And is Zito the A’s best chance to win that game? And if the Giants are in the race, do the A’s owe baseball (well, the Dodgers, and the mythical baseball valhalla and the equally mythical unwritten code) their best effort to beat the Giants?
But the one question that nobody, including your deservedly humble servant failed to ask was this: Would A’s fans rather watch Barry Zito and Tim Hudson, or watch their team ruin the Giants’ even infinitesimal postseason hopes?
This is important because all through this tsunami in a thimble, we assumed that we knew what A’s fans actually wanted because, well, assuming what others want is part of our call from the gods.
And we assumed, quite rightly, that the Giants and A’s were both done, Hudson was a Giant, Zito was an Elephant, and why the hell not?
Now we must offer an aside here, and that is that the A’s helped precipitate this by saying they had no intention of starting Zito against any team, let alone THAT team. The A’s in the Billy Beane/David Forst era (and the Sandy Alderson era before that, to be frank) are a serious-minded operation that never gives in to acts of whimsy because, damn it, baseball is a serious business and whimsy is something only hippies and socialists do.
The Giants, on the other hand, turn half their roster into stuffed animals, and to be honest, when I think irrepressibly madcap and impish, my mind immediately goes to Brian Sabean and Bobby Evans. You know, the sort who would drink out of a fisherman’s boot and tell ribald stories of the road.
Well, okay, maybe not Evans so much.
Anyway, because the A’s were dismissing the idea of a Zito start, this seemed like the smartest notion ever. And now that we seem to have it, I, for one, am having buyer’s remorse because of the following factors:
1. Starting Zito is clearly a sop to the fans.
2. The fans may prefer the Giants being humiliated to watching Zito pitch.
3. If that’s what the fans want, and the A’s have already acknowledged that in this one instance they are willing to pander to the customer base, why not re-pander? After all, once you’ve lost your panderer’s virginity, you cannot re-attain it retroactively. Once you’re in on the idea of sucking up to the proles, you’re in all the way.
4. So maybe what the fans want isn’t nostalgia, but the absolute antithesis of nostalgia, specifically the very visceral and immediate joy of screwing their imperious financial overlords.
5. Besides, the Giants might helped all our cases by hairballing Wednesday’s game in San Diego while Los Angeles ended its losing streak against Arizona and turning the illusory promise of six games back with 12 to play into the depressing mileage of seven with 11. Thus, the A’s may not get to ruin the Giants’ season, as it may already be damaged beyond repair.
And that brings us to the notion of giving the fans what they want by not pitching Zito rather than giving the fans what they want by pitching Zito. And that presumes that Zito cannot summon the thunder one last time and bludgeon the Giants so soon after helping them win the ring they now wear proudly on their middle fingers.
At least you’d hope they’d wear one there just to deal with all the people who ask, ”Do you ever wear your rings?”
So in summary, A’s manager Bob Melvin has been asked to figure out what his bosses want, what his players want, what the fans want, what we want, and why we may not want what we want even after we said what we wanted. Frankly, why he isn’t a raging alcoholic with self-applied hammer dents in his forehead by now is a complete bafflement.