Programming note: A’s-Pirates coverage gets underway today at 3:30 p.m. with A’s Pregame Live on Comcast SportsNet California
This is the moment where Sandy Alderson would have risen up and pointed out with a fiendish smile to anyone within earshot, “We really ought to consider claiming territorial rights over San Francisco and demand that the Giants move to San Jose.”
That isn’t Billy Beane’s style, of course, but frankly, it ought to be. This right now is the moment where the A’s at their cheeky best should be poking the cage at Third and King every chance they get, to point out that they are the once again the cool kids’ party, while the Giants are . . . well, to put it politely, incapable of beating the Marlins or Mets.
This is when the A’s should be at their most provocative. Not on the field, mind you. On the field, they should change nothing. They have the third best record in baseball, they’re the team with the pitching and the speed and the power, and they ooze a devilish charm throughout the lineup. Their manager is clever, their coaching staff is bright, and not to put too fine a point on it, but since May 13, they have won two of every three games they have played (34-17) at the same time the Giants have won one of every three games they have played (17-35).
That’s the difference between the Red Sox and the White Sox.
Every day in every way, the A’s are becoming the best thing a team can be – a word-of-mouth happening. In the cruel world of what-have-you-done-for-me-in-the-last-45-minutes, the A’s are pitcher Dan Straily drawing a four-pitch walk in the fifth inning last night in Pittsburgh, having to be prompted to take his base by umpire Wally Bell, and laughing at his first official baserunning attempt as a pro by saying, “I thought I had a good secondary lead and I looked in the dugout and they were all laughing at me. In hindsight, I was about three feet from the bag.”
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Oh, and Straily was even cool with being sent back to the minors after the game because he won’t be needed until after the All-Star Break. Being at the cool kids’ party means you let the afterglow linger even on your way out, as long as you know you can get back in later.
And in the meantime, the Giants are losing to teams that had that 100-loss smell to them a week ago and barrel-rolling toward Marlinhood. The Giants are reliever Jeremy Affeldt saying, “Right now, everything stinks. To be honest with you, I stink. We’re working hard, but right now it seems like hard work is spitting in our face.”
Now what party do you want to be at?
Bay Area fans are like all others in that they are fiercely territorial, and Giant fans will always find A’s fans at the end of their noses because that’s where they have decided A’s fans should be. But Bay Area fans are also like all others in that they are label shoppers, and they will go where the fun is, so they can tell their friends they know where the new rave can be found.
And because it can’t be the A’s without some good old-fashioned “hey, you gotta earn your way into this gig,” the new rave was punctuated a couple of weeks ago with a sewer backup. And why the hell not? Being an A’s fan should always be about toughing out the disdain of others, of being proud to be the hoi polloi, of saying, “We’re here, we’re never leaving, and if that bothers you, bite me. And how ‘bout a beer?”
The A’s are now the corner bar that never closes because nobody wants to leave. They don’t do karaoke, and they don’t do theme nights. They serve well and promptly, but they get snippy when they think you are dissing them, and they imagine slights with the best of them. They are the hearty backslap and the middle finger, all at the same time, because that is one of the perks of the downtrodden – to let everyone know how much fun it is in the good times, while reminding everyone who couldn’t be bothered to show up in the bad ones.
And, if Beane could be prodded to do so, to take a jab now and then at the snooty kids up the hill. Because that, too, is the A’s birthright, from the moment they came to Oakland in 1968. They make their own party because nobody will make it for them, and they are as in tune with their city as any team in any sport.
And weirdly, their owners still want to leave because there might be more short-term money in a more sterile environment down the road. That, too, is the A’s – always a step away from taking a gratuitous kick in the groin.
But this is no time to speak of their ongoing, unrequited and increasingly unlikely San Jose field trip. This is the time to revel in the A’s as the A’s, putting on the better show, having all the fun, and reminding the world that they might have been ankle-deep in sewage a month ago but it’s the team across the water that stinks right now.
And if that irks you, go argue with Jeremy Affeldt.