The experts predicted that the Oakland A’s band of no name misfits would lose 100 games this year, and even A’s die hards had to google damn near every player on the 2012 roster. Evidently inspired by the conniving premise of the movie Major League, owners Lew Wolff and John Fischer assembled a lackluster crew in the hopes that the A’s would suck bad enough to deter fans from attending, thereby proving that Oakland can’t support a major league baseball team. A’s flagship station 95.7 even started the year with promotional ads that portrayed the A’s as Major League’s Cleveland Indians (You may remember Coco Crisp being sarcastically cast as Willie Maze Hayes).
But no matter what the A’s ownership does, Billy Beane always finds a way to put a competitive line-up on the field, even if it’s with the lowest payroll in all of baseball ($49,137,500). And this year, Beane’s annual cast of rookies and randoms are making one of the most surprising runs in baseball history. We reckon Wolff and Fischer didn’t foresee that part of Major League coming to fruition!
The A’s are the hottest team in baseball despite their miniscule payroll, losing their top two pitchers in Bartolo Colon and Brandon McCarthy, and boasting a starting rotation comprised entirely of rookies. And let’s not forget that their infield is unrecognizable from their Opening Day starting line-up (only Cliff Pennington sometimes remains). What they’ve lacked in name recognition, salary and expectations however, they’ve made up for with some of the most relaxed and inspired play we’ve seen.
Their late inning walk-off victories and requisite whip cream pies to the face of the latest hero have become refreshingly common place, the Little League-esque dugout high five routines have grown increasingly complex, and the Bernie has become so ubiquitous at the Coliseum that the A’s recorded a music video for the “Bernie Lean” featuring players and fans. And now, as the world watches, the A’s crew of Lost Boys are headed to the playoffs with a shot at the AL West title with the rival Rangers in town.
Call us crazy, but with the San Francisco Giants touting a division title across the Bay, our sports writer Paul Brekke-Miesner decided to take a look back at the infamous Earthquake Series of 1989 and explore the possibility of another A’s / Giants World Series in 2012.
Only once since 1968, when the A’s joined the Giants in the Bay Area, have the two rivals from across the bay met in a World Series. That was 1989 in the infamous “earthquake series” when a meeting of the cross-bay rivals, if not a foregone conclusion, was not a surprise. But this baseball season, the pre-season pundits would have laughed at a prediction of a possible repeat of the 1989 Battle of the Bay series.
The 1989 World Series was a match made in baseball heaven for Bay Area fans. There has never been any love lost between Oakland and San Francisco fans. And finally, a chance to settle local bragging rights on the World Series stage! In 1989 the Giants, led by Will Clark (.333 avg., 23 homers, 111 RBI), Kevin Mitchell (47 homers and 125 RBI) and pitcher Scott Garrelts (National League ERA leader with a 2.28 ERA) won the National League West by 3 games over the San Diego Padres with a record of 92 wins and 70 losses. They then beat the Chicago Cubs 4 games to 1 in the National League Championship Series.
The A’s, with the best record in baseball at 99 wins and 63 losses, won the American League West by 7 games over the Kansas City Royals and beat Toronto 4 games to 1 in the American League championship series. The A’s big three on the mound – Dave Stewart (21-9, 3.32 ERA), Mike Moore (19-11, 2.61 ERA) and Bob Welch (17-8, 3.00 ERA) led the way, with the league’s most formidable closer, Dennis Eckersley, coming out of the bullpen. The A’s also had Rickey Henderson, Jose Canseco and Mike McGwire for speed and power.
The much anticipated 1989 series, the first involving two teams from the same metropolitan area since 1956, started in Oakland with the A’s winning the first two games. Oakland’s pitching was dominant with Dave Stewart and Michael Moore silencing the Giants’ bats in two shutouts. But more than anything else, the 1989 World Series is remembered for what occurred at 5:04 pm, 31 minutes before the start of game 3 in San Francisco.
A magnitude 7.1 earthquake struck, rocking the stadium and causing wide spread death and destruction to the Bay Area. The quake was centered in the Santa Cruz Mountains and named for nearby Loma Prieta Peak. The majority of devastation from the quake centered in west Oakland with the collapse of a section of the 880 freeway, the Marina district of San Francisco, and on the Bay Bridge. The largest loss of life, 42 of the 63 people, occurred in the collapsed portion of the 880 freeway in Oakland.
The quake delayed the third game of the series for 10 days as the Bay Area recovered from the devastation. What was billed as the “Bay Bridge Series” and the “Battle of the Bay” was quickly dubbed “The Earthquake Series.”
The final two games of the series in San Francisco highlighted the A’s power, speed and pitching as they swept the Giants in the series. The A’s pummeled Giants’ pitching for nine home runs during the series and prompted some commentators to quip that the earthquake was caused by the A’s hitting power. What made the series extra special for A’s fans was that Oakland born and/or bred players were at the center of the victory. Dave Stewart was crowned MVP of the series while Rickey Henderson and Dennis Eckersley also contributed to the outcome. Interestingly, current A’s general manager Billy Beane was an outfielder on that team.
It was a series to remember and the last time the A’s appeared in a World Series. After four world series victories for the A’s – in 1972, ’73, ’74 and 1989 – the Giants finally won their first in San Francisco in 2010.
Is it possible that the A’s and Giants can bring another World Series to the Bay this season? Highly unlikely you say? Yes, the odds are astronomical. Still, who would have predicted how the 2012 major league baseball season is turning out? The upstart Orioles are tied for the division lead with the behemoth Yankees, and the A’s are neck-and-neck with the powerhouse Rangers, having already discarded the Angels 155 million dollar payroll. As the days go by, the odds increase! This could get interesting.
The Giants were pre-season picks by many experts, based on their exemplary pitching staff, to be in the thick of the World Series hunt. With arguably the best pitching rotation in baseball the two previous seasons, and with the signing of Melky Cabrera, the Giants came into the 2012 season as a shoo-in for the National League’s Western Division crown and more. The Giants, as predicted, have clinched the NL West division title, but their pitching staff is scaring no one this season. They also lost Cabrera, when he was suspended for violating the league’s steroid use policy. He was leading the National League in batting average at the time of his suspension. The Giants are no longer a shoo-in for the Series, but they’ve continued to play quality baseball and recently claimed the NL West crown.
The A’s, on the other hand, were predicted to bring up the rear in the AL West. Their two chief division rivals, the Texas Rangers and Los Angeles Angels, continued to stock their cupboards with new talent during the off-season. The Angels even spent $254 million dollars to purchase baseball’s best hitter – Albert Pujols – from the world champion St. Louis Cardinals, not to mention a solid pitcher in C.J. Wilson.
In the meantime, Lew Wolff, the A’s low-life owner, stripped the team’s cupboard bare by trading the A’s best pitchers – Gio Gonzalez, Trevor Cahill and closer Andrew Bailey, all young of age – for what he called the future and the team’s move to San Jose. This was Wolff-speak for bolstering his argument to major league baseball owners to allow moving the A’s out of Oakland… strip the team of talent, produce a losing record and dissuading A’s fans from attending games, thereby demonstrating he has no support in Oaktown.
And what happened on the way to San Jose? The A’s pitching staff, consisting of several rookies and has-beens, has turned into one of the best in baseball, and the offense is hitting consistently up and down the line-up. And now as the season draws to a close, Oakland fans are finally turning out to see their Cinderella A’s forge ahead into October.
So who’s best suited for a World Series run? The Giants have a good team with play-off experience, and they’ve been prepped for the post-season atmosphere by playing their home games in front of sold out frenzied crowds almost nightly. Some however have noted the relatively weak competition the Giants have faced in the NL West and fear that SF lacks dynamic talent outside of Matt Cain, Buster Posey, and Madison Bumgardner.
When it comes to post season play, the A’s are ridiculously inexperienced, but they have tremendous momentum and aren’t burdened by the yoke of expectation. They are taking it a day at a time, getting solid pitching and clutch hitting, and feeding off each other’s excitement and the home crowd’s growing faith. The question right now is whether they can wrestle the division away from the Texas Rangers. If they can, they would be better suited for success going into a five game series. The Wild Card situation could prove difficult for the green and gold because they don’t have a go-to stud in the event of a one game play-off. However the cookie crumbles for the A’s, their success will rise and fall on the performance of their young pitching staff.
We here at 38th Notes hope both teams can put the pieces together so that come mid-October the baseball spotlight is on the Bay Area for a World Series reunion and another chance to settle local bragging rights.