Battle of the Bay series trophy

Battle of the Bay Preview: 2016

Today marks the most annoying time of year in the Bay Area: The Battle of the Bay begins

Today marks the beginning of the “Battle of the Bay” regular season contests between the Oakland Athletics and the San Francisco Giants. They are always intense games, more so for the fans than the players. 

Battle of the Bay
Dave Stewart. Game 3 1989 World Series. Otto Gruele Jr./Getty Images.

Both teams have passionate fan bases (although one team’s fans are much more knowledgeable than the others) and the cross-bay rivalry always gets heated.  It’s been a battle since the original “Battle of the Bay” World Series in 1989. The Athletics swept the Giants in four games. 

Many a Giants fan will blame the enormous earthquake that rocked the Bay Area just before the beginning of Game 3 as the reason their team lost. Many have told me that it was unfair because the A’s were able to use their top two starters twice; Dave Stewart and Mike Moore, due to the 11-day break the series took so the Bay Area could begin to recover from the death and destruction the earthquake brought with it. 

The reality here is that the Giants also were able to use their two best starting pitchers Scott Garrelts and Rick Reuschel so really the argument doesn’t hold water. They start Garrelts in Game 3 and Don Robinson in Game 4, that was their choice. It only says that at that time the A’s had a better pair of top two starters or just a better team as described by Tim Keown of,

“Games 3 and 4 were repeats of Games 1 and 2. The Giants had to face Dave Stewart and Mike Moore all over again, which meant it wasn’t really a seven-game series, but more like a pair of two-game series, and the Giants weren’t built to compete with the A’s under those — or maybe any — parameters. The A’s were the better team regardless of schedule, but the Giants of ’89 will go to their graves believing they’d have made a better showing if they’d been able to get deeper into the Oakland rotation.”

Still, the A’s would have likely swept the Giants anyway as Keown indicates. The 1990 AL Cy Young Award winner and the last pitcher to ever win at least 25 games in a season, Bob Welch (he won 27games in 1990), would have pitched game three and likely taken home the win. 

Things have changed in the Bay Area since then. The A’s owners refuse to give the team money to spend on big name players and while they have been able to field contending teams eight times in the  past 16 seasons this century – an accomplishment only three other of the 30 MLB teams have accomplished (New York Yankees, St. Louis Cardinals and Atlanta Braves) they haven’t been to a World Series.

battle of the bay
Madison Bumgarner. Getty Images.

The Giants have won three World Series in five years and are currently one of the hottest teams in baseball. However, in their “odd years” as they call them, due to the fact that they’ve only won in 2010, 2012 and 2014, they have not even made it  to the postseason (2011, 2013 and 2015) despite their large payroll and owners who are willing to give general manager Bobby Evans money to spend. 

These facts have made the rivalry even more intense. Giants fans feel as though the fact that they’ve won a World Series more recently than the A’s makes them superior, while A’s fans feel  that their team being third all-time in World Series wins as well as having swept the Giants in a World Series makes their team superior. If you add to that the A’s number of postseason appearances in the 21st century, it just fuels the fire between the two fan bases.

This season’s four-game series should be an especially interesting. The A’s entire team has been decimated by injuries, especially the starting pitching. The A’s will be putting three recently called-up rookies the mound this week in Sean Manaea, Daniel Mengden and Dillon Overton to face veterans Jeff Samardzija, Jake Peavy and Madison Bumgarner. The other game will feature Kendall Graveman, who is in just his sophomore season against Giants’ rookie Albert Suarez

battle of the bay
Dillon Overton. Getty Images.

Suarez is having a slightly better season than Graveman at 3-1 with a 3.68 ERA in 10 appearances, four of which have been starts. Graveman has lacked run support this year and is 3-4 in 14 starts with a 4.68 ERA. Still, Graveman has pitched 75.0 innings while Suarez has pitched just 35.2 innings which could account for the difference in ERA. Graveman vs. Suarez may just end up being the most interesting match of the series.

Then there is A’s rookie Overton, who just got the win in his major league debut on Saturday against the Los Angeles Angels, facing off with 2014 World Series MVP Bumgarner. Overton allowed just three runs in his first outing – each a solo shot to each of the Angels three best hitters; Albert Pujols, Mike Trout and Kole Calhoun. Overton has talent and pitched into the sixth inning against the Angels but it will be much more telling to see how he does against the Giants’ more potent offense, especially since the A’s offense has struggled this season and will be attempting to get hits off of Bumgarner. 

Either way over the next four days, the atmosphere in the Bay Area will be tense. If you’ve lived in the area anytime between 1968 until now, you’d know that the tension between A’s fans and Giants fans is always high and since the invention of interleague play it’s even more  palatable during this time. 

The Giants are looking to easily take down this somewhat broken Athletics’ team, but if the rookie pitchers perform to the optimum level of their abilities and the A’s hitters can snag a couple runs off of each starter, the A’s may be a bit harder to defeat than the Giants are expecting.

With all that said – there is just one thing left to say:


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