San Francisco, CA

It’s still a beautiful game – even if the locals are struggling

Clay Kallam

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There have been better years.(Photo by Caitlin Conner on Unsplash)

The reality is painful – on both sides of the Bay.

The trading deadline has come and gone, and what it unveiled was the true position of both the A’s and the Giants, positions that offer scant promise to the faithful. For the Giants, the 107 wins of 2021 seem from a galaxy far, far away, while for the A’s, leaving for Las Vegas seems all but inevitable.

The sordid details …

San Francisco Giants

Let us count the ways …

It is no surprise that the two team leaders in Wins Above Replacement are Carlos Rodon and Logan Webb (3.8 and 3.7 respectively, according to Baseball Reference), but third … well, I’ll let you think a while.

You got it: Jakob Junis at 2.1. You didn’t get it? You were thinking Mike Yastrzemski? Wilmer Flores? Thairo Estrada? That trio combines for a paltry 3.8 of WAR. Local hero Joc Pederson? Thanks to a monster slump, Pederson’s WAR is 0.2.

On top of those depressingly low numbers – the Dodgers have seven players with WARs higher than Junis – every one of the top 12 Giants in WAR is 25 or older, and nine are 29 or older.

In short, the Giants are an old, mediocre team with little to build on, especially considering that Rodon is a free agent after this year and will be much more valuable to a team looking to win a World Series than to a team hoping to somehow squeeze into the postseason.

It could be, of course, that all those metrics are misleading, and the Giants are just a break or two away from a 10-game winning streak, and are poised to make playoff runs this fall and the next. Then again, you might remember that guy named Posey? He’s not playing any more. And Brandon Belt is on track to hit 12 home runs this year. Last year, he hit 29. And Brandon Crawford’s spectacular, mystical, mystifying, sell-your-your-soul-to-the-devil outlier of a 2021 season is way, way back in the rear view mirror.

So why would Farhan Zaidi even think of trying to land a star at the trading deadline? Is one player going to turn this collection of aging misfits who can’t field into a team capable of threatening to win a World Series? Look, I’ve been a Giants’ fan since the team moved here, and I’ve seen good teams, and I’ve seen bad teams. This is a bad team, plain and simple, and dealing whatever there is in the farm system for a stopgap veteran makes about as much sense as thinking the boys in orange and black are as good as the Dodgers.

What that means to fans – and I’m one – is to enjoy what moments of positivity will occur in the last two months of the season, and hope that Heliot Ramos, Marco Luciano and the other youngsters finish strong and help the big club sooner than later. (Occasional bouts of uncontrolled weeping, however, are both understandable and forgivable.)

The Oakland A’s

There are two master plans at work here. The first is obvious: John Fisher doesn’t have enough money -- $2.2 billion doesn’t go nearly as far as it used to – and so if he can’t get government entities to give him hundreds of millions of dollars so he can develop real estate around the Howard Terminal, he wants to move to Las Vegas and get the hundreds of millions from government entities there.

The second one, though, is more subtle. It’s slowly becoming clear that the baseball minds in the A’s front office have a surprising goal: They want to assemble the best Double-A and Triple-A teams possible. To do this, of course, they must trade away legitimate big leaguers for high-level prospects – but not too high. After all, if the prospects are too good, they reach the majors, and then the minor league teams suffer. But if they’re just nice, solid prospects, they spend several years in the upper minors, and those teams win lots of games.

Unfortunately, this plan is working no better than the one to build the boondoggle in downtown Oakland (the top two minor league teams are above .500, butfar from dominant) – still, given the A’s latest haul of prospects, there’s hope for a turnaround. At the major league level, of course, Hope left Oakland along with Matt Olson and Matt Chapman, and was last seen relocating to San Diego.

In the end, though, the A’s are Nevada-bound, leaving generations of fans who believed and believed with nothing but ashes and dust. Then again, that’s what John Fisher has fed them since he bought the team, and that’s what he’ll feed the fans in Las Vegas as well.

But the minor league teams will be good.

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Clay Kallam is a lifelong East Bay resident who spent several decades in local journalism -- and still writes for Diablo Magazine (among others). Over the years, he has covered just about every aspect of life in the Bay Area, from rock-and-roll to the arts to political coverage to food to sports. On the food front, he does not claim to be a critic, but rather someone who enjoys a good meal, a well-made drink and a nice red wine. As for sports, he has written for national publications (including Sports Illustrated and Slam) and covers girls' basketball across the nation for MaxPreps. He is a high school coach and a serious fan of the local teams -- and savored every minute of the Giants' and Warriors' championships. He graduated from Acalanes, UC Santa Barbara (ancient history) and Cal (philosophy). He lives in Walnut Creek with his wife Maggi, who takes many of the food photos. He appreciates his readers and is always happy to talk about anything he's written. His food experiences can be found at #dishdining on Instagram, and emails can be sent to claykallam@gmail.com.

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