It’s not often that anything in the newspaper catches my eye these days, except for the always exceptional work of Athletics beat writer Susan Slusser. So when something does get my attention, it is usually something pretty remarkable in some respect. This Sunday’s edition of the San Francisco Chronicle featured a piece written by their fearless sports editor Al Saracevic that was especially galling.
The piece was a position by position rundown of the Oakland Athletics and San Francisco Giants, with tiny blurbs for each one explaining his opinions as to which team boasts the superior player at the given spot. I probably don’t even have to tell you that of the 12 categories outlined, the Giants were deemed superior in 8 of them. In this case though it wasn’t the mere fact that they were chosen over the A’s, it was the reasoning behind it that struck a nerve with me.
As A’s fans, we are no strangers to some feelings that may be categorized as an inferiority complex. While the Athletics have historically been a more successful team, won more championships (9 to 7), more division titles (15 to 8), the Giants were here first and play in the city thought to be the crown jewel of this region, so they are seen as superior. It’s a reality that Athletics fans have to face on a daily basis as they proudly support their team. While Saracevic pleads with us to accept him as an unbiased arbitor of superiority, the gushing praise of the Giants throughout this article say otherwise.
So the breakdown of his choices is as follows:
Starting Rotation: Giants over A’s
Bullpen: A’s over Giants
Fans: Giants over A’s
I will preface my rebuttal by stating that in a few cases here I don’t actually disagree with his decisions, but his logic behind those decisions is incredibly flawed and almost childlike in their lack of analysis.
He begins by proclaiming Buster Posey reminds him of Johnny Bench, while Jaso and Norris are comparable to Bobby Estalella. For those unaware, Estalella was a talentless, steroid infused catcher for the Giants in the Bonds era who needs to get a refund on his BALCO purchases. To denegrate the platoon that is Jaso and Norris, that has combined to hit .333 on the young season is an early indication he has no intention of praising the green and gold. That’s not to say I wouldn’t take Posey over them, but they are no Bobby Estalella.
Marco Scutaro became a hero for the Giants last season by almost literally never swinging and missing for the better part of two months. He caught the final out of the NLCS in a memorable scene in the pouring rain. He is indeed a favorable option over Eric Sogard at second base, but nothing to support that case was given here other than what I stated in the previous sentence.
Here’s where things begin to get really murky, as Saracevic decides Brandon Crawford is better than Jed Lowrie. I whole heartedly disagree here because Jed is much more established at the big league level, while Crawford does have a better glove. But that isn’t important to Saracevic because Crawford has a ring, from a championship run that Crawford posted a .217/.321/.283 line over 54 plate appearances during, but he’s the “quarterback” of the defense so that carries more weight than regular season production. You know, the Baltimore Ravens won the Super Bowl in 2000 with Trent Dilfer as their quarterback, but Dilfer had nothing to do with them winning it all, just saying.
Saracevic moves onto third base, where it’s pretty clear that Pablo Sandoval is the better choice over Josh Donaldson. But again, Saracevic relies on a single accomplishment as the basis for his decision. Since Sandoval took Justin Verlander deep twice in his three homer game 1 of last year’s World Series, he’s a better all aroudn player than Josh Donaldson. I couldn’t make up a more ridiculous reason if I tried.
As he moves to the outfield, he takes an obvious decision in the A’s favor as a chance to throw the fans a bone by picking Yoenis Cespedes. But of course without fail, he takes a dig at the A’s with the old “he’ll be playing for the Yankees in three years” joke. No, really… that’s exactly what he wrote. Get some new material sir.
The battle between Coco Crisp and Angel Pagan is a fairly close one, they’re somewhat similar in skillset and ability, but Pagan gets the nod for his “recent durability.” I can’t fault that necessarily, Coco’s injury problems are quite the nuisances. But, I’d still take Coco as the ignitor of my offense over Angel Pagan. But Saracevic commits the ultimate sin here, he referred to Crisp’s colors as green and yellow, one of my biggest pet peeves, it’s green and gold… get it right.
Surprisingly he takes Josh Reddick over Hunter Pence in right field. I would have thought for sure Pence’s RBI single in which he broke his bat and hit the ball three times would have given him the easy nod over Reddick. This is the time that for some reason Saracevic finally decides to pull out some stats to state his case. Reddick’s power potential is the deciding factor here, no mention of the 2012 Gold Glove or the rocket arm.
The starting rotation is a pretty easy decision, the Giants have ridden theirs to two World Series titles in the last three years. While the A’s does have potential, as Saracevic points out, it isn’t proven. He calls the Giants staff “dynastic.” When they win three straight championships get back to me, until then keep the ‘d’ word to yourself.
He makes the sound choice in selecting the Athletics bullpen as the superior one. He doesn’t really give a reason for selecting the A’s, so I chalk it up to throwing another bone to the A’s fans.
It’s hard to argue that Bruce Bochy isn’t the best manager of the two teams, considering the immense success he’s had in San Francisco, but I’ll try anyway. Bob Melvin took a team that was expected to be in last place, and possibly lose 100 games last year, and made them not only contenders, but division champions. His masterful weaving of the A’s lineup every single day was something to behold, and he has the team off to a hot start in 2013 (despite the last two ugly losses versus the Detroit Tigers). BoMel is a master of communication and has fostered a level of chemistry that could not be stopped in 2012, and will be a key to their success in 2013. Bochy has to tell Matt Cain to go out and start, seems pretty easy to me. I go for BoMel here.
The last and most appalling of all the comparisons is when Saracevic puts the fans of each team up against each other. He chooses the Giants fans because they pack their stadium on a nightly basis. What he doesn’t acknowledge here is the fact that they have a shiny new stadium to call home. Sure, the Athletics have problems filling the 47 year old O.co Coliseum, but when they do there is nothing in baseball like it. Ask anyone who attended any of the final regular season, or ALDS games in Oakland, as well as playoff games in AT&T Park and they will all tell you the atmosphere and the electricity in Oakland was unparalleled. Saracevic’s decision is a simply matter of choosing quantity over quality.
So it’s not the first time, and probably not the last time either that the Athletics are downgraded by a Giants supporter cloaked as an unbiased evaluator. Al Saracevic may know more about what he writes than this piece indicated, but he will need to show it before he gains any level of credibility in the eyes of Athletics fans. Like always, I guess we’ll just have to let the season play out to find out who is truly superior.