Ailene Voisin, sports columnist

Ailene Voisin: A's, Giants in postseason makes for great debate

Published: Saturday, Oct. 6, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 1C
Last Modified: Sunday, Oct. 7, 2012 - 12:39 pm

If you want to catch a debate this week, one that is infinitely more entertaining than some verbal jousting about the economy, climate control or our nation's failing infrastructure, skip the political stuff and jump right to the Giants and the A's.

There is a chance – a slim one – that the Bay Bridge will link the two major league franchises separated by a mere 11 miles in the World Series. Yet for about a million reasons, they seem more than a world apart.

The ballpark. The ownership. The management style. The attendance figures. Those 2012 expectations.

The Giants expected a lot, including a return to the postseason. The A's – with their crummy stadium and usual fiscal woes, absence of .300-plus hitters, and a collection of young, unproven, ever-evolving pitchers – merely hoped to be competitive.

When River Cats manager Darren Bush was asked in spring training where Billy Beane was going to find quality starters, Bush just laughed.

"Right here," he said, referring to the A's Triple-A affiliate in Sacramento.

If Sacramento served as the root of the A's success – and the list of former River Cats on the current A's roster includes Jarrod Parker, Sean Doolittle, Jerry Blevins, Josh Donaldson, Chris Carter, Brandon Moss and Derek Norris – Oakland remains the source of pleasure and pain for the A's ownership.

Lew Wolff wants to relocate to San Jose. The Giants refuse to give up their territorial rights. Commissioner Bud Selig keeps listening and doing very little, essentially tabling the matter until further notice.

So here's further notice. The Hatfields and the McCoys are taking their feud into the postseason. And for the time being, at least, the A's flirtation with oblivion has been tabled.

"We've had some pretty amazing things happen here over the years," a champagne-drenched Beane noted after Wednesday's division-clinching victory, rating this year's postseason run his "most rewarding."

By doing the improbable, the A's became irresistible, virtually demanding a share of the Bay Area baseball audience.

So which team advances further? And is envisioning a Bay Area World Series anything other than a silly exercise to be attempted while sitting on the couch and working the remote? Well, dream on. This is sports. This is fun.

Here are a few key elements to consider while pushing for a best-case (Bay Area World Series) scenario.

Giants

1. The starting rotation – Matt Cain, Tim Lincecum, Madison Bumgarner and Brian Wilson dominated in the final weeks of 2010. Yet two years later, the rotation isn't nearly as ferocious or consistent. What will Timmy do? That's the question. He was electrifying two years ago in the postseason. He doesn't have to be electrifying this October, just effective.

2. The bullpen – Wilson's injury absence leaves Bruce Bochy with a closer-by-committee approach that, historically, has been a big loser. The Boston Red Sox, for example, went without a closer in 2003 and, after losing the pennant to the Yankees, signed Keith Foulke. The Atlanta Braves' sole championship in the 1990s coincided with a shaky Mark Wohlers' finest season. If Bobby Cox had a quality closer to complement John Smoltz, Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux all those years, his Braves (not the Yankees) own the era.

3. Buster Posey – Collectively, the A's offer the most compelling story in baseball. But individually? Posey has been ridiculous, just ridiculous. Coming off a career-threatening leg injury, he won the National League batting title, routinely threw out runners, commanded a clubhouse, saw action at first base and most often played the most demanding position in the game. This, folks, is your MVP.

A's

1. The starting pitching – Bob Melvin went with five rookies during the closing weeks, and two (Parker and Tommy Milone) open the series at Detroit against a potent Tigers team led by Justin Verlander and Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera. Good luck. The better news is that Brett Anderson's return strengthens a staff that ranked among the top three American League teams in ERA, opponents walks, batting average, home runs and slugging percentage. Does anyone even remember that veteran Bartolo Colon (see Melky Cabrera) was suspended for violating baseball's steroids policy?

2. The bullpen – A's relievers threw 22 scoreless innings en route to the division title, with Evan Scribner, Blevins, Doolittle and Ryan Cook setting up Grant Balfour for another impressive finish. Balfour – an intense, hard-throwing right-hander – converted all 17 save opportunities since regaining his closer's role on Aug. 1. And he's clean-shaven, too.

3. Yoenis Cespedes – The A's haven't had a talent like this since Carlos Gonzalez. Though Melvin describes Cespedes as a natural center fielder, the Cuban star made a seamless transition to left to accommodate veteran Coco Crisp. Besides being tremendous in the field – his anticipation and arm are exceptional (nine assists) – he finished among the A.L. rookie leaders in runs, hits and doubles. He also was a threat on the bases when his hamstrings weren't bothering him, and, most importantly, the A's were a much better team when he was in the lineup (82-46).

And, wait, it gets better. Here comes Dusty Baker and the Cincinnati Reds …

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

Read more articles by Ailene Voisin



Ailene Voisin, sports columnist

Ailene Voisin

Ailene Voisin was born in Brooklyn, N.Y. She earned a bachelor's degree in political science from UNLV and a law degree from the University of San Diego before committing full time to journalism.

Her career includes stops at the San Diego Union, Los Angeles Herald-Examiner and Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and time spent as the backup beat writer for Dodgers and Angels, Clippers and NBA beat writer, sports columnist, along with numerous assignments covering international events and the Olympics. Ailene joined The Sacramento Bee in 1997.

Email: avoisin@sacbee.com
Phone: 916-321-1208
Twitter: @ailene_voisin

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