Let's roll the calendar back a few months. Here we are: it's the fall of 2012. The two Bay Area big league baseball teams are in tall clover: the Giants have followed a 94-win regular season with Mr. Toad's Wild Ride through the postseason to a second World Series title in three years. The plucky A's have posted 92 regular season wins, surprised both Texas and Anaheim to win the AL West, and extended the big, bad Tigers to a 5th and deciding playoff game.
Wow, the future looked bright, didn't it?
Turns out it was only half-bright. The A's have gone from plucky to scary and lead the AL West again (with the league's second-best record). The Giants? Well, they're summoning up memories of the Bad Old Days. Sure, they're only 6-1/2 games out of first--but that's only because the NL West has but one team over .500, and division-leading Arizona would be 6-1/2 games behind the A's were they in the same division.
What the heck happened here? Essentially, the A's just kept being the A's, adding a few pieces here and there (Eric Sogard, Jed Lowrie) and watching young talent like Josh Donaldson blossom into a budding star. Of course, the A's continue to parade out young pitchers--although the ace is Bartolo Colon, an old man with a PED stain in his past and the shadow of another one looming (the Florida Biogenesis case).
The Giants? Well, if it could go wrong this year, it probably already has. Let's go back to spring training, where Brandon Belt went on a homer binge--then got sick in time for Opening Day and has never really recovered. Injuries? Plenty of them: Angel Pagan, Pablo Sandoval, Marco Scutaro, Ryan Vogelsong. Subpar work from Matt Cain. Barry Zito's bizarre home/away split (a home ERA of 2.45 vs. a road ERA of 9.38; opponents hitting .241 against him at AT&T Park and .423 elsewhere). And on and on...
To a man, Giants players say they aren't giving up. But you can see they don't have an answer (if they did, wouldn't they have tried it already?) and GM Brian Sabean has been hinting very strongly that the Giants are more likely to be a seller than a buyer in the trade-deadline sweepstakes. In short: the odds grow stronger with each loss that 2013 will be a Lost Season in San Francisco.
And across the bay? Call these the Best of Times and enjoy the ride.