Welcome to the week that would break a lie-detector machine, the week where David Price will be headed for three cities at once and Cole Hamels four, the week in which some clubs truly want to land big names and others will fake interest only to appease hopeful fans and demanding columnists. This is Trade Deadline Week — I’m shocked Major League Baseball hasn’t found a presented-by sponsor — and the Giants are among those in on Price and Hamels.
Until they aren’t.
Until they are again.
You know my feelings on the issue. Yes, yes, yes, to quote Hunter Pence, the Giants can position themselves for a fourth World Series banner in six years if they generate a trade for another front-line pitcher. Sad to say, the ongoing sentimentality parade isn’t going to fly, the latest proof coming Sunday in the form of 40-year-old Tim Hudson, who barely survived five innings against the A’s and suffered the indignity of an umpire, Joe West, checking the ball. It wasn’t scuffed or lubed, but every time Hudson or Matt Cain or Tim Lincecum pitches down the stretch, it’s a game the Giants might lose when Price or Hamels or a second-tier rental like Jeff Samardzija might win.
I love a human story as much as anyone, such as Hudson becoming the 15th pitcher to beat all 30 current teams in the majors, the A’s being the last to fall after he launched his impressive career with Oakland. “I think it’s incredible,” Buster Posey said. “That’s been done less times than there are perfect games. So that should tell you what kind of career he’s had.” Alas, when a dynastic franchise has a chance to extend a legacy, October assignments shouldn’t be doled out as career achievement awards.
This team is valued at more than $2 billion. This team has sold out its last 377 regular-season games at a world-class ballpark. This team has a leader, Posey, who is entering the upper tier of National League MVP talk after a four-hit day lifted his batting average to .328. This team has a come-from-nowhere No. 3 hitter, Matt Duffy, who has a fat pet cat and swelling numbers — nine home runs and 46 runs batted in, after hitting zero homers in three years at Long Beach State — while Pablo Sandoval is chubbier than the cat and having a lousy year for his $95 million in Boston. This team has its health back, its clubhouse hip-hop back, its mojo back with 11 wins in 12 games.
Now, this team needs a No. 2 starter to place between the overburdened Madison Bumgarner and rookie Chris Heston.
Then, you would be permitted to utter “repeat” in public.
The Giants are playing coy, saying in one breath that they don’t foresee major moves and then dropping hints in national reports that they’ve inquired about Hamels and Price. Playing coy is OK … as long as they’re sincere. Hamels, who pitched a no-hitter in Chicago against a Cubs team that wants him, still has three years left on a contract. The more likely acquisition is Price, who would be a three-month super-rental — unless the Giants signed him long-term and created a ferocious 1-2 punch with Bumgarner. Price can be had for a top prospect who could step into Detroit’s rotation next season, and the Giants should be willing to ship Tyler Beede among other bodies.
“If something makes sense and makes us better, I know something will get done,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “If you see something on the pitching side that might help you, you’ll do it.”
Or, should that fail, on the Ben Zobrist side.
If ever there was incentive for an argument in the stands, a troll train on a Twitter feed or even a punch in the nose, it would be Zobrist. He should be the TNT that detonates the Giants-A’s rivalry, if it truly was much of one. As you know, Zobrist is The Perfect Giant, exactly what the braintrust wants at the deadline, versatile and smart and detail-attentive right down to his facial hair, which matters in the AT&T Park hair salon.
And, as you also know, chances are better for a summer of no wildfires and a muzzled Donald Trump than Zobrist’s arrival at the corner of Third and King.
Both teams swear it’s anything but a coincidence, but we are not stupid. Since 1990, the Giants have made a trade with every major-league club but one: The team 16 miles away. I’m not convinced the stall has anything to do with the Giants, who have the comfort level of state-of-the-art business prosperity. The parties do discuss players, confirms Giants general manager Bobby Evans, who says he’d rather talk with the club “across the bay” than the one “down south,” meaning the rival Dodgers. The problem, I say, is the A’s, who have no interest in helping the Giants. The reason they’re stuck in O.co Coliseum — aka the ballpit — is the territorial rights issue that allows the Giants to control Silicon Valley and, thus, keeps Lew Wolff and the Brothers Fisher from moving to San Jose and living happily ever after.
So why would they trade Zobrist to the franchise that, in their view, has screwed them out of a better neighborhood? This grudge should offend Giants fans, if not enrage them, because it’s petty and has nothing to do with the current players or managers or most importantly, the fans themselves. If the Giants offer the best package for Zobrist, then Billy Beane should make that deal. Who isn’t salivating in orange and black after Zobrist ripped Giants pitching in an otherwise lost A’s weekend?
But I’m not sensing angst among Giants fans. In fact, I’m not certain a Giants fan can generate much loathing about the A’s, or vice versa, whether the subject is Zobrist or the day’s game or the relative merits of the franchises. They may be separated by a bridge, a BART train or a ferry boat, but given the peace and tranquility in the stands, the Minnesota Twins could have been in town, for all we knew.
Not that I mind it.
Unlike places that lack worldly perspective and are psychotically askew about sport’s place on earth — say, Chicago — the Bay Area gets it. Why hate each other when we share a home region? A Cubs-White Sox series is pretty sick stuff, with fans fighting in the stands and media people fighting in the press box. (I had two crackpots, one from my own newspaper, try to engage me during these civic scrums). I realize San Francisco and Oakland are separated by water and are two different cities.
Still, people think in bigger ways here. They’ve survived an earthquake together.
And it’s not as if the A’s, after Beane’s various fire sales, have that many fans left. It took 27 weekend innings before a few dozen folks, in the ninth, chanted, “Let’s go Oakland!” Then, in a braincramp, Jake Smolinski tried to steal third base with one out and the A’s losing 4-3. Posey gunned him down.
What did get the home crowd’s attention was a final score from the East Coast that was magnified on the big screen.
That’s the rivalry that smolders here, from Bryan Stow’s wheelchair to the top row of the sold-out ballpark. And that’s why the week ahead cannot be a lie.