Christmas came early for Giants and A’s fans this season, in two fairly different forms.
The Giants’ gift to their wildly fortunate fan base was straightforward. And as far as gifts go, it was pretty inexpensive.
It was the gift of continuity, in the form of bringing back virtually every meaningful piece of the team that gave its city a second world title in three years.
Most years, re-signing the likes of Marco Scutaro and Angel Pagan wouldn’t hold a candle to a gleaming new luxury car with an obnoxious red bow sitting in the driveway, but this isn’t most years.
Any year that ends with your boys guzzling Champagne stirs visions not of sugarplums dancing, but of the same lovable cast of characters dancing together again. That’s what Scutaro and Pagan represent, as does the return of Hunter Pence and the underhyped but ultra-important return of Santiago Casilla.
These guys helped make it all happen, in stirring fashion, so their presence in 2013 is present enough.
Throw turning the 50-50 prospect of Brian Wilson coming back into a lead-pipe cinch and you’ve got the stocking stuffer of all time.
The A’s faced a far greater challenge in giving their emotional, perpetually scorned but temporarily smitten fans an appropriate gift. Two heart-and-soul guys, Brandon McCarthy and Jonny Gomes, have already taken their leave, and those were big blows.
But in signing Japanese mystery man Hiro Nakajima, who wowed the crowd at his introductory news conference with a megawatt smile and personality galore, the A’s reminded their fans that when it comes to Oakland baseball under the watchful and masterful eye of Billy Beane, unexpected glory is right around the corner.
Will Nakajima be the next Yoenis Cespedes? Perhaps not. In fact, probably not.
But he could be. You just never know when Beane’s going to dig a slider in the dirt and drill it into the left-field corner for a bases-clearing triple.
First time Nakajima does that, A’s fans will once again bow down to the Beane and say, “Thanks.”
ON THE RIGHT PATH: Not to be outdone, the Warriors shopped a little early, too, and came up with a 6-1 road trip recently for their fans, who have so desperately needed a winner to justify their unexplainable loyalty.
Anyone doubting Mark Jackson now? Not likely. But at the risk of being a buzzkill, that loss last week to the Sacramento Kings, followed by a loss to the struggling Los Angeles Lakers, served as a reminder that Jackson — and the Warriors — have a ways to go before we start looking at Oracle Arena seating charts for the playoffs.
As Jackson himself said, “We can certainly be beaten by the best teams in the league, and we can be beaten by the worst.”
When he can no longer say the second half of that sentence, Warriors fans can say their faith has been rewarded.
SPEED ROUND: Great holiday gift idea for the Sharks fan in your life: San Francisco Bulls tickets. Come on — hockey at the Cow Palace? It’s the closest we’ll ever get to the real “Slap Shot.” Do it. Do it. … Robert “The Ghost” Guerrero is one of the best boxers in the world. I used to write about him when he was a prodigy in Gilroy and I was the sports editor of that town’s little daily newspaper. Damn, I feel old. … Speaking of boxing, I saw Oakland’s Andre Ward, also one of the world’s best boxers, walking through a Bay Area mall last week. Not a soul recognized him. That’s the sad state of boxing in a nutshell. … And finally, to my incredible wife and daughters: The cup that is my life would be empty and broken without you. Instead, it’s filled with love and laughter. Thank you and Merry Christmas.
Mychael Urban has covered Bay Area sports for more than 22 years as a contributor to Comcast SportsNet, CSNBayArea.com, KNBR, MLB.com, ESPN The Magazine and various newspapers. Follow him on Twitter @BigUrbSports. His website is UrbsUnchained.com.