It's a MadBum world
Madison Bumgarner lives for the postseason. The burly left-hander had a performance for the ages in leading the Giants to their third World Series title in five years, capped by a five-inning relief effort in the winner-take-all Game 7 against the Kansas City Royals. In 52²⁄³ postseason innings, Bumgarner had a 1.03 ERA and 0.65 WHIP. A tip of the cap also has to go to Travis Ishikawa, whose ninth-inning home run in Game 5 of the NL Championship Series against the St. Louis Cardinals sent the Giants to the World Series, which matched two wild-card teams for the first time since the 2002 Series between the Giants and Anaheim Angels.
Curse of Candlestick?
The highlight of 2014 for the 49ers? Watching Seattle bad boy Richard Sherman bat away a last-second pass in the end zone intended for the 49ers' Michael Crabtree. Yeah, it has been a year to forget. Trouble with the turf in the sparkling-new $1.2 billion Levi's Stadium, a preseason report of coach Jim Harbaugh almost going to Cleveland and off-field issues with defensive lineman Ray McDonald and linebacker Aldon Smith contributed to the 49ers' 7-8 mark entering their season finale, after which Harbaugh's tenure with the Niners is expected to end.
Changing of the guard
Despite a 51-win season in 2013-14 following a trip to the Western Conference semifinals in 2012-13, the Warriors fired Mark Jackson after a rift with management developed. In came Steve Kerr, who had never been a coach at any level. Kerr surrounded himself with veteran assistants and installed a free-flowing offense and quickly gained the confidence of stars Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and others. After a 5-2 start, the Warriors ripped off a club-record 16 consecutive victories and established themselves as a favorite in the Western Conference.
The Billy Beane project
This will go down as one of the most anticipated and disappointing seasons during Billy Beane's tenure as A's general manager. Despite losing their top two starters to Tommy John surgery in spring training, the A's withstood those losses and were on top of the AL West when they added stars Jeff Samardzija and Jon Lester in July trades, the latter one sending slugger Yoenis Cespedes to Boston. It was the Cespedes deal that many point as the reason for a September collapse that saw the A's barely squeak into the playoffs and then blow a 7-3 eighth-inning lead against Kansas City in the AL wild-card game before losing, prompting Beane to trade several All-Stars.
The Sharks entered their first-round playoff series against the Los Angeles Kings as the No. 2 seed after posting a 51-22-9 regular-season record, including 30-7-5 at home. Things got off to a rollicking start, with the Sharks winning 6-3 and 7-3. The Sharks took what seemed like an insurmountable 3-0 series lead with a 4-3 overtime win in L.A. Instead of being a death blow to the Kings, it turned out to be motivation as the Sharks' offense managed just five goals in the next four games and became the fourth team in NHL history to lose a seven-game series after leading 3-0 with a 5-1 loss in Game 7.