In this edition of our series focusing on the rivalries of MLB, we’ll be looking at a geographic rivalry; the annual Bay Bridge Series between the Oakland Athletics and the San Francisco Giants.
I, along with Bat Flips & Nerds co-founder and podcast host Darius Austin, will each give our perspective on the rivalry and what it means to the Bay Area given it is looking increasingly likely the A’s will be moving to Las Vegas sometime in the next few years.
When I look at Oakland’s place in the MLB landscape, the team doesn’t really have any rivalries of any substance – there was a time when Mike Fiers and Ramon Laureano still played for the Athletics that it felt like a real rivalry could develop between the A’s and the Houston Astros based on both being in the same division and there being some genuine hostility between personnel on both teams. However, any rivalry that was there quickly dissolved ahead of the 2022 season once Fiers, who blew the whistle on the Astros’ sign-stealing during its 2017 World Series-winning season, wasn’t re-signed by the A’s following the 2021 season and it became clear that the A’s were going into rebuild mode, and so, were no longer going to be a competitive team challenging the Astros for playoff spots. There’s also no danger of Laureano charging at the Astros bench again, at least not in an A’s uniform anyway.
That is why the rivalry with the Giants matters then, as it is the only real rivalry that the team has and is very much based on the teams playing either side of the San Francisco Bay.
Opinions on the rivalry will vary depending upon which A’s fans you speak to as well. For example, I don’t hold any hostility towards the Giants, Giants fans or San Francisco and its residents.
However, there are some residents of Oakland who do, and a lot of it is because they feel Oakland sits in the shadow of San Francisco/’The City’. As part of this, issues of gentrification spilling over from The City across the Bay to Oakland are very relevant, as tech workers with jobs in Silicon Valley have been moving to the Oakland area from all over the world in recent years as they can’t afford to live in San Francisco.
This, in turn, has been driving up property prices, property taxes and the cost of rent, meaning native Oaklanders are having to move away as they can no longer afford to live in their hometown. Similarly, tourists, like me, will only visit Oakland for the day, but will stay, and spend the majority of our money during our trip, in San Francisco (guilty as charged).
Furthermore, not only have the NFL’s Raiders departed Oakland to move to Las Vegas, but the NBA’s Golden State Warriors have also crossed the Bay Bridge to move into a new home in San Francisco. Therefore, The City as a whole is generating even more income from those visiting the area to go to a Warriors game, while Oakland now misses out on the additional revenue streams that being home to an NBA team brought. In this context, I can completely understand why some of my fellow A’s fans that grew up in the area may harbour some ill-feeling for the city across the Bay.
This is why the annual series for which team gets to keep the Bay Bridge Series trophy for the year really matters to some A’s fans. It’s all about bragging rights, as it is a chance for the small, plucky team on the other side of the Bay that has a relatively tiny payroll and which you’ve only heard of if you’re a fan of baseball or have seen the film Moneyball to get one over on the big, rich team that everyone has heard of and which has that really nice stadium right by the Bay.
This then is one of the many reasons why fans like me are opposed to the A’s eventual move to Las Vegas. In addition to the team leaving its home of 55 years and counting, and the terrible economic effect that could have on Oakland and its residents, the team will also be losing its one real rivalry.
San Francisco Giants
My experience of the Giants-A’s rivalry is not a traditional one, which mirrors the nature of the rivalry itself. I have long had a soft spot for the A’s. Moneyball was my introduction to the sabermetric revolution in baseball and a gateway to learning more about the topic. My very first in-person MLB game was at the Oakland Coliseum. I would go on to watch the Giants later in the trip but they were on the road to start the season and consequently I experienced live major league ball for the first time at an A’s-White Sox game on a Wednesday night. BF&N favourite Mark Canha hit a home run that proved decisive in a 2-1 win. I have an A’s cap and Matt Chapman t-shirt (who doesn’t love that green and gold?). If I wasn’t a Giants fan, I’d be an A’s fan.
Similarly, the Bay Bridge Series is a rather friendly competition as rivalries go, one that seems to recognise that this is about fun, and that there are some things more important than baseball. The very first time the A’s and Giants faced each other after the A’s relocated to Oakland was the 1989 World Series. That series was interrupted minutes before Game 3 by a 6.9 magnitude earthquake, which killed 63 people. The game was ultimately delayed for 10 days; on resumption the A’s went on to complete a 4-0 sweep.
Since interleague play started in 1997, the Giants and A’s have always played four-to-six games a season against each other, every season, including the shortened 2020 campaign. There are many reasons to hate the A’s impending move to Las Vegas. While I’m sure this rivalry will persist in some format, one of them is the loss of proximity that brings people from the same area together and reminds us that some rivalries can do far more to unite than divide.
Darius Austin is one of the co-founders of Bat Flips & Nerds, co-host of the Bat Flips & Nerds podcast, and can be found on Twitter @DariusA64.
While there is a real edge to the rivalry for some, I generally agree with Darius that the rivalry between the A’s and the Giants is a good-natured and friendly one on the whole.
This has been seen in the support that Giants fans has given to the ‘SELL’ movement against John Fisher’s continued ownership of the A’s, with events like the reverse boycotts at both Oracle Park and the Oakland Coliseum for the Bay Bridge Series games this season and the protest gatherings that preceded those games. On this, Darius’s point that “some rivalries can do far more to unite than divide” is very pertinent.
For now then, let’s enjoy the A’s-Giants rivalry while it lasts (although I might just be saying that because the A’s won the Bay Bridge Series this year).
Come back next week for the latest installment of MLB Rivalries!
Brett is the Oakland Athletics team contributor for Bat Flips & Nerds, and can be found on Twitter @BrettChatsSport.
Featured image – courtesy of Oakland 68s and Last Dive Bar.