There's a buzz in the air, that certain je ne sais quoi that signals spring has arrived. Sure, the record breaking temperatures might have something to do with it (okay, probably a lot) but the fact that today marks the first day of the regular season for Major League Baseball can't merely be a coincidence.
The A's host Seattle
tonight Friday -- first pitch is set for 7:05 p.m. (Looks like I was so excited for the A's to start that I sped up their home opener by a day. Apologies.) The Giants opened on the road, losing to the Los Angeles Dodgers 2-1.
The Once and Future Athletics
As much as the entire Bay Area seemed to go berzerk for the Giants last year, much of the pre-season prognostics have been about the A's. Remember them? The team that seemed to slide into oblivion last year (if you count being the subject of a movie staring Brad Pitt "oblivion").
Many folks are pointing to the strength of the A's starting rotation and the addition of designated hitter Hideki Matsui as key components to getting the A's back on the winning track. Some folks even go beyond calling the A's a team to watch, and peg them as likely playoff participants. ESPN's Baseball Tonight got cheeky and declared that the A's will be the Giants of 2011. They even employ the term "cast offs." Does that mean green will be the new orange? Watch below:
And while we're on the topic of expectations, the Giants have gone from being a non-contender to a front runner. Or "Defending World Champions" to be exact. Though no team has won back-to-back World Series since the Yankees in 1998-2000, try telling that to a sea of orange-and-black-wearing, beard-sporting, Freak-loving fans. The San Jose Mercury News talked to former champion athletes about the challenge of repeating.
From former basketball star Jamaal Wilkes:
"All offseason, you're basking in the glow and everybody is telling you how great you are. There tends to be a sense of complacency..."
And former Warriors Coach Al Attles, who coached the Warriors to the 1974-75 NBA title.
"Chemistry is an interesting phenomenon," Attles said. "You don't know how you got it and you don't know how you lose it."
Many questions surround the Giants: will the wear and tear from post-season play eek its way into the starting rotation? How long will Brian Wilson's oblique take to heal? What the heck are they going to do with Rowand and for that matter Zito?
The San Francisco Chronicle's Scott Ostler wrote a column titled "Six Rules for Giants Fans in Unchartered Territory." My favorite rule: "Don't be a complete smuggy smuggleton."
On that note, let's try to get along this year -- A's fans, Giants fans --
heck even Yankees fans. Because the one thing that would surely top a Giants World Series victory would be a Bay Bridge World Series in 2011.