The first D.C. baseball trip to the East Bay since August 1971 (the Senators were swept by the AL West winning A’s) begins late Friday night. For the third time, We Love DC co-founder Tom Bridge, a credential Washington Nationals blogger, is here to answer questions about a Northern California team of his youth. Previously Tom participated in Redskins vs. 49ers Q&As in 2011 and 2013.
WFY: Do you still closely do you follow the Oakland Athletics these days? What’s a bigger factor in your level of fandom, the distance/time zone or having a new baseball team a bicycle ride away from where you live?
TB: I still follow the beat writers on Twitter (seriously, follow Susan Slusser, she’s great), so I keep abreast of the news, but with most of the games starting at 10pm Eastern, I tend to catch just the highlights. Being 3,000 miles away is hard enough, but 3 hours behind? I won’t catch much of this series.
WFY: I often ask guest prognosticators what the best book and/or popular culture contribution is about the guest prognosticator’s favorite team, but these seems too easy — Moneyball. What was your reaction to the book and if you’ve seen it, the movie? Are there any other books about the A’s you’d recommend?
TB: If you haven’t read this book, you should really read it. The movie’s a fine telling of part of the story, and the way the 20-game winning streak is treated is a joy on the big screen, but the book is really its own animal and one you should really make the effort to read.
WFY: Billy Beane has built a team that regularly competes, but hasn’t broken through, do you think with his current resources he can win the pennant? As a fan of both teams, do you appreciate that they trade each other players frequently?
TB: So, it’s fascinating. I think there’s a comparison to be made between the Capitals and the Nationals. It’s not that the Caps are spendthrift, but they’re franchise-building only to make it so far. They want the basic playoff revenue, but there’s something about the way things are being run that just doesn’t get them any farther than that. In Oakland, that’s budgetary pressure. In Washington, it’s the front office’s limited capabilities.
It’s kinda fun that the A’s and Nats have found themselves trading partners. I think the deals have worked out well for both clubs, and I think Rizzo and Beane seem to be excellent foils for each other. I, for one, would enjoy watching them fight crime together, buddy cop style.
WFY: How are the broadcast teams? Do you have the A’s MLB.tv package?
TB: I love the A’s broadcast teams. I miss Bill King immensely on the radio. His voice was the sound of summer days, so much so that when I heard him on the At-Bat app, I could smell the tomatoes in the field, and the cut grass, and the chlorine of the pool down the street. He was marvelous. Now, Ken Korach and Ray Fosse are on, and while they’re great broadcasters, it’s not quite the same as it was then.
I don’t catch much of their TV crew these days, though.
WFY: Recent research suggests there is not a single zip code where A’s fans are the plurality, much less the majority. Were the A’s always the second team to that degree and if not, when did it start changing, or at least where you were?
TB: I started following baseball seriously the first year we had season tickets. 1988. The A’s made the Series that year (more on that in a bit) and the Giants were 11 1/2 games out of the Division. While the Giants had been in the thick of it in 87 and would be again in 89, I had no shortage of A’s fan friends, as well as plenty of Giants fans as well.
WFY: The A’s of your childhood dominated won the AL and won three pennants, but only the 1989 World Series. Did they max out or leave more on the table? How strange was the earthquake as an A’s fan and a Northern California resident?
TB: They left the 88 Series on the table. One bad slider. One bad, bad slider. And every time I see Kirk Gibson hobble around those bases…
They were the better team that year, but not after that slider.
The Earthquake was a monumental tragedy for the area. People died on the Cypress Structure freeway, and on the Bay Bridge, and in the fires that followed. It was a nightmare. But that was a day that baseball saved lives. The quake hit at 5:04pm. Right at the start of rush hour. Only most of the city had gone home early to make the 5:05pm start of the game. I can’t even think how many more would’ve died during a heavy rush hour in Oakland.
WFY: The elephant in the room (I’m sorry, that’s terrible) is that those A’s teams had some steroid users. Does it taint the memories at all?
TB: Yeah, it does. Canseco was a problem for the franchise even then, but the roids he was doing was pretty much known. McGwire hurt more. The culture of baseball was pretty broken then, and I’m not sure we’re past it yet.
WFY: Who is the best A of your lifetime and is he also your favorite?
TB: The best? Dave Stewart. Four straight twenty-win seasons from 87 to 90? A forkball that just disappeared? The smoky stare that put fear into the strongest hitters? Totally my favorite. Stewart was a monster. He pitched over 1,000 innings in four years, with 700+ Ks, 375BB, and 7 complete game shutouts. He was the heart and soul of that club and it was a joy to see him out there every give days.
WFY: The A’s are desperate to leave the much maligned Oakland-Alameda Colosseum and it’s sewer leaks, but from a fan’s perspective how is it? I always found the massive foul territory to be a bit off-putting, but overall how does it stack up? I know the outfield upper deck built to lure back the Raiders is a source of anger amongst A’s fans. When did you last attend a game there? What’s the quintessential food and beer at an A’s game?
TB: I last made it to a game there about a decade ago, so my domain knowledge of the Coliseum is less than current. It was a workman’s ballpark, with the simple pleasures, Bud and Miller Lite, colossal dogs, ball park nachos with orange cheese, and hot coffee when it got cold late in the evening. I loved the wide foul territory, and the bullpen just inside the lines. Our seats were down by the A’s bullpen, and we could watch Eckersley warm up late. It was a big place, not intimate like a tiny chapel, but massive, like a cathedral. The concrete, exposed and flat, made it a noise machine, but the view out into the Oakland Hills was majestic.
But that was before Al Davis (may he ever rot in hell) ruined it with the Raiders’ return.
WFY: The Silicon Valley A’s – Do you support the A’s leaving the East Bay for San Jose? From here, it seems like they put in good faith efforts to stay in Oakland or elsewhere in the East Bay, but I have not followed it closely.
TB: I support the A’s getting a good place to play ball. I would hope that would come in Oakland, paid for by the owners of the club, but I suspect they will end up in San Jose. That’s okay, too, but I know a lot of fans who will hate that. It’s not my team as much as it used to be. I’ll leave that decision in the hands of others.
WFY: Which happens first, Bud Selig makes decision on the A’s or Nats TV situation.
TB: The heat death of the universe. Both of those will be decisions made by the next Commissioner.
WFY: Who takes the series?
TB: A’s take the series, Nats win behind Gio on Sunday. Wildcard here is Fister. He can beat Milone, but I worry he’s not 100% yet.