Handicapping Odds for Giants vs. A's Bay Bridge World Series in 2014

Jacob Shafer@@jacobshaferFeatured ColumnistJuly 7, 2014

A fan wears a hat with logos for both the Oakland Athletics and the San Francisco Giants before an exhibition baseball game between the Giants and the Athletics in San Francisco, Thursday, March 27, 2014. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

Almost exactly 25 years ago, a 6.9-magnitude earthquake rocked the San Francisco Bay Area. The tremor buckled a one-mile span of the Bay Bridge, leveled neighborhoods and left the entire region reeling.

It also interrupted Game 3 of the 1989 World Series between the San Francisco Giants and Oakland A's.

The so-called Bay Bridge Series wouldn't resume for another 11 days, the longest interruption of a Fall Classic since 1911 (when, coincidentally, rain poured down on the New York Giants and Philadelphia Athletics).

As it turns out, that Giants-A's World Series matchup would prove to be just as rare as the massive quake itself. 

The cross-Bay rivals have made the playoffs in the same season four times since '89, and they've each been back to the Series, but they've never met in postseason play. 

As the Giants and A's begin a four-game interleague interlude at O.co Coliseum on Monday, it's worth asking: Could this be the year the long-awaited October rematch finally materializes?

Entering play Monday, the A's were 55-33 and held a 3.5-game lead over the Los Angeles Angels in the AL West. The Giants, meanwhile, stood at 49-39, one-half of a game behind the first-place Los Angeles Dodgers in the NL West and in position for a wild-card spot. It's enough to get Northern California baseball fans thinking big.

Right now, though, the two Bay Area clubs are headed in opposite directions.

After starting the season on a tear—and building a 9.5-game lead in the NL West by June 8—San Francisco has imploded.

Yes, they took two of three from the San Diego Padres over the holiday weekend. But the Giants have gone 6-18 since their high-water mark. The bats have gone cold, the bullpen has wobbled, and their momentum has ground to a halt.

The A's, meanwhile, are cruising. Owners of the best record in baseball, they just completed a four-game sweep of the Toronto Blue Jays. And they engineered a blockbuster trade with the Chicago Cubs that netted starting pitchers Jason Hammel and All-Star Jeff Samardzija in exchange for a package of top prospects (Samardzija tossed seven strong innings Sunday in his Oakland debut).

Ben Margot/Associated Press

Oakland general manager Billy Beane insisted the trade wasn't made with an eye on the ultimate prize, telling SFGate.com, "I don't feel comfortable talking about October."

Detroit Tigers hurler Justin Verlander has no such qualms. Verlander, who helped Detroit knock Oakland out of the last two postseasons, told MLB.com he thinks the trade proves the A's are going all-in.

"If they want to win the World Series, they're envisioning that they have to go through us, and, even though it's been two fantastic series, it's been heartbreaking for them the last two years," Verlander said.

If that heartbreak ends this fall, it'll be a watershed moment. For all their "moneyball"-fueled success, the Green and Gold have never advanced past the ALCS on Beane's watch (Oakland's last World Series appearance was in 1990 when they were swept by the Cincinnati Reds).

The Giants, on the other hand, have made a habit of dumping confetti on Market Street. After winning the first World Series in San Francisco history in 2010, they treated giddy fans to an encore in 2012. 

Marcio J. Sanchez/Associated Press

The 2014 Giants team shares plenty of DNA with those championship clubs. Manager Bruce Bochy and most of his staff remain intact, as does the bulk of the starting rotation. Key members of the bullpen and six of eight current starting position players hoisted at least one of the two Commissioner's Trophies.

More than anything, the Giants have a "been there, done that" vibe. They understand the crazy combination of skill, luck and timing required to win it all. It's the reason they've navigated this recent skid with relatively little finger-pointing or clubhouse acrimony.

If chemistry exists, the Giants have it.

Will it be enough? The Dodgers haven't run away with anything, but they're playing more and more like a big-spending Goliath. The NL Central is stacked with four playoff-caliber teams—the Reds, Milwaukee Brewers, Pittsburgh Pirates and St. Louis Cardinalsand in the East, the Atlanta Braves and Washington Nationals look formidable.

Just squeaking into the playoffs in the National League, let alone making a deep run, will be a tall order. "We didn't expect this to be a joy ride," Giants GM Brian Sabean told SFGate.com. "The league is too tough."

For their part, the A's keep finding ways to stretch a limited payroll and get unlikely contributions. The recent trade may have stacked their roster, but they're still the same low-spending, expectation-exceeding franchise they've been for a decade plus. 

It's tough to sell them as underdogs, though. Oakland will send six players to the All-Star Game in Minnesota (seven if you count Samardzija, who will be inactive after jumping over from the NL). Compare that to the Giants' two.

If the Giants and A's do manage a second World Series showdown, Oakland fans will be hoping for a repeat. The Loma Prieta earthquake was the dominant storyline a quarter-century ago, but the A's dominated as wellen route to a four-game sweep.

Eric Risberg/Associated Press

Will history repeat itself? Will the Giants exact some decidedly cold revenge? Or will Round 2 of Oakland-San Francisco remain elusive? 

No matter what, hold onto your seats.