It seems a bit like cruel and unusual punishment that we have to sit through another seven weeks of the A’s and Giants. The two began Monday a combined 25 games below .500 and a combined 30 1/2 games out of first place. The Bay Area hasn’t seen both of its teams finish below .500 since 1996, and they haven’t been on pace to be so collectively bad since 1979.
As bad as both teams are, however, there are things to watch for.
— Can Dan Haren regain his Cy Young form for the A’s? Haren continues to string together quality starts, but his ERA has risen nearly a point since June 9. On that day, it was 1.58 ; after Saturday’s effort it’s 2.53. That’s still the best in the AL, but the gap between Haren and second place Kelvim Escobar is dwindling. Haren’s ERA has gone up after each of the 11 starts he’s made since he threw seven shutout innings against the Giants on June 9.
— Can Barry Zito regain any resemblance of his old form? You gotta wonder if, given the chance to do it all over again, the Giants would’ve left Zito alone to tinker with his wind-up after that first day of spring training. The former Cy Young winner should get about 10 more starts, and I question whether he can get his ERA under 5. Conventional opinion seems to be that Zito will bounce back next season, but that process needs to start now.
— How much will the Giants start to faze out Barry Bonds? If they indeed are intent in moving in another direction, no time like the present than to send that message. On the other hand, he is their most potent offensive player, so if the hope is to finish strong, how do you leave him out?
— Will any more players move? The deadline to trade players who have cleared waivers is 18 days from now, and for the A’s, there already have been reports that Mike Piazza and Shannon Stewart have cleared and could be moved. No such leaks regarding the Giants, but you know general manager Brian Sabean is hoping another sucker like Pirates general manager Dave Littlefield calls.