It’s fall, not spring, so a young man’s fancy turns to postseason baseball. And this being California, the dream would be an intrastate World Series featuring the Dodgers and the Oakland Athletics, both of whom begin their divisional series Thursday and Friday.
It last happened 25 years ago. And, at the time, it said much about what lay ahead for California. The green-and-gold A’s, like the Golden State, were eye-catching, chest puffing and secretly hooked on performance enhancers (steroids for Jose Canseco and friends;aerospace contracts for California’s economy). Five years later, Oakland at the bottom of its division; California was last among the 50 states in job-creation.
Let’s suppose there is another all-California World Series three weeks from now, the last one being in 2002 when the Angels bested the Giants in seven games (the Dodgers and the A’s also met back in 1974, NorCal beating SoCal). What would it say about the state of our nation-state?
If you’re Gov. Jerry Brown, by all means stay away from the A’s, even if Oakland is your home away from Sacramento. Yes, a merry band of overachievers like the Athletics – American League’s second-best record; major-league’s fifth-lowest payroll – is a tempting metaphor for a governor trying to sell the concept of a recovering California.
But here’s the rub.
The A’s are the Bay Area’s poorer relation, baseball-wise. The Oakland stadium is outdated; the team is stymied in its attempts to relocate to greener pastures in San Jose. Basically, the baseball gods kick around the Oakland franchise much like Texas Gov. Rick Perrykicks around California’s jobs climate.
And, as anyone who saw Moneyball knows, the A’s have a limited postseason ceiling. Rooting for a team that’s destined to break your heart in October is a lot like cheerleading for an 800-mile high-speed rail system for all of California that only goes 29 miles through the Central Valley.
Ok, cheap shot . . .
Twenty-five years after the Oakland-LA showdown, it’s the Dodgers who better exemplify the current state of the Golden State. For these reasons:
Banking on Star Power – For Now. A year ago, the Dodgers’ faithful put their baseball trust in an ownership syndicate whose public face is basketball legend Magic Johnson – just as, a decade ago next Monday, Californians put their political faith in the hands of another celebrity icon: Arnold Schwarzenegger. Magic’s group has worked wonders in a year’s time, just as Arnold had his way during his first year in Sacramento. After that, the political road got rocky for Arnold. Time will tell if Magic’s baseball luck holds up. A side thought: if California ends up tapping Magic as its next celebrity-governor, let’s hope he applies the Dodger model to state government – and takes along Stan Kasten and Ned Colletti to make the right moves in Sacramento.