2010: the Year In Bay Area Sports

A big year in Bay Area sports keeps getting better with the New Year's Eve announcement that the 2013 America's Cup race will be held in the San Francisco Bay.

San Francisco Giants - how was your team's year? Oh, our's was OK. We only won the World Series, bay-be! There's nothing quite like life in a Championship City. There's a certain buzz in the air, the bars are a little livelier; men's voices boom a little louder; young kids stop goofing around and try to strut around like their dads; even the sleazy guys selling bootleg T-shirts out of a briefcase looked good. Good times. 2010 also saw the emergence of Giants catcher Buster Posey, who quickly emerged as a fan favorite (you saw Posey jersies as early as August, just weeks after he won the starting job), and won the Rookie of the Year.

San Francisco 49'ers - another disappointing year as a team that was expected to contend for a play-off berth failed on every possible level. QB Alex Smith definitively established that, for all of his complaints that he has been held back by injury and bad coaching, there is also a problem in that he suxxx. Even if he could be redeemed, the fans just don't want to see him again. The team's been rebuilding for 8 years now, and it looks like they will have to rebuild again.

Baseball vs. Football - this may go down in the history books as the year San Francisco moved firmly from being a football town to being a baseball town. Putting aside the vast gulf between winning and losing, the Giants simply feel like a better fit for the City than the Niners right now. The team plays in a beautiful downtown stadium that the team built itself (the City mostly helped by getting out of the way of the permitting process). After the highs and lows of the Bonds years, the team patiently built a contender based around young phenoms like Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain (only the Barry Zito signing has been glaring in its disastrousness, and even he's had a good year). Like a SOMA tech start-up, there is a point and a plan, and the young guys who need a haircut have a ton of money, and plenty of good cheer.

The 49'ers, meanwhile, are still trolling for public funds to pay for "their" stadium, while threatening to take the team to Santa Clara. The City Fathers' response has been, shall we say, muted. All the while, it's been one bad personnel decision after another, whether at coach, GM, QB, or even owner. In retrospect, the decision to break up the Mariucci-Garcia-Owens team was the beginning of the end. The 2002 edition of that team went 10-6, won its division and went to the play-offs, the last 49'er team to do so. But, back then the Dynasty Fumes were still in the tank and everyone thought "they" could do better. Turns out the floor was really a ceiling and now the bottom has fallen out.

17 years ago, the Giants were an afterthought, playing out frozen games at Candlestick and nearly moving to Tampa Bay (it was this threat that finally brought in new ownership and the new stadium). The 49'ers, meanwhile, held semi-annual Superbowl parades down Market Street, and were a mortal lock on at least a play-off berth. But, the melancholy reality in sports, as in life, is that the only thing permanent is change.

Oakland A's - a team that is in a bad rut. The third-best team in the American League West is playing in a terrible stadium that they can't even fill to a quarter of its capacity. Billy Beane may be admired around the league for his pioneering use of sabremetrics to build his team, but the Beane-era A's have never won a championship, unlike the sabremetric minded Boston Red Sox. Worse, Beane's incessant trade have slowly, but surely depressed his East Bay fan base. The A's have a fielded a ton of great players over the last 10 years, but they never seem to be anything more than pieces in a never ending game of "trade chess." A visit to McAfee Stadium tells the tale: along with complaints about the latest trade-for-prospects, you'll see more jerseys for former A's players, than you will for current ones. The A's "experience" is still a good one: the players are always classy, competent and low-key (they'll happily sign autographs before games); you can always get good seats at a low price (unless the Yankees or Sox are in town); the stadium staff is always friendly; even the hot dogs taste better. But, this is a team that probably needs a change in scenery.

Oakland Raiders - began the post-JaMarcus Era well, with their many top-draft prospects from the last few years finally living up to their promise. Darren McFadden, for one, had a great year. Coach Cable does not look like much, but the guy has a good football mind, and is a great motivator. The Raiders, even during last year's doldrums, always play hard for him. The malaise of uncertainty at QB remains this team's cross to bear.

Golden State Warriors - a good year off the court, as owner Chris Cohan - the symbol of the franchise's 17 years of mediocrity - finally sold the team, this time to a basketball savvy group with neck-high, if not deep, pockets. Steph Curry emerged as one of the top rookies in the league, while Monta Ellis emerged as the team's alpha dog. The team also acquired free agent David Lee, who finally gave the team a credible rebounding threat. This being the Warriors, Lee was promptly sidelined by a bizarre infection in his arm that nearly killed him, and definitely killed the team's momentum. Center Andris Biedrins annual season-ending injury also appears to be on schedule. The team may look like it's flailing, but there's hope in the flail.

St. Mary's Gaels - the Men's Basketball team made an honest-to-god Cinderella run in the NCAA tournament, reaching the Sweet 16 and beating Villanova along the way.

Stanford Cardinal - the football team had one of its best years ever, led by future first-round pick Andrew Luck and future Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh.

San Jose Sharks - another play-off run that ended in the second round. These guys do a lot of things right (they win their home games, and are always a contender, which is all a fan base should legitimately ask), but they're getting close to the point of diminishing returns: not good enough to win a championship, but too good to get the sort of draft prospects that can let them build for the future.

Stockton Ports - the A's farm team went to the California League playoffs, but couldn't get out of the first round.

San Jose Giants - you-know-who's farm team matched their northern brothers by winning the California League championship.

Larry Ellison - lost out on the Warriors ownership prize, but managed to win the America's Cup, of all things, resulting in an unexpected boon: a San Francisco-based America's Cup race.

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