Los Angeles Dodgers' Max Muncy (13) reacts after a foul tip was caught by Arizona Diamondbacks catcher Gabriel Moreno (L) during the fourth inning in Game 3 of a baseball NL Division Series in Phoenix on Oct. 11, 2023. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
Unlike their Texas counterparts who are experiencing an unprecedented high, what with the American League Championship Series featuring a Lone Star rivalry clash between the Texas Rangers and defending World Series champion Houston Astros, Major League Baseball fans in California are mired in anything but a golden state.
The Los Angeles Dodgers flopped again in the postseason, this time in a National League Division Series sweep at the hands of the upstart Arizona Diamondbacks.
California’s four other teams, meanwhile, failed to even come close to making the playoffs. What’s worse, the future doesn’t necessarily look particularly promising, either.
Despite their latest playoff pratfall, the Dodgers remain the class of the bunch, well-positioned to compete for championships in coming seasons. As for the Los Angeles Angels—who play nearly an hour away in Anaheim despite what owner Arte Moreno apparently would like people to believe—San Diego Padres, and San Francisco Giants, playoff contention appears to be much farther removed.
Those franchises, at least, are not threatening to skip town. The Oakland Athletics, who were Major League Baseball’s worst team this season while playing in the dilapidated Oakland Coliseum, have at least one foot out the door with a proposed move to Las Vegas.
“By the day, the general feeling is this team is gone, unless [owner] John Fisher sells it,” veteran Bay Area television sportscaster Vernon Glenn told The Epoch Times. “The Oakland A’s fan base is strong. Unfortunately, it’s a smaller fan base than most. You have a team owned by a guy who desperately wants a new stadium. He was tired of waiting [on Oakland], and along comes Vegas. If you talk to John Fisher, he had no choice.”
Led by Mayor Sheng Thao, Oakland has not given up on retaining the A’s, continuing to insist the proposed site for a new ballpark at Howard Terminal is viable. There is also considerable opposition to the proposed move, much of it from segments of the Las Vegas community, leaving the entire situation in limbo.
“So, here we are,” said Mr. Glenn, the sports director at CBS affiliate KPIX-Channel 5 in San Francisco. “The A’s lease with the Oakland Coliseum runs out after 2024. Where they go after that, whether they pay for extensions on the lease, that’s above my pay grade.”
Compared to the plight of A’s followers, who have endured ticket-price increases combined with a long history of selloffs of standout players, the frustration of fans elsewhere in California might seem trivial.
Oakland Athletics starting pitcher JP Sears delivers during the first inning of a baseball game against the Los Angeles Angels in Anaheim, Calif., on Oct. 1, 2023. (John McCoy/AP Photo)
Still, there is plenty of unhappiness to go around after disappointing seasons in San Francisco, San Diego, and Anaheim.
It’s hard to say whether Giants fans are more miffed with their team’s performance on the field or during the off-season. Last winter, slugger Aaron Judge chose to remain with the New York Yankees rather than accept a huge free-agent overture from San Francisco, following in the footsteps of Giancarlo Stanton and Bryce Harper as mega-stars who have rejected Giants bids in recent years.
San Francisco then had a deal in place with one of several top free-agent shortstops on the market, only to back away from a contract with Carlos Correa because of injury concerns. It certainly didn’t help the mood in the City by the Bay when the Giants collapsed down the stretch this season, finishing 21 games behind the rival Dodgers in the National League West and five games removed from the third and final wild-card playoff berth.
Now, the first order of business is finding a replacement for former manager Gabe Kapler, whom San Francisco president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi dismissed the final weekend of the season.
“He wants somebody in place that’s going to be attractive to free agents that would like to play for this new manager, whoever it is, and then just move on from there,” Mr. Glenn said. “My opinion is they can’t feel that great about the ALCS going on with Dusty Baker and Bruce Bochy going against each other.”
Mr. Baker, who led the Astros to a World Series victory last season, and Mr. Bochy are both former beloved Giants managers. Mr. Bochy, now in his first season with the Rangers, oversaw the only three world championships in San Francisco history, in 2010, 2012, and 2014.
James Outman (33) of the Los Angeles Dodgers steals second base over Brandon Crawford (35) of the San Francisco Giants in the fifth inning at Oracle Park in San Francisco on Oct. 1, 2023. (Brandon Vallance/Getty Images)
“The Giants do have money to spend, but there are issues for a franchise in a market that absolutely loves winners,” Mr. Glenn said.
Down the coast in San Diego, the Padres appeared primed for success at this time last year, in the wake of a second-half surge that carried them to the National League Championship Series.
Ticket sales and expectations boomed after President of Baseball Operations and General Manager A.J. Preller landed free-agent shortstop Xander Bogaerts to go along with fellow superstars Manny Machado, Juan Soto, and Fernando Tatis Jr., but the team was never in the race this season.
“The owner pushed all the chips into the middle of the table with a $253 million payroll, the third-highest in baseball, he’s let the general manager have a blank check, and A.J. Preller has overspent with a blank check,” longtime San Diego sports-talk show host Lee “Hacksaw” Hamilton told The Epoch Times. “Outside of a three-month spurt a year ago and beating the Dodgers [in the 2022 playoffs], they don’t have anything to show for it.”
Left-handed pitcher Blake Snell, a leading contender to win the National League’s Cy Young Award, and hard-throwing lefty Josh Hader—perhaps the top closer in baseball—will become free agents at the conclusion of the World Series. Pitchers Michael Wacha, Nick Martinez, and Seth Lugo carry big-money contract options, while medical concerns swirl around fellow starters Joe Musgrove and Yu Darvish.
Blake Snell (4) of the San Diego Padres pitches during he sixth inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles on Sept. 13, 2023. (Harry How/Getty Images)
Soto, the former star Washington Nationals slugger, is due to become a free agent after next season and certain to command huge money, something the Padres have already committed to the likes of Machado, Tatis, and Bogaerts.
“They traded six prospects to get Juan Soto,” Mr. Hamilton said. “They were going to rent Juan Soto for three pennant races. Well, two of them have come and gone, and Soto has not made a major difference. I think they have a massive problem here, and I don’t know how they’re going to solve it.”
The Angels, meanwhile, have their own free-agent conundrum, and his name is Shohei Ohtani. Despite having undergone elbow surgery that is expected to keep him from pitching next season, the two-way superstar is still the biggest prize on this year’s market. While the Angels would love to keep Ohtani, the Dodgers are among many teams expected to ardently pursue his services, if only as a hitter for at least next season.
Like the Giants, the Angels are in the market for a new manager, having parted ways with Phil Nevin at season’s end. Despite the presence of Ohtani and three-time American League most valuable player Mike Trout, who has battled repeated injuries in recent years, fans in Anaheim have seen their team suffer through eight consecutive losing seasons.
Los Angeles Angels' Shohei Ohtani (C), poses with general manger Perry Minasian (L), and manager Phil Nevin after accepting the team's Most Valuable Player Award before a baseball game against the Oakland Athletics in Anaheim, Calif., on Sept. 30, 2023. (Ashley Landis/AP Photo)
“With the Angels, I think the biggest question that needs to be answered is does Arte Moreno want to own this team, and is he going to run it correctly, with baseball people?” Mr. Hamilton said. “You’ve wasted away Ohtani’s career and Trout’s career. You kept making mistakes and doing impulsive things. If you don’t want to run it correctly, put it up for sale and walk away.”
Fans in Oakland can certainly relate to that sentiment.