My, what a difference five years makes

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My, what a difference five years makes

When times were bad in our little corner of the world, they were very bad. They are bad no longer.

Five years ago, the Giants were wrapping up the Barry Bonds era by getting rid of their owner and changing their dugout, and the As had just embarked on their five-year hiatus from relevance.

Stanford had just turned over the operation to Jim Harbaugh after years of meh, Cal needed to win the Armed Forces Bowl to preserve a winning season, and San Jose State had dropped back off the map.

The 49ers and the Raiders were long-term hopeless.

The Warriors had delivered their every-decade-or-so false positive, and the Sharks had their annual round-of-eight bailout.

The Earthquakes didnt exist and the SaberCats lost the Arena Bowl before disappearing with the rest of the Arena League.

It wasnt completely awful, mind you. Stanford basketball still thrived, and Cal won every rugby match it played for a long time. But mostly, it was as appealing and tasty as the bottom of an old barbecue grill.

And now?

The Giants lead their division by 7 games with 19 games to play, thereby robbing their fans of most of the reasons they have to bitch about the team, and the As never lose, and are now two games away from having THE BEST FREAKING RECORD IN THE AMERICAN LEAGUE.

RELATED: MLB standings

Stanford just put a fresh elbow to the thorax of the USC Trojans, and San Jose State is getting good enough to have coach Mike McIntyre mentioned for other jobs.

The Earthquakes have the best record in MLS.

The 49ers are, well, you know.

The Raiders and Warriors are in full rebuilding mode, which means whatever they are, they arent the same thing theyve been in the past. For them, this is galactic advancement.

The Sharks management just padlocked its doors with the other 29 ingrates, so they cant disappoint anyone for awhile.

Hell, theres nary a discouraging word to be had. Not that we wont find one when it needs to be addressed, but right now, the locals are playing with a nice chip stack, and marks to either side of them.

Saturday was indicative of how things have gone. The worst thing that happened was that Cal scared the bejeepers out of Ohio State at Ohio Stadium in a game the Bears were expected to lose by 353 points. Instead, they lost by seven, late. The second worst thing was that the Dodgers beat St. Louis to remain only 7 games behind in the NL West race and move into a tie for the second wild card sport. The third worst thing was . . . well, maybe you burned your tri-tip on the grill.

But thats it. Stanford clocked SC again, an almost annual event now. The Giants won narrowly, the As won comfortably, the Quakes became the first team to qualify for the MLS playoffs, and San Jose State gobsmacked Colorado State.

Its almost as if weve forgotten how to watch bad teams.

And watching winners is as difficult in its way as watching losers. A fan has to fight against smugness, premature totaling of chickens, boring people who dont care with tales of things that other people achieved, and declaring things to be over when they clearly are not.

But it remains light years better than disconnecting ones phone, throwing the remote through the screen, wishing for people to die so that the team could make changes (and yes, you know who you are), and just being miserable wall to wall.

Of course, this can all go bad in a hurry again, because expectations have been elevated, in some places to impossible heights. Fans can forget that everything in the world is day-to-day, especially when you factor that the Mayans say we have only 97 day-to-days left in us.

But for now, for this moment, Laissez les bons temps rouler. It doesnt often get this good, so it should be enjoyed fully by those with the most interest in the game.

After all, it wasnt that long ago when the Bay Area was the kick-ee rather than the kick-er. You take the good times for granted, and they will be taken away in a nanosecond.
Ray Ratto is a columnist for CSNBayArea.com

Bumgarner allows two runs, Giants start spring training with walk-off homer

Bumgarner allows two runs, Giants start spring training with walk-off homer

BOX SCORE

At Scottsdale, Arizona, Chris Marrero hit a three-run homer in the bottom of the ninth and drove in four runs as the Giants rallied after Madison Bumgarner gave up two runs on two hits in the top of the first.

Marrero, a 2006 first-round draft pick of the Nationals trying to revive his career as a non-roster invitee, had an RBI single in the fifth.

Kevin Shackelford, the seventh Cincinnati pitcher, walked Orlando Calixte to open the ninth and Christian Arroyo blooped a single into left field before Marrero hit a line drive over the wall in left centerfield.

Patrick Kivlehan had a two-run single off Bumgarner in the first and Hunter Pence doubled in a run off Reds starter Rookie Davis. Davis, acquired from the Yankees in the Aroldis Chapman deal, is likely to open with Double-A Pensacola this year.

Sharks recall trio as bye week concludes

Sharks recall trio as bye week concludes

VANCOUVER – Kevin Labanc, Barclay Goodrow and Tim Heed have accompanied the Sharks to Vancouver, and will presumably be available to play against the Canucks on Saturday in the first game after the bye week.

Forwards Timo Meier, Nikolay Goldobin and Marcus Sorensen, all of whom have played games with the NHL club this season, remain with the AHL Barracuda for the time being.

Labanc, 21, has 18 points (7g, 11a) in 45 games this season. Lately he has been skating as the left wing on the top line with Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski, and is looking to snap a 21-game goal drought.

Goodrow, 23, has played one game with the Sharks this season, going scoreless on Jan. 24 at Winnipeg. Unless the Sharks recall someone else before their game with the Canucks, Goodrow will likely play his second game as the team is carrying just 12 healthy forwards as of Friday afternoon. Joonas Donskoi did not accompany the Sharks to Vancouver, and remains day-to-day with what the club is offically calling an upper body injury but appears to be a right shoulder.

Heed, likely the seventh defenseman in case of emergency, has also played one scoreless game on Jan. 11 at Calgary.

Dylan DeMelo made the trip, but is still not ready. The defenseman told CSN last week that he’s on schedule with an eight-week recovery from a broken right wrist that would put his return around early March.