World Series

Why Giants should root for Taylor Swift's 'Folklore' album to make history

Why Giants should root for Taylor Swift's 'Folklore' album to make history

The Giants' three World Series-winning squads last decade were great teams, ones for the ages.

But if their story's over, why I am still writing (web) pages?

That's because Taylor Swift is dropping a new album entitled "Folklore" after midnight Thursday, which, if you believe in such omens, means the Orange and Black could rediscover their even-year magic this season.

[BALK TALK: Listen to the latest episode]

Allow me to explain.

As Kelsey McKinney noted for Vox back in 2014, the Giants won the 2010, 2012 and 2014 World Series within days of Swift dropping "Speak Now," "Red," and "1989," respectively, in those years. Why not in 2006 ("Taylor Swift") or 2008 ("Fearless")? McKinney added an important wrinkle that you can't forget existed: Neither of those albums sold (at least) 1 million copies in their first week, but Swift's albums in the Giants' World Series years did.

Swift didn't release an album in 2016, a nightmare end to the Giants season (dressed like a daydream) in which they went 30-42 after owning MLB's best record at the All-Star break. Swift's albums in 2017 ("Reputation") and 2019 ("Lover") came out in years when San Francisco didn't make the postseason at all. "Reputation" hit the million mark, but it also came out after the baseball season.

Reading that might make you feel happy, free, confused and lonely at the same time. But if the Giants' miserable and magical connection to Swift's success is no mere coincidence, then Giants fans -- whether they like Swift's music or not -- should be rooting for "Folklore" to have sold 1 million or more copies by this time next week. "Reputation" was the last album to do it, and perhaps the album's surprise release will help Swift become the first artist with five such albums.

[RELATED: Giants' playoff odds improve with last-minute rule change]

So, was Swift making album history the real source of the Giants' even-year success all along? Or did it just put them over the hump during years in which they already made the postseason? This season, assuming it's completed, should be an interesting case study.

There are lonely, Starbucks-winners is a long list of ex-winners who will tell you this is insane. But the Commissioner's Trophy has a blank space, baby.

Will the Giants write their name?

Making case for why loaded A's roster could win 2020 MLB World Series

Making case for why loaded A's roster could win 2020 MLB World Series

The A’s have won 194 games over the past two seasons.

That’s, you know, pretty good.

That number was split evenly over the past two seasons. A 97-win total would’ve won four of MLB's six divisions in 2018, two in 2019. The A’s don’t have a playoff banner to show for it.

The Astros, with their supreme talent and trash-can banging, have owned the A.L. West.

Oakland doesn't have a playoff win in that dominant span, either, with two losses coming in the wild card round.

[BALK TALK: Listen to the latest episode]

The A’s entered camp this spring believing this was the year to leap over past hurdles, to win the division and a playoff series, even possibly walking away with the franchise’s first championship since 1989.

This is the year they’ll do it. They’re deep and talented. They match up well with anyone. And in 2020, they’ll get hot in September and mow down the American League en route to a World Series title. That should be even easier in an expanded playoff field, agreed upon by MLB and the players union on Thursday afternoon. At the time of this publication, however, owners still had to ratify playoff expansion.

Leaving Mesa, Ariz. after baseball was shut down over the coronavirus pandemic, without a guarantee of return, constituted supreme disappointment for the organization. Being able to reassemble in July, even for a 60-game season, brought that optimism flooding back.

“I think we have the best team out of anyone,” outfielder Robbie Grossman said. “We can match up well. We have the depth to play with anyone in a long series or a short series. It’s going to be really exciting. What was so disappointing when we all left spring training, is that we knew the team we had, and we knew what kind of chance we had to get to the World Series and win the whole thing. That was the letdown in spring, but now we’re all back and everyone has that feeling [again] that this could be something special.”

Grossman’s instincts are spot on. The A’s have the pitching depth to compete with anyone, even with A.J. Puk out indefinitely due to shoulder inflammation and Jesus Luzardo’s path to the rotation delayed by a coronavirus quarantine. They have a deep bullpen -- thinned a bit by Chris Bassitt and Daniel Mengden joining the rotation -- with long relievers and solid late-inning options.

They’re one of baseball’s best defensive teams and, as we all know, they can flat out rake. The first six hitters in their lineup had at least 23 home runs last year. Their seventh, Stephen Piscotty, healthy, in great form and capable of hitting for power. They have depth in the outfield and in the infield as well.

The roster is stacked. Bob Melvin’s as good a manager as there is in baseball. There are streaky hitters and pitchers capable of putting together a dominant 60-game stretch. And, unlike most A’s seasons, there’s continuity and chemistry built from back-to-back 97-win seasons that should help them navigate a shortened season playing amidst a global pandemic.

“As long as we stay healthy and we keep following the protocols, we have a chance to get to the playoffs and make a push,” second baseman Tony Kemp said. “This team has been knocking on the door, and we have to care of each day at a time.”

[RELATED: A's 2020 MLB Opening Day roster: Seth Brown, Jordan Weems earn spots]

They have to avoid slow starts that have become characteristic, and start picking off things in front of them. The Astros are the main deterrent, with a division title needed to avoid the one-game playoffs that have plagued them over the past decade.

“We have gotten stuck in the Wild Card spot the last couple of years,” Mengden said. “We want to get out of that. We want to take the next step and we’re hungry. We’ve been the little stepbrother to the Astros the past couple years in the division. We have been knocking at the door the last couple of years, but we’ve never done it. I think that, now that we have the team we have and we know what we’re capable of, we believe we can take that next step. We wish we had the whole year to show our dominance, but we only have 60 games. It’s going to be a sprint for everyone. Inside out, we’re very confident as a team. We want to get out there and we want to win.”

Winning will be easier when Luzardo’s able to start again. It will be easier if Puk can return this year and make an impact. It will be easier if the major producers get hot and stay available. The A’s were a legitimate World Series contender over 162 games. That status should remain over 60.

Players here understand the importance of each game. They’re more than capable of doing enough to make an expanded playoff field and make a playoff push.

“We have one of the best defenses in baseball. Our hitters can get after it,” A’s starter Frankie Montas said. “I feel really confident about this team. I feel really confident about what we’re going to do in 2020. We’re looking forward to the opportunity to be great.”

2020 MLB season restart: Teams, format, schedule location and odds

2020 MLB season restart: Teams, format, schedule location and odds

The MLB season is almost here, and it’s time to get weird. 

The A’s, along with the other 29 teams in the league, will play a 60-game season. This comes off of a very long and tumultuous back and forth between the MLB owners and the Players' Association to get a season going during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. 

Here's a look at what you can expect during the 2020 A's season, which will be televised on NBC Sports California and streamed on the MyTeams app (click here to download!).

When does the MLB season resume?

We’re calling it a restart since technically, the first spring training began in March, so the MLB-named “Summer Camp,” is simply a continuation to get these guys back in shape. That already has begun with a bit of a delay for certain teams, including Oakland, who waited for COVID-19 test results to arrive for position players.

The actual Opening Day will occur for teams either on July 23 or 24th. The A’s open up the season at home against the Los Angeles Angels on July 24. That means the series could be against three-time AL MVP Mike Trout. However, the star outfielder said he was unsure about playing due to the health risks. 

Here’s a look at the entire A’s schedule

Is there a new playing format?

There isn’t a necessarily new format, but the matchups will be based more on geographical locations as opposed to standard league-wide matchups. This is to keep the teams from doing too much travel during the regular season.

Once it’s postseason time, of course, that would change. But the A’s will take 40 games against their traditional AL West counterparts, and 20 against the NL West, including six "Battles of the Bay" against the location rival Giants.

They will also have some exposure to the San Diego Padres, Colorado Rockies, Arizona Diamondbacks and one series against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Universal DH ... and what else???

That's right, fam.

National League fans are going to have to say goodbye to #PitchersWhoRake. The entire league will include the use of the designated hitter for the first time in history.

Also, teams will have to begin each extra inning with a runner on second base. This runner could be the player, or a substitute player, in the batting order immediately preceding the half-inning's leadoff hitter.

This shouldn't impact the A's too much, but perhaps this will give a chance for prospect Buddy Reed to make an impact with his speed. He's looking to make the roster this season. 

The three-batter minimum rule also will be implemented, which will require any starting or relief pitcher to pitch to at least three batters until they are retired, reach base or until the inning ends. And, of course, if there is an injury or illness, the pitcher can be removed. 

The shortened season appears to be the perfect time to experiment with such oddities. 

Which teams will be in the playoffs?

How the heck should I know?

The 60-game schedule actually will benefit some of the teams who we might not have been in our win-column during the winter months, due to the small sample size randomness.

Unfortunately for the A’s, they have a history of getting a slow start, but you know who is sick of having to hear that? The A’s. 

For now, the familiar names of the Dodgers and New York Yankees still remain the teams to beat. We will get to see Mookie Betts in a Dodgers uniform for the first time, and the Yankees got ace Gerrit Cole in the offseason. He had a league-leading 2.50 ERA last season with the Houston Astros. 

David Price, who went to the Dodgers with Betts in a trade this offseason, has opted out this season. Click here for a running tally on every MLB player who has opted out.

The shortened-schedule could help some sleeper teams, however. Especially a team like the Giants who could have a strong 10-game stint, that could make a big difference in a short season. Trust me, the fans remember that hot July last year.

No team is to be slept on.

The 2020 MLB Schedule

The Washington Nationals will start the season defending their 2019 World Series title hosting the Yankees which means we could see Cole vs. Max Scherzer -- a matchup we all deserve.

What better way to welcome back a season?

Overall, the 60 games will equal to 40 divisional games (20 home, 20 road) and 20 interleague (10 home, 10 road). That’s why there is a lot of NL West exposure for the A’s, and also means there will be a lot of games in California. 

MLB will also be coming to Iowa to play at Field of Dreams (Yep, the "Hey Dad. You want to have a catch?" that will make you cry every time movie) for a Chicago White Sox-St. Louis Cardinals matchup.

I’d like that.

Since there was no baseball during the true Jackie Robinson Day on April 15, that has been rescheduled to be observed on Aug. 28. 

[RELATED: A's have no opt-outs, no injury issues entering Summer Camp]

The regular season is scheduled to conclude on Sept. 27.

You can check out the 2020 schedule in its entirety here

Odds to win the 2020 World Series

It’s the usual crowd that is looked at as being crowned the best of the best, with the A’s getting some love.

Here are numbers to go with the predictions so you can put your money where your mouth is, courtesy of Caesars.

The A's are listed with the eighth-best odds at +2000 ($100 bet wins you $2000).

The A's pitching rotation is stacked, with rookies Jesús Luzardo and A.J. Puk hopefully making their starting debuts this season, and with expected full (kind of) seasons from Frankie Montas and Sean Manaea.

Defensively, well -- have you ever seen Matt Chapman and Matt Olson with a glove? If not, you're in for a treat. Both have consecutive won Gold Glove Awards with Chappy snagging two Platinum titles of his own. Oh, and they can hit as well.

Olson specifically proved he could have a power surge in as little as 60 games. After returning from a hamate bone injury in his right hand early last season, he came back to get 60 hits, 20 home runs and 40 RBI during a 60-game span.

Marcus Semien is heading into his contract year after not only leaving a stellar 2019 campaign behind (third in AL MVP voting), but also becoming a leader in the clubhouse. He wants to stay with the A's, but if he has a decent season, other teams will come sniffing around and will offer him a lot of money.

Designated hitter Khris Davis is due for a comeback, and the outfield hasn't even seen the best of Mark Canha and Ramón Laureano yet.

Buckle up, kids.