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It will be an A’s-Giants World Series

Charles Whisnand column

Mark it down. The Oakland A’s will face the San Francisco Giants in the World Series.

Is this a homer pick. Absolutely. If I were more objective, I would look at how shaky the A’s bullpen is and how tough the National League is in general before making such a prediction.

But Giants manager Dusty Baker has a year of playoff experience under his belt (not withstanding his questionable decision to rest Barry Bonds last week – more on that later) and the A’s top three starting pitchers of Mark Mulder, Tim Hudson and Barry Zito will be tough to beat in any playoff series.

A Bay Bridge series wouldn’t exactly thrill FOX executives. I’m sure their pulling for a Cubs-Red Sox, Cubs-Yankees, Cubs-Ichiro, er, Mariners, or for that matter a Cubs vs. fill-in-the-blank World Series.

I consider myself to be a traditionalist. Even though there are 30 teams, if I had my way, there would be a true pennant race in which the top teams from the National and American Leagues would play each other in the World Series.

But even I have to admit that the wild card has saved the A’s season. The A’s are arguably the second best team in the AL behind Seattle, but without the wild card, they would have virtually no shot at making the playoffs.

After Baker benched Bonds last week, I wondered what kind of chance he was giving the Giants to make the playoffs. Baker rested Bonds in last Friday’s game at Wrigley Field against Chicago because it was a day game that followed a night game on Thursday in Cincinnati.

If it was earlier in the season, I would understand this move. Baker had been giving players like Bonds and Rich Aurilia plenty of rest throughout the season.

I thought the whole point of giving these players as much rest as possible through the first four months of the season was to make sure they would be ready for the dog days of summer.

True, the series in Cincinnati involved three long games in hot and humid conditions. But the Giants had Monday off before the Cincinnati series and Monday off following the Cubs series.

Left-handed hitters were batting .300 against Jon Lieber, who was the Cubs’ starter on Friday, another reason why Bonds should have been in the lineup.

Bonds should be in the lineup every game from here on out. Bonds constantly reminds us that all he cares about is winning a World Series title. The time for him to rest is in November after he’s won that crown.

I’ve also defended Bonds for not portraying a warm and fuzzy enough image while he chases Mark McGwire’s record of 70 home runs. But even I couldn’t defend his conduct last week.

After hitting a home run against Cincinnati, Bonds said he didn’t want to talk about homers. After someone persisted, Bonds asked the reporter if there was a deaf problem.

Bonds has to realize that the primary reason why we care about him is because he’s hitting home runs. He’s also said that he should only be asked about home runs if they affect the outcome of games.

Apparently, though, this doesn’t apply to when his home run breaks a tie ball game. The home run of topic that led to Bonds’ hissy fit gave the Giants a 3-2 lead. Bonds is now at 51 home runs and he has to realize that reporters are going to ask him about home runs just because he’s hitting so many of them, so he needs to deal with it.

Back to the playoff race. Our two local Major Leaguers, Carson High graduate Matt Williams for Arizona and Douglas High graduate Shawn Estes for the Giants will obviously play prominent roles in their teams’ playoff hopes.

Here’s another homer prediction. Williams, who has heated up as of late, will stay hot for the Diamondbacks and a healty, more consistent Estes will make the difference for the Giants as both teams will make the playoffs.

Mark it down.