One thing that has always bothered me about being an A's fan is that we don't have a proper Rivalry. It seems that the team whose games we are most concerned about changes every other year. In the 2000's our biggest rivals changed from the Yankees to the Mariners to the Angels. In the 90's it was the Twins and maybe the Red Sox. Then there is the Interleague rivalry with the Giants, and although we havent competed directly with them for anything of importance since 1989 they have become a constant rivalry due to the proximity of the two teams. I want to find out what this current crop of A's fans think in terms of who our rival actually is. Before I get to that however I though it would be nice to provide some history on each of the teams that one could make a case for as our biggest rival.
1. The San Francisco Giants: The Giants are obviously the closest team in terms of proximity and we have been playing them pretty much even since Interleague began in 1997. The Largest factor in this rivalry is the proximity, the closer you are to another team the more likely you are to work with or go to school with fans of this other team. Most A's fans have had to deal with Giants fans for their entire lifetime as fans, and watching another team succeed right in front of you as the Giants had to in 1989 and as A's fans had to in 2010 builds up a lot of distaste for the neighboring team. Its pretty much "If i'm gonna be sad I want you to be sad with me" The A's Giants rivalry gets even more complicated with the proposed move of the A's to San Jose. Many Giants fans feel the Bay Area can and should only support one team, while some A's fans feel that the Giants are trying to force them out of the Bay and destroy their team. This can be complicated even further by wether or not Walter Hass acted to save the Giants in the Bay Area or if he was simply trying to move in on the lucrative SF market. The A's Giants rivalry may have reached new heights in the Bay Area, but it wasn't actually born here; the A's and Giants met three times in the world series from 1905 to 1913 when the teams still represented Philadelphia and New York respectively. It was also the Giants who gave the A's their now famous mascot/logo; in 1905 NY Giants manager John McGraw told reporters that the A's owner Benjamin Shibe had a "White Elephant" on his hands (an expensive yet useless toy) The Giants would go on to win that world series against the A's but the A's adopted the elephant as a mascot and later a logo which adorned team sweaters when the A's beat the Giants in both the 1909 and 1913 world series. The downside to this rivalry however is that it will always play 2nd fiddle to that of the Giants and Dodgers, The A's will never be the Giants main rival.
2. The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: Despite both teams arriving in California around the same time (The Angels began existence in 1961 just 7 years before the A's moved to Oakland) the A's Angels rivalry took a long time to become truly meaningful. This is partly due to the A's and Angels never really being in contention at the same time until the early 2000's. From 2002 to 2006 however these two teams may have had the best rivalry in baseball in terms of evenly matched quality teams competing for division supremacy year after year. Moneyball vs. Monkeyball as I like to call it. This rivalry has the added bonus of being Nor Cal vs So Cal, and both sets of fans/teams have a lot of things in common with each other. Both teams live in the shadow of their more fashionable neighbor, even when things are going well for them, Both sets of fans have had to deal with a stadium being ruined by a football team coming to town, and both teams have beaten the Giants for their most recent WS title. With the A's falling off in recent years and the Rangers and Angels battling it out for the AL West Angels fans may no longer see the A's as their biggest division rivals.
3. The Seattle Mariners: This is another case of the teams not really being good at the same time until the early 2000's. The Mariners and A's rivalry was strongest from 2000 to 2003, in those four years both teams won 90 games every year and in 2001 the A's were the only team remotely competitive with the mariners as the m's won 116 games and the a's 103. The Athletics are the closest team to the M's interms of geography and are the last team the Mariners had to contend with when they were truly competitive. For these reasons I'd assume that the A's are the Mariners biggest divisional rival according to M's fans but thats nothing more than an assumption. Personally the reason I hated the Mariners so much, and I think this can apply to the Angels of the early 2000's as well is that in those days they had a lot of guys who could hit infield singles, and when our best pitchers were Moulder and Hudson that was the very very annoying.
4. The Texas Rangers: A rivalry with the Rangers has never really taken full swing. All the makings are there, California and Texas hate each other, Red State-Blue State, The teams have been competing for division titles since the AL West was founded, Texas has even had some very hatable teams. (John Rocker, Carl Everette, A-Rod, Palmero, Mariano Rivera's cousin. The Rivalry never really took off in the standings and the worst it ever got was in 2004 when Frank Francisco threw a chair at a heckling A's fan and hit the fan's wife in the head. This rivalry is also fueled by the fact that Kenny Rogers always pitched so well in Oakland. The past two years were probably the best opportunity for this rivalry to gain some speed but the A's didn't hold up their end of the bargain and the Rangers took the AL West easily both times.
5. The New York Yankees: Although it was never really a two sided rivalry this was always a big one for A's fans. The rivalry has its roots in history with the Philadelphia A's and the Yankees battling it out for pennants. It is also complicated by the special relationship the KC A's had with the Yankees, where they basically used us as a farm team and we happily obliged. Charlie 'O' and Stienbrenner had a hell of a lot in common and the fact that the A's are the only team not named the Yankees to win 3 in a row adds something to this rivalry. For A's fans it becomes personal when you think that most of our best players would end up in pinstripes at one point or another Rickey, Reggie, Catfish, Giambi, Canseco, Damon and Swisher come to mind. Billy Martin's "Billyball" A's were KO'd in the ALCS by his former club in 1981. Game 5 playoff losses in 2000 and 2001 are enough to upset any A's fan, combine this with the fact that our home ball park gets taken over by Yankees fans 3 to 6 times a year and it 's easy to see why A's fans hate the Yankees so much. Sadly though until the A's are a dominate team again this wont be a serious rivalry in NY, for the Yankees only have two rivals the Red Sox and who ever is the biggest threat to them in that particular season.
6. The Boston Red Sox: '75 '88 '90 '03 these are the years that the A's and Redsox have met in the postseason. In 75 the Red Sox ended the A's 3 year reign as MLB champions by sweeping the A's 3-0. In 88 and 90 Dave Stewart dominated Clemens and the Red Sox, and in 03 the "Cowboy Up" Red Sox broke the hearts of A's fans by erasing a 2-0 deficit to win the series. A's fans memories of the bunt heard round the world were forgotten because Miggy and Byrnes didn't try to touch home plate in game 3. Hatred of the Sox only grew after Derek Lowe's X-rated gestures to the A's family section and after rumors circulated that Zito and Hudson were involved in a bar fight while in boston. The Red Sox are another team who's fans invade the Coliseum every year adding to the rivalry.
7. The Minnesota Twins: I almost didn't want to add the twins but I thought why not? The Twinkies and A's were both competitive in the old AL West in the late 80's and early 90's, and then both became the poster children for competing on a small budget in the early 2000's, though they did so with very different styles. The Twins proceeded to eliminate the A's in 5 games shortly after the "Streak" in 2002, but the A's got some measure of revenge in 2006 when Twin Killer Frank Thomas helped the A's to a sweep of the twins in the ALDS. The Twins' fans never really took over the Coliseum, but having to watch baseball at the Metrodome (even on TV) was stressful enough to make anyone hate the Minnesota club. Other than the recent Josh Willingham, not too many prminant players have featured for both organizations so there isn't too much lingering hatred between fans of the clubs.