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Who are the Oakland A’s biggest AL rivals?

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The American League has 15 teams, and over the decades the Oakland A’s have authored memorable moments — both good and bad — against most of them. From divisional battles, to wild card races, to postseason matchups, the road has gone through many different clubs during various eras.

The theme on SB Nation this week is sports rivalries, and what better way to start than with a simple question: Who are the Oakland A’s biggest AL rivals?

Before we get on to the AL options, let’s have a quick look at the NL. The obvious answer there would be the Giants, who stand as extremely local geographic rivals. They’ve also met in the World Series several times, with the Philadelphia A’s beating the New York Giants in two of their three showdowns and then the Oakland edition sweeping San Francisco in the 1989 Bay Bridge Series.

Next on the NL list would be the Dodgers and the Reds. The Swingin’ A’s beat both of them in the 1970s, but then L.A. got revenge against the Bash Brothers crew in ‘88 and Cincinnati followed suit in ‘90. A meetup with either of them in a future Fall Classic would serve as a fun tiebreaker. Finishing off the list, Oakland also beat the Mets in the ‘70s, and the Philadelphia A’s beat the Cubs twice, split against the Cardinals, and lost to the Braves. The Nationals have been more like friends, partnering on several mutually beneficial trades.

On to the American League! Here’s a quick thought for each team, followed by a poll at the end for everyone to vote on their favorite. Let’s stick with the Oakland years, rather than researching old forgotten bad blood from past generations on the East Coast.

Angels

As division rivals, and also north/south California rivals, they’re definitely a front-runner. They often clash with the A’s in the standings, and each has come out on top more than once over the years. They’ve never met in the playoffs, but only because they’re usually battling each other to get into the postseason, so the loser doesn’t make it at all. Athletics Nation has a major love-to-hate relationship with the slegnA.

Astros

This would be the current pick. Houston has owned the AL West for the last few seasons, and are still the favorites in the division. But the A’s have been hot on their heels for the last couple years, and their regular season meetings during that time have been epic. In 2020 they could find themselves locked in a much closer race. Historically, on the other hand, the Astros have only been in the AL since 2013, so this is a relatively new beef.

Blue Jays

It’s been a while, but Toronto was once a major AL rival. During the A’s dynasty of the late-80s, the Blue Jays mostly controlled the AL East, winning it four of five years from 1989-93. When Oakland’s juggernaut began to slow down, Toronto was one of the teams that picked up the torch, winning two of the next three World Series. The two teams have met in the playoffs twice, in the ALCS in ‘89 and ‘92, with each winning once on their way to a championship. Of course, there’s also the bad memory of the Josh Donaldson trade fresh in our minds (zero days).

Indians

There’s not much to this one. They’ve never met in the playoffs, nor ever been in the same division. The A’s have beaten them out for a wild card a couple times, but even that has been one-sided. The real Oakland-Cleveland rivalry is between the Warriors and the Cavaliers.

Mariners

Another division rival! The A’s play everyone in the West the same number of times, but somehow it always feels like they play twice as many dates against Seattle — and for many of the years over the last decade they weren’t particularly entertaining ones. But this pair did have its heyday around 2000-03, when they were the cream of the crop in the division and perhaps in the league overall. Their matchups were suspenseful thrillers in which every pitch felt like a make-or-break moment, and each took their turn wearing the crown.

Orioles

There’s some old history here, but nothing recent. In the 1970s they met a few times in the playoffs, with Baltimore winning the ‘71 ALCS but then Oakland beating them in ‘73 and ‘74. But the Orioles just haven’t been that good for the last few decades, except for a small burst earlier in the 2010s, and they’ve never been in the same division. In the present day, Baltimore is one of the worst teams in the league, so they’re not on the radar right now.

Rangers

The final current division rival. They’ve battled for the West a few times, but never more memorably than in 2012, when Texas was the heavy favorite and an upstart Oakland squad snatched the title away on the final day of the season. The Josh Hamilton Play, with the superstar making a game-changing error in that 2012 upset, stands as an iconic A’s memory for this matchup. Like with the other West teams, they’ve never met in the playoffs.

Rays

Tampa Bay has only been relevant for a little over a decade, but they’ve become a kindred spirit — like the Eastern A’s. They employ similar low-budget strategies, relying on lots of young prospects and looking for creative ways to value talent, build rosters, and strategize in-game. Despite both of them being good simultaneously in many seasons, they didn’t really cross paths until the last couple years, with the A’s beating them out for the wild card in 2018 but then Tampa Bay getting revenge in 2019 by bouncing Oakland in the actual Wild Card Game. They’re definitely high on the list of current rivals.

Red Sox

Boston is a high-profile, big-market team, so many clubs might count them as a rival. They’ve met in the playoffs several times, with the Red Sox winning the 1975 ALCS, then the A’s taking the ALCS in ‘88 and ‘90, and then most recently Boston squeezing out a five-game victory in the 2003 ALDS in the last hurrah of the original Moneyball team. Beyond that, the Red Sox villainy has been more about signing star players away from Oakland, most notably Johnny Damon and Keith Foulke (made worse when Damon helped beat the A’s in ‘03).

Royals

The highlight here is the 2014 Wild Card Game, when Kansas City broke our hearts in dramatic fashion. Let’s not talk about it. These days the Royals are rebuilding so they’re not a threat, and in fact the two teams do a lot of trading together, as has been the case for the last couple decades. They also met once more in the playoffs, when the A’s won the 1981 ALDS before faltering in the next round. And of course, there’s the geographic history — the A’s played in Kansas City from 1955-67 before moving to Oakland, and then the Royals were created to fill the vacancy in ‘69.

Tigers

Another somewhat recent but not current rival. Unfortunately, this one has been mostly one-sided in favor of Detroit. In 2006 the Tigers swept Oakland in the ALCS, ending the Frank Thomas Comeback Tour, and then in ‘12 and ‘13 they knocked out the Misfit Toy A’s behind the dominance of Justin Verlander. Oakland did get the upper hand once, in the 1972 ALCS en route to their first championship.

Twins

This one has recent history, and the potential for more in the immediate future. Minnesota’s victory in the 2002 ALDS is infamously immortalized in the film Moneyball, but the A’s did get back at them in ‘06 with an ALDS sweep (before losing to Detroit in the next round). Now the Twins are good again, and heavy favorites in the AL Central, opening the door for a tiebreaker postseason matchup over the next couple years. Look back a bit further in history, and after Oakland’s three straight AL pennants in 1988-90, Minnesota was the team that succeeded them in ‘91.

White Sox

This might be the weakest one of all. They’ve never met in the playoffs, and while they were in the same division for a while in the days before the Central existed, they rarely clashed in the standings. I guess the A’s got the better end of the Nick Swisher trade? I’ve got nothing.

Yankees

The Damn Yankees are probably in every team’s top three. They’ve beaten the A’s every time they’ve met in the postseason, from the 1981 ALCS, to the five-game heartbreakers in the 2000 and 2001 ALDS, to the 2018 Wild Card Game. On top of that, New York has been a financial bully over the years, signing away stars like Catfish Hunter and Jason Giambi. They stole the heart of Reggie Jackson, who chose to wear their cap in the Hall of Fame, and they took Rickey Henderson away from us for four-and-a-half years of his prime. Plus they were mean to Sonny Gray.

***

If I had to choose, my short list would include the Angels (intrastate), Astros (current), Rays (like-minded), and Yankees (the final boss of the video game, or the main villain in the action movie). The Mariners and Rangers deserve attention too with their division ties, and the Red Sox and Twins have some history that’s still fresh in our minds. The Tigers and Royals are more of a bad memory, until we get a chance to even the score someday, and then they might be rivalries. The Blue Jays and Orioles haven’t come around these parts in years, while the Indians and White Sox are that person you see at work every now and then but you don’t really know them that well.

What’s your pick for the Oakland A’s biggest AL rival? Vote in the poll below!

Poll

Which team is the Oakland A’s biggest AL rival?

This poll is closed

  • 43%
    Angels
    (196 votes)
  • 33%
    Astros
    (151 votes)
  • 0%
    Blue Jays
    (0 votes)
  • 0%
    Indians
    (1 vote)
  • 2%
    Mariners
    (12 votes)
  • 0%
    Orioles
    (0 votes)
  • 1%
    Rangers
    (5 votes)
  • 0%
    Rays
    (4 votes)
  • 0%
    Red Sox
    (2 votes)
  • 1%
    Royals
    (5 votes)
  • 0%
    Tigers
    (4 votes)
  • 0%
    Twins
    (0 votes)
  • 0%
    White Sox
    (1 vote)
  • 15%
    Yankees
    (70 votes)
451 votes total Vote Now