Nevius: Electrifying A’s a contrast to sputtering Giants

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The A’s are the team the Giants wish they were.

Although they still play in the Oakland Mausoleum, the Athletics are the shiny new thing in Major League Baseball.

Coming out of the All-Star break, they put together the kind of giddy, we-might-have-something-going-here streak that Giants fans have been yearning for.

It isn’t just the wins, but the drama, like the double-digit come-from-behind miracle in Texas. There are some eye-glazing stats if you’d care to look them up — they are leading all of baseball in on-base and slugging percentages after the fifth inning — but the W’s are the point.

How do they do it? Bombs. The A’s have hit more than 140 homers, among the top three teams in MLB. (The Giants are around 100, well down the list.)

Reading stories about the exploits of Khris “Walkoff” Davis, I kept thinking there was a phrase I hadn’t heard it a while. Oh yeah: “his second home run of the game.” Davis has hit two or more in 18 games over his six-year career.

The Giants have done it once. Evan Longoria launched two on May 29. That’s it for the year.

In the new Happy Gilmore hitting mode, the A’s step in and hit the ball hard. And when they miss they miss hard. Fine with me.

But most of all, they look young, eager and confident. Second-year third baseman Matt Chapman is so cocksure he routinely roams halfway across the infield to cut off a ground ball in front of the shortstop and make the play. (Love ya, Panda, but when was the last time you did that?)

Cerebral manager Bob Melvin has fostered a culture that nurtures young talent. It’s been partly out of necessity, of course. The way the team has shipped out veterans, that’s all he had.

But who is that breakout young gun for the Giants? Prospects travel down from the farm and follow a predictable path — early success, not much playing time, a slump and back to the minors.

I yield to no one in admiration for the way Bruce Bochy handles a pitching staff, but I have my doubts he’s the right mentor for the kids.

Let’s face it, right now the fresh-faced, flat-bellied A’s are making the Giants look a little ... hey, you said “grizzled,” I didn’t.

The Giants continue to lament their run of injuries. And they have had some bad breaks. (Somebody buy Joe Panik a rabbit’s foot.) But hey, that’s also what happens when you get older.

Spinning the birthday wheel gets to “over 30” pretty quickly for the third-oldest team in baseball. Buster Posey, Brandon Crawford, Pablo Sandoval, Andrew McCutchen are all 31. Johnny Cueto is 32, Jeff Samardzija and Mark Melancon are 33. Hunter Pence, of course, is 35.

As McCovey Chronicles wrote last week, they’re starting to look like a tribute band — all your favorite players, still in your favorite uniform.

We also have to take a moment to note Evan Longoria. He’s 32, but the relevant numbers are five years and $87 million. That’s his remaining contract after the trade that sent Christian Arroyo to the Rays. (Arroyo, by the way, has just been just OK so far, and is rehabbing an injury in the minor leagues.)

The Giants’ reticence to make a big trade before the deadline may have frustrated fans, but there was a reason.

Early in the season, CEO Larry Baer explained the nuance of the luxury tax, where if a team’s payroll is more than the league limit, the team owes a tax.

The kicker is, the tax goes up each year. For the first year over the limit it is 20 percent, then 30 percent. But the third year it shoots up to 50 percent. Serious money.

If the Giants can stay under the limit this year, the tax resets and goes back down.

At that point, presumably, the Giants will be free to make a bid for a star like Bryce Harper.

Which is fine if you still believe in the core values that won them three World Series: good starting pitching, a lights-out bullpen and the hope that three or four runs will stand up.

Because the next leap of faith is to say that Buster and the Brandons have lots of tread left on their tires and Madison Bumgarner will go back to being a horse.

And OK, if you squint hard you might see that.

But for starters, I’d say it is not great news that the best treatment they could come up with for Posey’s sore hip was a couple of days off and a cortisone shot. It is starting to sound like a chronic condition.

As for the rest of the early-bird-special group? They need some young backup. Where is it?

Again, we love Pablo Sandoval, but there really weren’t any farm system options? And when they needed another infielder, the choice was 31-year-old Chase d’Arnard?

Like successful franchises in all sports, the Giants like to posture that they are shooting for the playoffs every year. Unfortunately, the last World Series win was four years ago.

It’s time to re-think the master plan. If only there were a young, successful, trendy team nearby that could serve as an example ...

Look to the A’s, G’s.

And then search the archives and dust off a box of those T-shirts from the ’80s:

You gotta like these kids.

Contact C.W. Nevius at Twitter: @cwnevius

EDITOR'S NOTE: An earlier version of this story incorrectly described the time frame in which Khris Davis hit multiple home runs.

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