This is the greatest era in Bay Area pro sports history. With the exception of the Oakland Raiders, every major sports team is a serious playoff contender – something that’s unprecedented.
So if you’re a sports fan, this is a column for you. But if you’re not, this is really a column for you, because you can read it and know enough to sound informed.
It’s a cheat sheet for Bay Area sports figures – my annual ranking of the Bay Area’s top 10 sports figures.
I’ve done it the past few years and things keep changing, even if the top of the list looks a lot like 2013. There are always more interesting athletes than positions on my list.
So let’s count down the top 10 athletes, in reverse order, with last year’s ranking in parenthesis:
10. (8) Patrick Marleau, San Jose Sharks. He’s the biggest star and longest-tenured member of a perennial playoff team. But his postseason failures give fans a love-hate relationship with him. Maybe that will change this year?
9. (nr) Matt Schaub, Oakland Raiders. The new quarterback hasn’t played a game for Oakland (he came from Houston in a March trade), but is already their most recognizable player. That says a lot about the state of the region’s worst franchise.
8. (nr) Mark Jackson, Golden State Warriors. The Warriors’ coach has turned the franchise around and changed its culture – and he still could lose his job, which would thrill some fans, infuriate others.
7. (nr) Coco Crisp, Oakland Athletics. The A’s keep a low profile and Crisp is their most-recognizable and productive offensive player. That his name sounds like a breakfast cereal makes it even better.
6. (4) Tim Lincecum, San Francisco Giants. A few years ago, he was the undisputed No. 1 on this list, but he’s slowly moving down. Still, his hold on the fans was evidenced by the team’s willingness to give him a two-year contract last year despite two subpar years. His hipster image plays perfectly in San Francisco. And his mustache? Don’t ask.
5. (7) Billy Beane, Oakland Athletics. The general manager who was the focus of “Moneyball” is bigger than any player on his team, which is amazing, since they won back-to-back division titles. However, that also means that fans always expect their favorite players to depart in a Beane trade.
4. (3) Jim Harbaugh, San Francisco 49ers. The coach is the face of the Bay Area’s most popular franchise, given credit for bringing them back from obscurity and turning them into a championship contender. A great combination of creativity and overwhelming intensity.
3. (6) Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors. The most electrifying athlete in the region, playing in front of the Bay Area’s most passionate fan base. Curry is the best shooter in the NBA , a unique talent with an extreme likeability. Probably the second-greatest Warriors player in West Coast history.
1. (1) Buster Posey, San Francisco Giants. He’s the poster boy for the San Francisco Giants, the region’s lone champion (twice!) in recent years. Not only is he their best player, he is an old-school catcher who would have been popular in any decade of baseball’s history. And he has a great name.
Reach Brad Stanhope at 427-6958 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/bradstanhope.