It was a bit less exciting in 2011 for Bay Area sports teams as there was no World Series championship to celebrate. But there is a still a chance for success from the area’s two NFL teams.
The San Francisco 49ers have clinched their first division title since 2002 and are currently the second-seed in the NFC. With a win on Sunday over the St. Louis Rams, the 49ers will clinch a first-round bye in the playoffs. First-year coach Jim Harbaugh has brought a tremendous spark to the team, which has been led mainly by a great defense, including Pro Bowlers Carlos Rogers, Patrick Willis, Justin Smith and Dashon Goldson.
Across the Bay, the Oakland Raiders are going into the last week of the season with a chance at the playoffs as well. The team is tied for first place in the AFC West with the Denver Broncos. A win and a loss by the Broncos would insure the Raiders of clinching the division title and a playoff berth. They could also get in as a wild card. Of course the big news this year was the passing of longtime Raiders owner Al Davis and the trade for quarterback Carson Palmer.
In baseball, it was a tough season for both the A’s and Giants as neither team made the playoffs. In the offseason, the Giants have made minor moves to try to improve their struggling lineup. The team has been hamstrung by the fact that they’ll need to sign star pitchers Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain to big extensions. The A’s have had an even stranger offseason, seemingly trading away their entire team for a number of prospects. Gone are starting pitchers Gio Gonzalez, Trevor Cahill and closer Andrew Bailey. The team is still holding out hope to get the okay to move to San Jose as well.
In basketball, the Warriors had a fairly uneventful offseason, other than the signing of new head coach Mark Jackson. The team has almost the same roster as last season, with the addition of a few rookies and bench players. The big news in the NBA was the lockout and now shortened season (down from 82 to 66 games). There has also been talk of a possible move for the Warriors once the team’s lease runs out in Oakland.
And in the NHL, it was another disappointing end of the year for the San Jose Sharks, as they lost in the Western Conference Finals to the Vancouver Canucks. The team made a number of moves in the offseason in an effort to bolster its roster and advance to the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time in franchise history.
Overall, the sports landscape was fairly quiet this past year, though that could change in early 2012 with a run in the playoffs by either the Niners or the Raiders. Here’s hoping the team you root for has a successful 2012 season!
Photo Credit: John Martinez Pavliga, via Wikimedia Commons