2012: Bay Area Sports Year in Review


Name a sport, and you will likely find it in the Bay Area. We are spoiled to have so many franchises – pro, college and high school – to cover, debate, and analyze.

2012 was an extraordinary year for sports in the Bay Area. It was filled with ups-and-downs: trades, signings, suspensions, lockouts, and championships. So much happened this year that it can be hard to recall each and every important moment. But don’t sweat, because we are going to capture the entire year in Bay Area sports in the next 2044 words.

The Triumphs

Courtesy: San Francisco Giants

Where else should we start but with the San Francisco Giants, who claimed their second title in three seasons with a convincing 4-0 sweep of the Detroit Tigers in the World Series? The Giants’ phenomenal playoff run that saw them come back from a 0-2 hole in the NLCS against the Reds and a 1-3 deficit versus the defending champion St. Louis Cardinals was truly one for the ages. It was truly a season full of magic – Matt Cain’s perfect game, career years from Marco Scutaro and Angel Pagan, the resurgence of Barry Zito, and MVPosey were just a handful of the fantastic tales of the 2012 season for the Giants.

Speaking of magic, let’s head across the bay to the O.Co Coliseum in Oakland, home of the Oakland A’s. The A’s came out of nowhere in 2012, winning the AL West after being down by 13 games in late July to the Texas Rangers. Oakland went on an unbelievable tear in August and September with a major-league leading 14 walk-offs and unreal pitching from a rotation filled with rookies. Lo and behold, down two games with three to play, the A’s swept the Rangers at home to clinch the AL West in front of a raucous crowd. The A’s had sole possession of first place in their division for only one day: the last day of the season, which was all that mattered. But seriously, why aren’t Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill filming Moneyball II right now?

December 30, 2012; San Francisco, CA, USA; San Francisco 49ers running back Frank Gore (21) prepares to throw the ball into the crowd after rushing for a touchdown against the Arizona Cardinals in the third quarter at Candlestick Park. The 49ers defeated the Cardinals 27-13. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

As long as we’re on the topic of movies, can we pretend that the 2012 NFC Championship game was a movie and we could re-film Steve Weatherford’s punt to Kyle Williams in overtime? That was about the only negative moment for the San Francisco 49ers during the 2011-2012 season, as they completely turned the tables under first year head coach Jim Harbaugh. The Niners and their number-one defense took the league by storm with a 13-3 record. Alex Smith emerged as the quarterback that fans envisioned when he was selected first overall in 2005, leading the team to one win away from the Superbowl. Their signature victory came in the Divisional Round of the postseason against Drew Brees and the Saints, when Vernon Davis’ game-winning touchdown capped off a 36-32 shootout in favor of the 49ers. When Mike Singletary famously demanded, “I want winners,” this was the 49er team that he probably wanted to coach.

The Stanford Cardinal football team has been winners for a while now, and the 2012 season was not an exception. No Andrew Luck, no problem. Led by Pac-12 Coach of the Year David Shaw, the Cardinal finished 11-2, including an incredible upset of the mighty Oregon Ducks on the road. Shaw successfully engineered a quarterback switch from Josh Nunes to sensational freshman Kevin Hogan, who shined in the latter part of the season. Their work earned them a spot in the prestigious Rose Bowl, where they will face Wisconsin on New Years’ Day.

Oct. 27, 2012; Portland, OR, USA; San Jose Earthquakes forward Chris Wondolowski (8) acknowledges fans after tying the all-time MLS record for goals in a season (27 goals) against the Portland Timbers in a 1-1 tie game at Jeld-Wen Field. Mandatory Credit: Jaime Valdez-US PRESSWIRE

Did you know that San Jose is home to America’s best rose garden, the San Jose Municipal Rose Garden? It’s also home to the San Jose Earthquakes, who turned the tables themselves in the MLS, winning the Supporters’ Shield with 66 points. Their season was filled with last-minute comebacks that seemed straight out of a fairytale, as the Earthquakes scored 13 game tying or winning goals in the 82nd minute or later. This included a spectacular comeback at David Beckham and the Los Angeles Galaxy in June, when they scored three times in the final 20 minutes to steal a 3-2 win on the road. As for individual accolades, Chris Wondolowski won the MVP award in a landslide, tying an MLS record with 27 goals during the regular season. Frank Yallop was also named Coach of the Year for his excellent efforts patrolling the sidelines.

We’ll close out this year’s triumphs with the upstart San Jose Spartans, another team that seemingly came out of nowhere in 2012. Head coach Mike MacIntyre led the football team to an 11-win season after winning just one game two years ago. David Fales, who transferred to SJSU for his junior year, quarterbacked the Spartans to a successful campaign with an amazing passing game. San Jose State finished as the No.24-ranked team in the nation, marking the first time that they had been nationally ranked since 1975. They wrapped up their year with a victory in the Military Bowl on Dec. 27.

The Failures

Courtesy: Jeff Gross/Getty Images North America

We begin the shortlist of failures in Oakland, where the Raiders just could not muster up the same magic that the A’s carried with them in 2012. Following the untimely death of longtime owner Al Davis, new ownership cleaned house, bringing in a new GM (Reggie McKenzie), and rookie head coach (Dennis Allen). Despite the changes, the Raiders were still expected to be contenders in the AFC West and build off of their promising 8-8 season from a year before. Carson Palmer had an entire off-season to work with the playbook and his receivers, and Darren McFadden was finally healthy and ready to go. But just about everything that could go wrong ended up happening for the Raiders, who got off to a 1-4 start and never recovered. Numerous injuries to their defense allowed teams such as the Buccaneers to go crazy offensively, putting tremendous pressure on Palmer and the offense to score points early and often. Unfortunately, Palmer didn’t have much time thanks to the horrid offensive line, which allowed 27 sacks, bad enough to rank sixth in the NFL. The Raiders finished the season at 4-12, putting them back in mediocrity after a couple of respectable seasons.

The Cal Bears were definitely in the “respectable” boat thanks to head coach Jeff Tedford. However, the 2012 season was not so kind to the Bears, who finished 3-9 and saw star wide receiver Keenan Allen bolt for the NFL draft shortly after the season ended. Tedford, who turned the Cal football program around and brought them to eight bowl games in nine seasons, was given his pink slip. The Bears had established themselves behind Stanford as a premier Bay Area college football team, but the 2012 season was definitely a huge step backwards.

Courtesy: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Let’s not forget about those San Jose Sharks, who had a failure of a playoff run in 2012. The regular season itself was a surprising struggle for the Sharks, who were expected to finish among the top teams in the Western Conference. But inconsistent play and a horrible penalty kill ruined their chances of even winning their own division, and they barely crept into the playoffs as the No. 7 seed. The playoffs were even worse. After winning the first game in double-overtime in St. Louis, the Sharks simply fell flat on their faces, losing the next four to the Blues and bowed out of the playoffs. For a team that many picked to win the Stanley Cup at the beginning of the season, 2012 was definitely a failure for the San Jose Sharks.

The Controversy

We all love controversy, and what better place to begin than with PEDs? In an era that has been filled with steroid and drug users in baseball, MLB has taken a strong stance and punished those who are caught — just ask Melky Cabrera and Bartolo Colon. Cabrera seemingly came out of nowhere in 2012 after being traded to the Giants for (believe it or not) Jonathon Sanchez. “The Melkman” tore up the majors for the first half of the season, leading the league with a .346 batting average and winning the MVP in the All-Star Game. But the reason for those amazing numbers was revealed on a warm afternoon in August, when Cabrera was suspended 50 games for testing positive for testosterone. As if one Bay Area athlete being suspended for PED-use wasn’t enough, Colon was handed his suspension just two weeks later for taking the same drug — testosterone. The 39-year old was having a solid season, with a 10-9 record and a 3.43 ERA. Colon was truly a workhorse, always throwing strikes and looking like the 2005-veresion of himself. Well now, we know why.

Courtesy: AP

The 49ers’ quarterback situation was the definition of a controversy. Alex Smith had finally proven himself as a bona fide NFL starting quarterback, leading the league in passer rating and contending for the completion percentage title. He had led the team to the NFC Championship game a year before, and it all seemed as if Smith would be under center for quite a while in San Francisco. That all changed on Nov. 11, when Smith suffered a concussion in a game against the Rams at home. That sidelined him for another week, and backup Colin Kaepernick got his chance to shine against the Chicago Bears on Monday Night Football — and you bet he did. Kaepernick torched the Bears for 243 yards in a 32-7 victory. The always-controversial Jim Harbaugh named Kaepernick the starter the next week in New Orleans, and he responded by lighting up the Saints. Although many talk shows and fans called for the return of Smith, Harbaugh wouldn’t budge and took a risk with his young quarterback. Just like that, Smith went from solid starting quarterback for a Superbowl-contending team to standing on the sideline every Sunday. If that isn’t controversy, I don’t know what is.

Controversy will always explode when a team trades its franchise player — just ask Joe Lacob. In the midst of another mediocre season, the Warriors shipped star shooting guard Monta Ellis, along with Ekpe Udoh and Kwame Brown, to the Milwaukee Bucks in March of 2012 in exchange for Andrew Bogut and Stephen Jackson (who was later traded for Richard Jefferson). Frustration from a losing season boiled over when the news of the trade broke, and fans responded by ruthlessly booing Lacob at Chris Mullin’s jersey retirement ceremony. Ellis was considered to be the staple of the franchise for years to come, a fan-favorite, hard-working player who could score with the best of them. Nine months later, we still do not know the winner of the trade, as Bogut has been sidelined for most of the season after having microscopic surgery on his ankle. However, the main thing to remember here is that the Warriors actually had the guts to make a move as magnified as this, as opposed to how the previous ownership group (Chris Cohan) never seemed to give a flying raspatutti about the team.

Courtesy: Streeter Lecka/Getty Images North America)

We finish off this list of controversies with the most confusing one of all: DeMarcus Cousins. How can a man with such immense talent, potential and skills possibly have such a devastating, negative season? Only in Sacramento. Let’s run through all of the events in Cousins’ season: Nov. 11 – suspended two games for arguing with Sean Elliot, the Spurs color commentator, after Elliot criticized Cousins on air, Dec. 5 – tells the Sacramento Bee had he has no confidence, which is probably the worst thing a player can do, Dec. 11 – suspended one game for punching O.J. Mayo in the groin while fighting for a rebound (yes, you read that right), and Dec. 23 – suspended indefinitely by the Kings for unprofessional behavior and conduct detrimental to the team, following a screaming match with head coach Keith Smart in the locker room during a game against the Clippers. If all that isn’t enough, Cousins is currently the hottest commodity on the trade market, with the Kings listening to offers for the big man. Just to show how much talent Cousins actually has, he posted a triple-double on Sunday, scoring 12 points, grabbing 10 rebounds, and dishing out 10 assists against the Celtics. Just imagine how good he could have been this year had he kept his mouth shut?

A Work in Progress

Let’s end this marathon post on a good note, shall we? Two Bay Area teams are currently undergoing a work-in-progress: the Warriors and 49ers.

MIAMI, FL – DECEMBER 12: Stephen Curry #30 of the Golden State Warriors celebrates a last second shot during a game against the Miami Heat at American Airlines Arena on December 12, 2012 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

Golden State has somewhat shocked the NBA world by starting out on a 21-10 record, good enough for fifth in the West. Although there is a lot of basketball left to be played, one has to be satisfied with the success of the Warriors this season. Stephen Curry and David Lee have been All-Star caliber players, Jarrett Jack and Carl Landry have been unbelievable off the bench, and Mark Jackson finally has a group of players who believes in themselves. Here’s to continued success in 2013 for the Warriors, and hopefully a playoff berth along with it.

The 49ers wrapped up their 2012 season with a division-clinching win over the Cardinals. Their 11-4-1 record may not be as impressive as 13-3 a year ago, but they are in the same position as last season with a first-round playoff bye. The NFL postseason in 2013 will reveal a lot about this team. Did Harbaugh make the right move by going to Kaepernick as his quarterback? How will the 49ers’ defense fare with a banged up Justin Smith? Will David Akers straighten things up in the playoffs, when his team needs it most? Will the loss of Mario Manningham, Kyle Williams, and Kendall Hunter affect them in the postseason? Most importantly — will this team live up to expectations and win a Superbowl? All those questions will be answered in a few months, but for now, we can only wish the 49ers the best of luck next year in their quest for a championship.

Thank you

Last, but not least, all of us at Golden Gate Sports would like to thank you, the reader, for your time and dedication to our site. We started this blog in September of this year, and like the Bay Area sports scene, 2012 has been an incredible journey for us.

We will continue to bring you the best Bay Area sports coverage around in 2013, with a team of writers dedicated to providing updates and analysis on everything and anything concerning sports in our great region.