OAKLAND -- The large, high table sits in the middle of the A's cramped clubhouse. The players use it as a postgame dining spot. But before batting practice, the table is the baseball accessory version of Forrest Gump's box of chocolates. You never know what you'll find there.

For example, three hours before Tuesday's first pitch, the tabletop featured (A) a bag of dog food (B) a bowling trophy and (C) not one, but two life-size plastic Darth Vader heads, with the face area painted gold and the helmets painted green and/or white.

Gifts from fans? Souvenirs? Random rummage? All of the above? It doesn't matter. All I know is, it helped clinch my opinion:

The A's are now definitely the coolest baseball team in the Bay Area.

In fact, they may be the coolest Bay Area team in any sport.

Most significantly, they have surpassed the mythical Eck Threshold.

The Eck Threshold is, of course, named after Dennis Eckersley, the former A's relief pitcher. And it wasn't just because he mowed down opposing batters with elan during the team's last glory era, from roughly 1987 to 1992. Off the field, Eckersley also carried himself with effortless nonchalance and chill. In fact, jazz musicians went to Eck for lessons in cool.

That's why this week is kind of a watershed. The four-game Bay Bridge series between the Athletics and the Giants will demonstrate which one is the better baseball team. (Hint: It's the A's.) Yet we all know that the Giants, in light of their superior ballpark and two recent World Series titles, will reign as the more popular mass audience team for a quite a while longer.


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Ah, but what about the coolness factor, the hard-to-define appeal to the discerning and trendy crowd? That's a major deal here in the Bay Area, where we feel that we're the hippest people on the planet because ... well, because we are.

The A's, it says here, have already won that battle. They are as full of Eck-Ness as any team I've seen around here since ... maybe ... yes ... the 2010 Giants, with their collection of misfits and characters that was so easy to embrace.

Oakland Athletics closer Sean Doolittle delivers against the Toronto Blue Jays in the ninth inning of a Major League Baseball game, Sunday, July 6, 2014 at
Oakland Athletics closer Sean Doolittle delivers against the Toronto Blue Jays in the ninth inning of a Major League Baseball game, Sunday, July 6, 2014 at O.co Coliseum in Oakland, Calif. Doolittle gave up a solo home run, but secured the save as the A's won, 4-2, and swept the four-game series. (D. Ross Cameron/Bay Area News Group) ( D. ROSS CAMERON )

But guess what? The A's are now that team. Think about it. Do the Giants or A's have the defending Home Run Derby champion? Do the Giants or A's have the charismatic red-bearded closer? Are the Giants or A's making the big trade for a colorful 6-foot-5 Serbian-American pitcher?

And according to A's catcher Derek Norris, another distinctive personality with a beard thicker than Nimitz Freeway traffic, none of those players is even the most groovy guy on the roster.

"I'd go with Stephen Vogt," Norris said Tuesday when asked to name his coolest teammate. "He's got the type of personality who fits in with all kinds of people. He can find a way to have a conversation with anyone on just about any topic."

That would apparently include bowling trophies. (Turns out the one on Tuesday's table was a prize from a charity event in which A's players participated.)

Vogt, frankly, would not have been my pick, although I'm not a clubhouse insider. I just know that when I pondered the list of coolest Bay Area baseball dudes, the A's ruled. On a talent and production basis over the past few years, there is no question that Buster Posey is the Bay Area's best. But at least from what Posey shows to the public, he's pretty much no-nonsense and all business. You would go to him for advice on 401(k) plans, not advice on hot nightspots.

Just for fun, on a totally subjective basis, here is how I would rank the five coolest current Bay Area baseball players:

1. Yoenis Cespedes, A's. The aforementioned Home Run Derby champ, with the throwing arm of a superhero and the swagger of a Cuban Leonardo DiCaprio.

2. Tim Lincecum, Giants. Still has the hipster appeal. And he's growing back the hair!

3. Sean Doolittle, A's. The man with the red beard and a master Twitter user.

4. Coco Crisp, A's. Still moving the legs well at age 34. He's from SoCal, but would you trust his tips on the hottest movies and hottest music in any town? Of course you would.

5. Jeff Samardzija, A's. The new Serbian-American guy in town but for television directors seeking reaction shots from the dugout, he's already cutaway gold with his facial expressions. Also, one of his former Chicago Cubs teammates said that before Samardzija left the team, the two sat down to have a farewell beer (and cigarette, but don't tell the kids).

Oakland Athletics starting pitcher Jeff Samardzija delivers against the Toronto Blue Jays during the third inning of a Major League Baseball game, Sunday,
Oakland Athletics starting pitcher Jeff Samardzija delivers against the Toronto Blue Jays during the third inning of a Major League Baseball game, Sunday, July 6, 2014 at O.co Coliseum in Oakland, Calif. The A's won, 4-2, and swept the four-game series. (D. Ross Cameron/Bay Area News Group) ( D. ROSS CAMERON )

Feel free to disagree with those rankings. But that's how I see them. To be sure, the Giants clubhouse is still OK. It's just a little flat now. Today, for coolness on the field and off, I'm donning the green Darth Vader helmet.

Read Mark Purdy's blog at blogs.mercurynews.com/purdy. Contact him at mpurdy@mercurynews.com.

ONLINE EXTRA

In celebration of his arrival to the Bay Area 30 years ago, readers can be treated to the very first column Mark Purdy wrote for us at
www.mercurynews.com/mark-purdy