GUY IN A green and gold cap walks into a bar, spots his buddy's black jacket with the orange intersecting "SF," greets him with a handshake, orders up a round, and says ...

"So, what team would you rather be right now?"

"Well, let's see. The A's are playing with half their (Triple-A) Sacramento roster -- seems that way anyway -- and are back at .500. Plus, they're not paying Barry Zito more than the gross domestic product of Egypt. Trick question?"

"No, and by the way, Zito's been good his past two starts."

"Sure, now that the Giants are on their way to 90 losses for the first time since 1996 and are safely out of the race. But that's a subject for another time."

"OK, but you give the A's too much credit. They're too many games (11) behind the Angels to make a difference in the American League West, and there are too many teams ahead of them in the wild-card race (three), and they're too many games behind the leader (nine). It's really all about the winter for these two."

"So what team would you rather be."

"How 'bout a combo? The Giants' wealth to go with the A's wisdom."

"You saying Billy Beane is the general manger supreme?"

"Didn't say that. But it'd be hard not to make him your first choice. The man has been cranking out winners for the A's with bottom-line owners and modest payrolls for nine seasons, and one September out of contention does not mean the man has lost his touch."

"You saying Brian Sabean has?"

"Didn't say that, either. But this is three straight seasons of losing. Let's just say he hasn't been able to trot out his 'I am not an idiot' line for quite a while."

"Fair enough. But honestly, Sabean's bosses are more of a concern than Sabean. If they leave him alone, let him build a team around someone other than Barry Bonds. Give him a couple of seasons to rebuild, results be damned, then he'll be fine."

"Well, isn't that what Peter Magowan is promising?"

"Yeah, but with each day that they don't announce their intentions not to bring Bonds back in 2008, isn't it worth wondering if he indeed is going to be here?"

"Sure."

"Right, and if he's not cut loose, the temptation will be there to surround him with veterans. That's kind of like leaving your dog unattended near a plate full of ribs."

"Funny you should mention dogs."

"Don't get me started. The Giants trotted out a lineup Thursday that included Randy Winn and Dave Roberts in the outfield, Ryan Klesko, Ray Durham, Omar Vizquel and Rich Aurilia as the infield. Sure, they won, but old and slow is no way for a team to go through life."

"Well, Sept. 1 is only a week away."

"Yeah, and that means no more excuses for not having Kevin Frandsen, Dan Ortmeier, Fred Lewis, Nate Schierholtz and any other young kid from Fresno in there every day. Make it an extended audition for next year. No offense to the older guys, but to borrow a Branch Rickey line, the Giants have finished in last place with them, they can finish in last place without them."

"I noticed you left out Bonds."

"Sorry, old habits are hard to break."

"Which is precisely why the Giants should announce no such thing. For one, they take a public relations hit. For two, he becomes a colossal pain. For three, he's a viable option if they can't acquire a top flight bat like last winter."

"Totally disagree. For one, you spin it to fans as one final month to come see the greatest home run hitter of all time. For two, he's been a colossal pain since 1993. What's one more month? For three, Bonds' presence probably turned off other players, because they didn't want to be involved in a circus."

"Well, there is the ballpark, too. Not exactly hitter-friendly."

"Don't you wish the A's had one?"

"Yeah, but they could use some good health first. You can't use the disabled list 22 times one year after using it 15 the previous one. And two years ago, injuries ruined their first half."

"Apparently, Beane is not yet a genius with regard to that issue."

"Tell me about it. And then there's an offense that even Beane acknowledges has been on a downward trend for years. And with most clubs subscribing to the A's offensive philosophy, exploiting the market a la Moneyball is going to become only more difficult."

"But at least the clubhouse isn't dysfunctional."

"Who says? You've got players popping off about manager Bob Geren in the media. The way the front office handled the Mike Piazza injury raised more than a few eyebrows. And there may well be a perception that Beane is becoming an Al Davis-like figure."

"Geez, that'd be worse than having Bonds."

"No kidding. So you ask who you'd rather be? How about who you'd rather not be?

"That's too easy. The Orioles pitching staff."

"Exactly."

Contact Rick Hurd at rhurd@bayareanewsgroup.com.