Guy in an orange and black hat walks into a bar, spots his buddy's green and yellow jacket, bumps fists, orders a round, and says ...

"So, which team would you rather be?"

"This exercise again?"

"Of course. I mean, I know we usually do this later in the season, but why wait? Better to do this while both teams are still relevant, know what I mean?"

"Good point."

"And you know what, they both are. Who'd have thought?"

"Well, let's not go crazy. That's the thing with April baseball. You can't draw any meaningful conclusions. You know what they say. Don't fall in love with a player in September, and don't fall in love with a team in April."

"C'mon though. The A's are in first place. The Giants haven't turned into the 1988 Orioles. It's all good."

"Haven't turned into the '88 Orioles?"

"Small victories, man. Look, that O's team was the last one to finish last in its league in runs scored and pitching and it started 0-21. Think that's what Giants fans were braced for. So 8-12 feels fantastic."

"Sounds like you've had too much K & K."

"Kruk and Kuip?"

"Yeah."

"Whatever. Let's just say that first place at any point was a pipe dream. Not like the A's."

"As an A's fan, I'd argue that first place is still a pipe dream. Look, they got some good things going for them ..."

"Yeah, like Dana Eveland and Greg Smith in the rotation, Andrew Brown, Santiago Casilla and Joey Devine in the bullpen, and a bunch of young legs in the lineup."

"OK. But you won't make the playoffs hitting 56 homers as a team -- not unless you're Whitey Herzog's old Cardinals -- and that's how seven home runs in 20 games translates.

"So Frank Thomas, anyone?"

"Ordinarily, I'd say yes. But I'm not sure he fits on this team. For one, the A's are not the station-to-station team they've been in the past, and they don't need Thomas clogging the bases. For two, they already have Mike Sweeney. Young teams like the A's need "we" guys, and Sweeney is as solid as they come. Plus, he can still hit enough. Thomas is an "I" guy, and he didn't exactly light it up in Toronto."

"Worth kickin' the tires, though?"

"Oh, absolutely. Thomas might spend some time clogging the base paths, but he'd do his share of clearing them off, too. I think he makes more sense if the A's fancy themselves a contender, and again, it's hard to determine what you are this early in the season."

"I would think you'd defer to general manager Billy Beane's rationale on that matter."

"Well, whatever he decides, it's worth trusting his instinct. The first impressions left by Eveland, Smith and Ryan Sweeney indicate Beane didn't turn dumb when he traded Dan Haren and Nick Swisher."

"Brian Sabean didn't turn smart, either."

"You gonna bag on the Giants' GM again?"

"Let's just say we won't be having the 'Are we in it?' debate come July."

"Doesn't mean you can't start filling in the puzzle for down the road. It's like you said, 'Small victories, man.'"

"And those would be?"

"Freddy Lewis' emergence. Tim Lincecum's awesome start. John Bowker's arrival."

"Well, Lewis is playing regularly only because Dave Roberts needed knee surgery. Lincecum was almost traded this winter. And where was Bowker on Opening Day?"

"And I'm the eternal pessimist?"

"Let's just say that Sabean has not inspired a lot of faith that he knows how to steer the Giants out of this mud. Rajai Davis went from 'projected starter' to 'designated for assignment.' The best shortstop available to replace Omar Vizquel had never played above Single-A. Barry Zito's contract is on the hook for six more years. What does that tell you?"

"That you're the 1962 Mets?"

"It's not that bad."

"That you're the 1985 Giants?"

"That's possible. That team was only one loss worse through 20 games and had scored only 10 fewer runs. And the ERA for the '08 team is almost twice as high (4.96 to 2.56) through 20 games. So 100 losses is doable."

"Yeah, but you could do a lot worse than having Lincecum, Matt Cain, Kevin Correia and Jonathan Sanchez in your rotation. Keep that core together, let 'em develop and start plugging away at the offensive holes, and things will turn."

"Makes sense in theory. But that takes patience and direction and a firm commitment to both. We who wear the orange and black aren't convinced of the Giants' ability to do so. I'm telling you, we could turn into the Orioles."

"Yeah, but not the '88 Orioles."

"Small victories, man. Small victories."

Contact Rick Hurd at rhurd@bayareanewsgroup.com and comment on the A's at http://www.ibabuzz.com/chinmusic.