One that completely fell by the wayside was a regular column (weekly or maybe bi-weekly) about supporting the Oakland A’s. Most, if not all, people following baseball will support a team and the emotions, frustrations and occasional excitement that we live through provide a never-ending source of stories to tell.
2012 seemed like a good year to start on this feature because my expectation, like most A’s fans, was that this was going to feel like a long season. From celebrating the fleeting moments of promise from some of our younger players to lamenting a run of poor results as a basic form of therapy, documenting my thoughts would be a good way to get through the year.
I even produced a list of pun-tastic names for the said column (Thank you for the A’s, A’s and Confused etc).
I’ll leave those names to one side, but I’m going to move ahead with putting together some thoughts on the A’s season as it’s turning out to be a much better season than I or most other A’s fans could have hoped for.
The A’s had won 9 of their previous 10 games heading into last week and had a difficult-looking two series in prospect against the Rangers (2 games) and the Yankees (4). Playing .500 over those six games would have been a respectable result considering the standard of opposition and a great way to follow up that 9-1 sequence.
As it turned out, the A’s shared a win apiece with Texas and then swept the four-game series over the Yankees. Fourteen wins from your last sixteen games will get you noticed and national baseball writers, hitherto paying little attention to one of the two non-Rangers and Angels AL West teams, are starting to question whether this Oakland team are a genuine playoff contender.
Looking at the A’s recent form from an analytical point of view does produce a number of red flags that make it seem likely that it isn’t sustainable.
For example, we have the worst batting average in the Majors (.228) and the third-worst OPS (.680), while our pitching staff has the second-lowest number of strikeouts (625). The manner of our recent victories also may be telling. Winning one-run games and relying on walk-offs is a lot of fun, but it’s also a sign that we are only just scraping through. There is a sense that we’re using smoke and mirrors to pull this off and that the magic will only last for so long.
I don’t take any offence at this argument because there is clearly some truth to it. The point is, as a fan, I don’t much care. If the magic wears off soon then so be it; there’s no doubt that it all feels pretty magical at the moment.
Time and time again we’ve suffered at the hands of the Yankees. Even when things were going well, you just knew that the Bronx Bombers would find a way to battle back and break your heart once again. For one four-game series that was turned on its head. This time it was the A’s that always seemed destined to fight back and come out on top.
As Coco Crisp put it: “It definitely feels good to battle and be victorious against the best teams, on paper, in the game … you can look up and down a lot of lineups like Detroit, or the Angels, the teams with high payrolls. Obviously they have high payrolls for a reason, because the players on the team deserve it. When we battle against those guys and come out with wins, it’s definitely a great feeling”. Amen to that.
No one can expect a team to continue such incredible form for ever. The A’s will come back down to earth, the question is will that still involve winning our share of games or is a slump on the horizon?
After taking Monday off, the A’s are scheduled to play on 16 consecutive days, starting with a three-game series in Toronto before heading to Baltimore, so the next couple of weeks will be a real test of the A’s credentials.