I’ve checked the standings on MLB.com several times throughout the day just to check I hadn’t dreamt the news. The Oakland A’s have made it into the playoffs, securing at least a berth in the Wild Card game by defeating the Texas Rangers 4-3 on Monday night.
To say this was not expected heading into the season, even by A’s fans like myself, would be a huge understatement.
The offseason followed a painfully familiar course. Arguably the major highlight of 2011 for the A’s was the release of the Moneyball film – and when the release of a film about you is a highlight, it’s clear not much went right on the field.
The sub-title of the book the film was based on, ‘ the art of winning an unfair game’, kept crossing my mind as the L.A. Angels and Texas Rangers spent oodles of cash making strong rosters even stronger over the offseason.
It was an ‘unfair game’ alright, although the prospect of winning it didn’t seem likely.
Instead, the A’s were back in selling mode, trading away Gio Gonzalez, Trevor Cahill, Andrew Bailey and others while MLB continued to dither over whether the team would be allowed to relocate to San Jose (and, predictably, that dithering still continues). Even the surprise signing of Cuban free agent Yoenis Cespedes didn’t raise a great deal of excitement. Either Cespedes would be a bust or he would do well and then be traded away. Us A’s fans have become jaded from setting hopes too high and know better than to get too attached to a player.
And yet the 2012 season has proved once again that there is always hope in MLB. With some talented young players, experienced guys (not necessarily experienced at the Major League level) giving you contributions above what you would expect, some good management and perhaps a dash of luck, you can give yourself a fighting chance even if your budget is a long way below what your competitors can afford.
If the A’s can take the final two games of their series with the Texas Rangers on Tuesday and Wednesday then they would snatch the AL West division title away from the two-time reigning AL winners.
Qualifying as a division winner rather than a Wild Card makes a huge difference under the new postseason rules. I’ll be honest: if we end up in the Wild Card game I’ll have a tough time looking at the Tigers’ inferior win-loss record and withholding my annoyance that they get to go straight through to the division series despite winning less games while playing more times against lesser opponents in their own arbitrary ‘division’.
There’s also almost a feeling with me that making the Wild Card game isn’t really making the play-offs. Not quite. I’ll take it, of course, and if the worst comes to the worst and losing that Wild Card game is our fate then I would certainly still be incredibly proud of the season Bob Melvin’s team has put together.
But this season has been so incredible for the A’s that dreams of a World Series no longer seem so far-fetched. We’ve made it this far, who’s to say we can’t go all the way?