The Oakland Athletics won their fifth game in a row last night at Camden Yards. The pace at which this team is winning is nearly as ridiculous as the catches Ramón Laureano makes in center field on a nightly basis.
Alright A’s fans. We are being spoiled. Like your wife telling you she will watch the kids and clean the house while you go play thirty-six holes of golf kind of spoiled. The Oakland Athletics can’t possibly be this good, can they?
I made a mistake last week. I know. Shocking. I’ve spent the entire summer watching this team under a microscope and I still underestimated them.
After the Athletics lost to the Yankees on September 4th, rumors ran rampant that I wrote the A’s would be playing in the Wild Card game at Yankee Stadium on October 3rd.
Rumors confirmed. Guilty. That loss to the Yankees left the A’s four and a half games out of the top Wild Card spot with twenty-three games left to play!
Making up nearly five games in such a short amount of time is usually an insurmountable task, but as we’re all witnessing, these aren’t your garden variety Athletics.
Here’s the disclaimer. I’ve been an A’s fan for ages. I don’t want to date myself, but Topps still wrapped their baseball cards in wax paper and included that not-so-safe-for-eating stick of gum when I first climbed on the Bash Brothers bandwagon.
This blog is an attempt to elicit dialogue and opinions about the Oakland Athletics. We all watch the games, we share in some conversation, and then most of what I write you happily disagree with. That’s the exercise.
My intent is to maintain some objectivity about the A’s. I try to avoid being that superfan behind the keyboard chugging the green and gold Kool-Aid. The Athletics have their flaws, just like any other team and I like this blog to be a fair representation of that.
So when I dismissed the possibility of the A’s playing five games better than the Yankees over the remaining twenty-three games, it was objectivity speaking.
If my heart had been in control, my blog post the following day would have included a “homer” take on the A’s being shoo-ins (that’s how you spell it, I double-checked!) to beat out Houston for the AL West crown.
It’s almost unfair
Look, teams don’t win at a near .700 clip for long, especially teams from the East Bay. We’ve been mired in the basement of the AL West for the last three years so you’ll have to forgive me for assuming the drop-off was coming.
After the September 4th loss to the Yankees, I was resigned to the idea that the A’s would continue to play winning baseball, but not at a pace where we had a shot at either the division or the top Wild Card spot.
This once in a generation team had other ideas. Fast forward to this evening and all the A’s have done since that loss is win five straight.
The A’s have suffered major injuries to ten starting pitchers this season. No problem. The ace of our staff, Sean Manaea, was lost for this season and possibly all of next year due to a serious shoulder injury. Fine.
This team doesn’t have the time to care about those tiniest of details. There’s too much winning to do.
Instead, it’s a next man up approach. We don’t need a traditional starting rotation. Let’s throw eighteen bullpen arms (thank you Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle) and punch our ticket to the World Series. Whatever it takes, just get it done.
And they have.
A look at their winning percentages since the All-Star break show why the Oakland Athletics are the hottest team in baseball over the second half.
Put it together and the A’s have accumulated a second-half winning percentage of .688 with a 33-15 record. This ball club isn’t just hot, they’re smoldering. The next closest performer has been Boston with a second-half winning percentage of .660 (31-16 record).
Not bad company considering Boston owns the best overall record in baseball this season.
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And yet, objectively, I continue to sit here game after game telling myself regression has to be coming. I won’t allow my mind to trust the optimism my heart is feeling.
I’m done. From this game forward, I’m all in. I’m leading with my heart and telling myself the ride is worth the risk. I hereby proclaim that I will not doubt this Oakland Athletics team over the final seventeen games.
They’ve defied conventional wisdom every step of the way and it’s time to embrace this reliever-heavy juggernaut the front office has assembled. Clear eyes. Full heart. Can’t lose. Any extra points available for a Friday Night Lights reference squeezed into a baseball blog?
17 to go
Just in case you’re the one person in the Carolinas who reads my blog, and also happen to be living under a rock, Hurricane Florence is massive and ready to start knocking on your door. Please, heed the warnings and evacuate.
Load up your family, your pets, and leave. Just don’t forget to grab that Rickey Henderson jersey in the back of the closet. Some things are irreplaceable.
We’ve got Liam Hendriks on the mound to start tonight against the O’s. It took me a little while to embrace it, but I’m ALMOST looking forward to this “bullpenning” thing! Enjoy the game everyone and be safe.