There is a little-known secret in Oakland right now: a team that has occupied the town for 44 years is right in the middle of the playoff race. The Green and Gold are hot, and it doesn’t seem like they’ll be backing down anytime soon.
This past weekend – for the first time in Athletics history — the A’s swept the New York Yankees in a 4-game series at the Coliseum. Three rookie starters dominated the Yankees through the first 3 games, while the last game was won on longballs and a walk-off single in extra innings.
The A’s have become the Bay Area team that most casual fans ignore, with one of the worst attendance records in baseball over the past 6 seasons. But this is the year for us to put the past behind us, forget who is running the team and support the players who are on the field and representing the city of Oakland. This is a team that fights to the end and feeds off proving its doubters wrong. And that shows character that an entire community can be proud of.
Entering the season in April, many expected the team to lose over 90 games as one of the worst, if not THE worst, teams in baseball. The A’s have spent the last month of this season proving everyone wrong. They have used their young pitching staff to hold even the most offensively talented teams to little or no runs. They have come back late in games and have hit 11 walk-offs this season, leading the majors. They are hitting home runs, something they have not been able to do in the most recent years. They are doing everything right — just when they weren’t “supposed” to.
The A’s had much success in the early 2000’s, often referred to as the Moneyball Era, and made it to the playoffs 5 times in 7 seasons. But it’s been 5 seasons since they’ve seen any sort of playoff game, and they haven’t seen a winning record since 2006. This is the first season us fans may get to see both happen.
The 2012 team is made up of players who, by baseball standards, have no place in the starting lineup or in any rotation of a Major League team. For example, take the wrestling fanatic Josh Reddick (once thought to be nothing but a 4th outfielder), the Cuban phenom Yoenis Cespedes (who was considered a huge gamble for Billy Beane) or Sean Doolittle (a former 1st baseman prospect turned pitcher).
There’s also the third baseman, Brandon Inge, who was chased out of Detroit earlier in the season after spending his entire career with their organization. The team’s pitching is held together by 3 rookies, a guy who played in the Korean league last season and a veteran pitcher who many call “washed up.” First base is split between two “once-were” prospects, Brandon Moss and Chris Carter, who spent most of last season in the minors.
I like to think of this year’s team as something completely different from the 2002 A’s. They’re misfits in a way. They don’t have a large payroll — in fact, they have the lowest in the American League. The players we have come to love are unknowns to any other baseball fan. They don’t score a lot of runs or set off fireworks after every home win. Most importantly, they don’t win because it’s expected of them. They win because they want to. This is why this season is special and why this team is worth making the trip out of the Coliseum to see.
Tamara Davis is a Bay Area native and a huge baseball fan with a passion for everything Oakland Athletics. She’s a partial season ticket holder who loves keeping scores at games and yelling at umpires. She also writes about all things Oakland A’s for The Oaktown Breakdown on AerysSports.com, a sports blog run completely by women.
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