Moneyball the sequel

Lyon Keating:

I’m not going to say that my best baseball memory of all isn’t the A’s beating the Giants in the world series in 1989 or the A’s winning 20 in a row in 2002 but the culmination of what the 2012 season has brought to the table has turned it into a memory that will rival anything that has come before it.  Holy hot dog turkeys the Oakland Athletics are the best team of all time!!!!!

Before the season even began the A’s, in grand A’s style, traded away many of their good players.  Gio Gonzales, Trevor Cahill, Andrew Bailey, all gone and a slew of new players that nobody had ever heard of, along with a unproven guy named Reddick and a guy from Cuba named Cespedes were what we were suppose to be excited about?  They didn’t even have shirts made for these guys as I was looking to buy one or two at the stadium upon going early in the season.  I have always been a Billy Beane fan and especially of his ‘moneyball’ tactics but there comes a time and a place where everyone has reached their peak and as an A’s fan I was worried that we had had our time in the sun and now we were in the doldrums of an era where Billy Beane tactics would slowly phase out and we would finish last for many years.  Not to mention everyone in the world was thinking the same thing and the A’s were slated by many to lose 100 games.

I had moved to Philadelphia the year before when the A’s were really sucking.  I didn’t really even notice the end to the 2011 season but was glued to the TV for the crazy playoffs that ensued as a baseball fan.  For 2012 I purchased the mlbtv package so I could at least watch the A’s in the beginning months of the season.  I mean, if there ever is a time where everyone can be excited about their team, it’s in the first few weeks at least.  The A’s instantly disappointed and on many occasions I remember messaging my friends about how much the A’s sucked and how hard it was to watch.  It was a tough few months and the games made me cringe.  I considered getting rid of the mlbtv monthly package as the A’s were 13 games out of the division title come July and really not playing any type of baseball worth noting.  I guess it was just one of those years, hopefully not the continuation of one of those eras, and I was depressed about it.

I did not get rid of my package as I enjoyed turning on an occasional bay area game every now and then just to know what was going on with most of my friends or just simply to cure my homesickness at times.  It was one of the busiest summers I’ve ever had on the east coast as I visited D.C., New York, Minneapolis, Jersey Shore, Montreal, San Francisco, Miami, Tampa Bay, Jacksonville, and finished up my MLB baseball tour by seeing my last few stadiums.  Definitely one of the best summers to date.  However, during it all I noticed that the A’s were way more often than not, on the winning side when I viewed their scores on the daily sports tickers scrolling by.  Really, the A’s were winning?  They always go through a winning streak each season that gives me a glimmer of hope but then it usually quickly ends and they end up worse than they were.  It hasn’t been since 2006 and just about every year before that dating back to 99 or so that they’d put together amazing runs year after year and would end up in the playoffs but that couldn’t possibly be happening this year.

I started to watch games again.  It was great to be watching the A’s and having them win and completely dominate.  It had been many years and I was very content, especially after spending a summer of many travels, to be sitting on my couch watching the only team that makes my heart tick.  So wonderful to be part of a winning team.  So wonderful to have that motivation every day to wake up and wonder what you’re team is doing?  It tends to make all other problems or thoughts melt away and is an absolutely consistent driving force of its own self that lends its hand to you.  The A’s went 19 and 5 in July and captured a wild card lead and just pummeled teams.  They were a force to be taken seriously and were not going to go away.  From July-Sept the A’s would finish with the best record in the major leagues.  But who was really on this team?

I’ll admit that I didn’t really know who was on the A’s team.  Who were all these rookies?  They signed a big named guy from the Cuban leagues and had another player that was suppose to be good from the Red Sox organization and a washed up local guy named Gomes who had jumped around from a few different teams.  They also had a few pitchers who were hurt often who were names from years before but they were here and there.  There was a big joke with commentators about ‘who could name five A’s players?’  I don’t think anyone really noticed the A’s because they didn’t know any of these rookies.  How were they playing so well?  How were they beating teams with giant payrolls with seasoned veterans?  Has Billy Beane done it again?

To be honest, the networks and nobody else really took notice of them until the last day of the season when they had won six in a row, the last three which were against the Texas Rangers to take the American League West division title from them on the last game of the season.  Only at that point did people start saying about how this was one of the greatest seasons in all of sports.  They set the single season record for pitching wins by rookies with 53 which should give a little insight at how the season went.

Basically, the last game of the season really summed it up for the A’s and my experience with them this season.  They went ahead first with a 1 to 0 lead in the first inning.  The rookie pitcher A.J. Griffin struggled immensely every inning and got taken out in the third with the Rangers leading 5 to 1.  The A’s basically imploded and starting dropping fly balls and basically brought in one of their mop up young guys as a sort of ‘give up’ was being put into place.  Scribner was their guy to go in so as to save the bullpen for the next game which would be a one game do or die playoff game instead of trying to win the division title in this game.  Scribner’s no name status went in and shoved it for about three innings against the Rangers.  In that time, the A’s battled back and got hit, after hit, after hit.  They got a little luck on their own as Josh Hamilton woozily (possibly in what looked like a drug relapse daze) dropped a lazy fly ball that led to two runs and the A’s walking away with a six run inning, leading 7 to 5.  The A’s would add another run to make it 8 but had incredibly hard innings and key pitching by Ryan Cook and other rookies like Doolittle, who had switched from a position player to a pitcher not too far in his past, would continue to get out of jams and save the day.  In the 8th the A’s exploded and went ahead 12 to 5.  It was utterly amazing and they had just spent the second half of the season vehemently catching and, thus on the last day of the season, destroying the best team in the American League and taking the title away from them.

It was like the whole world didn’t really realize this was reality until it actually happened and was written in stone.  Everyone, including myself, almost expected the A’s to just fall off one day to never return.  I sat in my apartment all by myself and hooped and hollered and continued drinking my bottle of wine when they finished off the game.  What must the neighbors be thinking downstairs?  Nobody in Philly even cares or really much knows that the A’s exist.  Yes it is fresh in my mind and that helps its cause but this is the best season in A’s history.  How did they come back and do this?  How did they come back and be one game shy of having the best record in the American League?  They didn’t have anybody on their team.  They had one guy with more than 30 homers and nobody really played more than 100 games the whole season.  Rookies were platooning everywhere.  Guys who were successful pitchers and position players were a year before catching or playing other positions.  How do you just switch positions at a professional level?  It was like the most versatile Triple A team of the A’s came up and played the season.  They could have been entertaining in their folly, unaccepted, and unorthodox tactics but they definitely had no business winning.  They shouldn’t have won but they did win and it was the most glorious season.  I must have said, “this is outrageous…this is amazing…this is unexplainable…I’m cucu for coco…fuck yeah…this is outrageous (see I said it again) about 100 times this season.  It was one of those experiences that didn’t seem real.  It was one of those experiences that makes me see the magical side of life and glad that I’m alive and able to experience things that are completely unexplainable and unpredictable.  I will never forget sitting in my Philly apartment with nobody else around watching all the games of my favorite green and gold, elephant mascoted team and being one of the most satisfied persons in the world:)

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