Entering the 2012 season there were many things the A’s were expected to do, contend was absolutely not one of those things. But at this point, the “half-way” point of the regular season the A’s are undoubtedly in a position to do just that. So far the season has been what the cliche artists would call a roller coaster ride, everyone felt good through the first month or so because the A’s had shown they may not be the doormats the “experts” predicted them to be, then the free fall of late May struck. Most A’s fans were ready to pack it in for 2012 as far as the A’s accomplishing anything meaningful, but the A’s themselves had other ideas.
The 9 game losing streak that was so reminiscent of the streak that derailed the 2011 season, and cost Bob Geren his job looked like it had done the same to the A’s in 2012. But as they had shown in the early part of the season, this is a team that has a character to it, a character that refuses to give up on any game. Perhaps the rest of the league woke up a sleeping giant that has unleashed its fury on everyone in its path.
So what are we to make of all this? Which 2012 version of the Oakland Athletics is the one we will see for the duration of the season? Are we all seeing this team through green and gold colored glasses?
As we all sit back and relax while the All Star festivities take place in Kansas City, the A’s are just a measly 2.5 games out of a playoff spot. People can say whatever they want about the inception of the 2nd wildcard in baseball, it certainly has its flaws, but the fact of the matter is this… it’s here to stay. It is the responsibility of the A’s and every team in Major League Baseball to go after that 2nd wildcard spot, and I believe the A’s will do just that. This is not to say they should aim low, if they can catch the Angels for the 1st wildcard spot they should, if they can somehow catch the Texas Rangers for the division they should. The last few years are evidence that the best and most talented team in baseball does not necessarily win the World Series. Oftentimes it’s the team that has to fight the hardest that rides that wave of momentum, of magic perhaps all the way to the promise land.
It is incredibly difficult to not get caught up in the emotional highs of the walk off wins that the A’s have compiled in the last few weeks, but the facts remain that they did happen. They now lead the league with 8 walk off wins. I shudder to mention it, but the wins like this remind me of the 2010 San Francisco Giants. They claimed to have “magic inside” their ballpark, is it too ridiculous to think that magic couldn’t have migrated to the east side of the bay?
This team has the talent to make some noise for the remaining months of the season, and many people in the baseball world will continue to underestimate them. Perhaps it’s the dire stadium situation that the A’s have found themselves in that causes many to dismiss them. The A’s brass has not showed any indication that they believe they can win in the Coliseum, as the offseason trades prior to this year made clear. The idea was that this was a team to be built for contention in a few years, theoretically when the new A’s stadium would be open. Billy Beane wanted to build a beast that could christen a new stadium with a championship, but the team may not want to wait for him. And I don’t think they should.
The Oakland Athletics may not blow anyone away with their offensive prowess, but as their recent streak of 17 games with a home run showed, they can take a pitcher deep when they need to. The numbers may tell them and us that this won’t last, but at risk of offending those sabermetricians out there sometimes things happen on the field you simply can’t quantify. These A’s are a case just like that. Josh Reddick is clearly the leader of this team now, and he’s perfect for that role. Jemile Weeks and Coco Crisp may drive us all nuts sometimes, but in the right moments they can be the perfect catalysts to this offense. Yoenis Cespedes is very much a flawed and still developing player, but his mammoth power can change a game in an instant. Jarrod Parker may walk the world at times, but we may be watching the emergence of the A’s next ace. Ryan Cook may give us heart attacks when he closes out games, but he has the stuff to get the job done.
To pull out one final cliche, the A’s as a whole are most definitely greater than the sum of their parts, and in today’s MLB that is enough to make everyone believe in them. Bring on the second half!