The A’s are on the brink of shocking the world, nobody realistically expected this team to do what it has done. That point has been discussed throughout baseball to the point of redundancy, so I won’t take it any further than that. But living in the here and now, the A’s are within close range striking distance of clinching another playoff spot, which would go down in history alongside a number of playoff appearances for the Oakland Athletics.
There was a point in time though where playoff runs like this were the rule, not the exception. Back in 2000 the A’s completed their rise from the depths of ineptitude in the mid-90′s to become one of the true powerhouses in the American League alongside the New York Yankees. The A’s had been battling the Seattle Mariners for the AL West crown and the race came down to the final day of the season. With Seattle defeating the Angels in their game already, all the A’s had to do was win and they would maintain their 1/2 game lead and take the division. The A’s lead 1-0 into the 8th inning, and Randy Velarde and Olmedo Saenz gave them a little breathing room with solo home runs in the bottom of the 8th inning. A’s closer Jason Isringhausen came on for the save, got into a little trouble with a couple 1 out singles, but dropped one of his patented wicked knuckle-curves to freeze Frank Catalanotto to end the game and seal the division. After 8 years away from the playoffs, the A’s were back in it, and it was a beautiful thing.
The 2001 season saw the A’s reach new levels of success in the regular season. While they won the AL West in 2000 with 91 wins, the A’s win total in 2001 jumped to 102, the problem was that the Mariners had an historic regular season and won 116 games. It’s amazing that the A’s won 102 games, and finished 14 games out of 1st place. So the A’s had to settle for the wild card that year. Ultimately winning the wild card by 17 games over the Minnesota Twins, the A’s put it in cruise control for the last few weeks of the season. They clinched the wild card on September 23rd, with 12 game still to play after the delay following the September 11th attacks that shut down baseball for a week. Mark Mulder won his 20th game of the season that day in a 7-4 victory over the Mariners. I won’t get into anything that happened in the playoffs, all I have to say is “Slide, Jeremy, Slide.”
Everyone now knows 2002 as the “Moneyball” season in which the Athletics went on their historic 20 game winning streak that helped propel them into the playoffs that year. The A’s had been battling the Anaheim Angels all season for the division crown, and on September 26th in Seattle, the A’s won their 100th game and secured the AL West. They rallied in the top of the 10th inning after a Miguel Tejada home run in the 9th sent the game into extra innings. After 2 walks, a 2 run double by Scott Hatteberg and an RBI single by Miguel Tejada gave the A’s all they would need. Billy Koch, as per usual was wobbly in saving the game, he gave up a run but locked down the save to send the A’s into the clubhouse for a champagne party.
The 2003 Athletics looked to right the wrongs of the previous 3 season in terms of postseason play, and they had to fight once again to make it there. They ultimately won the division by 3 games with a 96-66 record over the Seattle Mariners. This time they won the division in walk off fashion against the Texas Rangers. Trailing 3-2 going to the bottom of the 9th inning, a 2 out double by Jermaine Dye drove in pinch runner Chris Singleton (running for Ramon Hernandez who had singled) to tie the game. Then in the bottom of the 10th inning with the bases loaded Adam Melhuse drove in the clinching run with a single. Of all the clinching games, this had to have been the most dramatic of all.
The A’s would miss the playoffs in 2004 and 2005, but in 2006 they found themselves in the driver’s seat once again in the AL West. The A’s visited Safeco Field in Seattle with a chance to clinch the AL West. The A’s pounded Mariners starter Jake Woods for 6 runs in 4 innings, and put it in cruise control on their way to a 12-3 victory. Chad Gaudin registered the final out on a fly ball to Bobby Kielty in right field. The A’s had returned to the postseason for the first time in 3 years, and would finally advance past the first round in the playoffs as well.
There’s no telling how these final games will play out, but the A’s have a golden opportunity to secure a playoff spot once again. The beauty of this situation is the simple fact that they control their own fate, win and you’re in, no matter what anyone else does. With their flair for the dramatic, the A’s may just try to one up their 2003 walk off clincher, but for everyone’s sake lets hope they don’t wait too long to do it if they do. I for one need to save some energy and blood pressure points for possible playoff games.