Those A’s, Dumb Enough to Win
October 5, 2012 by Jeff Kallman • Print Story •
As of 3:53 PM Pacific Daylight Time, October 3, 2012, when Michael Young's two-strike fly completed its near-perfect trajectory into the glove of Coco Crisp striding forward to haul it down, Oakland, California believes in miracles.
A team full of retreads, rookie starting pitchers, and the lowest payroll in the Show, who'd been as far back as thirteen games in a tough American League West when June ended, upended a company of Texas Rangers who'd held first place since the fourth day of the season, and stood all alone with the division crowns on their heads.
Forget Moneyball. These Athletics were put together with rubber bands, duct tape, paper clips, rubber cement, and Super Glue. And there was probably nobody, maybe even in one or two recesses of the Oakland clubhouse, willing to suggest that the A's were going anywhere much beyond the middle of the division at best, never mind dissipating the Texas tornado in the final regular season set and stealing the division from them in broad daylight.
The Rangers picked the wrong time to go 15-16, which is what they've done since September 1 and which is why they now settle for the second American League wild card. The second card. The Baltimore Orioles took the first when they couldn't beat the Tampa Bay Rays and the Boston Red Sox couldn't even think about beating the New York Yankees Wednesday night.
This isn't exactly the way the Rangers planned it. But they didn't plan to come to within one strike of winning last year's World Series twice and end up losing Games 6 and 7, either. And, surely, they didn't plan to come into Oakland this week having played one game over .500 since September 1, never mind spending their Bay Area week getting bushwhacked in three straight to lose the division they once seemed to have in the proverbial bank, either.
And they sure didn't plan on the A's committing police brutality upon them Wednesday afternoon, a 12-5 brutalization that only began when the A's showed one more time how right former reliever Mitch (Wild Thing) Williams was, on MLB-TV, the night before, when he gazed upon the A's having tied up the West and marveled, "They're like we were on the '93 Phillies. We weren't smart enough to know we weren't good enough."
In fact, the A's on Wednesday weren't smart enough to know the Rangers had them on the ropes, 5-1 in the middle of the fourth, with Ryan Dempster, the Rangers' marquee non-waiver trade deadline acquisition, looking for all the world as though he were on cruise control with not a care in the world but finishing what he started before handing off to his bullpen security.
This kind of dumb Oakland can live with. Brandon Moss, dumb enough to think he can wring Dempster for a lead-off walk. Josh Reddick, a Red Sox castoff, dumb enough to think he can hit one off the center field wall for an RBI double right behind Moss. Josh Donaldson, dumb enough to think he can push Reddick to third and Seth Smith, right behind Donaldson, dumb enough to think he can single up the pipe to push Reddick home, Donaldson to second, and Dempster out of the game in favor of Derek Holland, who got two quick enough outs and looked like he'd keep the Gold Top Kids to a 5-3 deficit the Rangers were sure to put out of reach soon enough.
Then comes Crisp, dumb enough to think he can drive one down and to the rear of the right field line to send home Donaldson and Smith with the tying runs. Stephen Drew, a non-waiver trade pickup from Arizona, dumb enough to think he can walk his way on. Yoenis Cespedes, dumb enough to think he can help himself to an extra base when Josh Hamilton on the dead run drops his pop to short-ish center, and Crisp and Drew dumb enough to score on the play.
By the time Moss grounded out to first to end the inning, the A's must have been dumb enough to believe anything was possible. Well, when you can bring off a spell including 53 of your wins won by rookie starting pitchers, maybe anything is possible.
And while Evan Scribner (who'd relieved starter A.J. Griffin after two innings) and four more Oakland pitchers shut the Rangers out the rest of the way, the A's were dumb enough to think a 7-5 lead against these Rangers was about as safe as a clownfish in the path of a barracuda. Derek Norris, who'd entered in that fourth as a pinch hitter for catcher George Kattaras, and pushed Donaldson to third and Smith to second with his ground out, was dumb enough an inning later to dump one into shallow center to send home Donaldson with what might have been an insurance run any other time.
Trouble was, these A's were dumb enough to believe you can never have enough insurance. The Rangers opened the bottom of the eighth with Alexi Ogando relieving Koji Uehara and Norris dumb enough to welcome Ogando to the party by sending a two-strike service over the left field fence. Crisp was dumb enough to wring himself a five-pitch walk and take second when Texas second baseman Ian Kinsler's miscue allowed, Kinsler losing the handle as he tried a shovel pass to launch a would-be double play, putting Drew on first in the bargain, before Cespedes, too, was dumb enough to wring himself a walk. Exit Ogando, enter Robbie Ross, and enter Moss, dumb enough to single up the pipe for two more runs and make it to second while Cespedes scored yet another run after Nelson Cruz overran the single in the first place.
They were dumb enough, in other words, to shake off the 5-run Ranger third as if to say, "Is that the best you've got?!?" And Grant Balfour, who drove home the first exclamation point Monday when he punched out the side to save it, was dumb enough to wrap two flies around a ninth-inning punch-out, including Young's loft to Crisp.
Two innings earlier, Ryan Cook, another of the A's kid corps (though at 25 he's a rather advanced kid), pitching a fifth consecutive game, was dumb enough to think it was no big deal for Adrian Beltre and Cruz to open with with a single and a double and second and third, no outs, getting Young to whack a ground out before punching out David Murphy and Mike Napoli to put a stop to that Texas threat.
It was the fourth time this year these A's were dumb enough to think they could come back and win after falling into a four-run hole. It was the 54th time a rookie (Scribner, who got a standing O when he came out of the game) earned the pitching win for these dummies. It was only the second day on the entire season that the A's ended the day with a piece of first place ... and that was on the second day of the season.
These A's just might be dumb enough to think they can go places from here, maybe even places beyond the division series. Or even the American League Championship Series. Reality says Berra's Law (it ain't over until it's over) remains intractable, of course, likewise Andujar's Law. (In baseball, there's just one word: you never know.)
But what do these A's, dethroning those Rangers, know? They've just fought the law. And the law lost.