Somewhere, somehow — in some corner of the baseball universe or the baseball-watching universe — there is somebody who does not understand why everyone loves the Oakland Athletics.
And, maybe I’m getting ahead of myself. Maybe not everyone does love the Athletics. That would make sense. I’m sure Detroit doesn’t love them, or anyone else in California. Jealousy is a funny thing. I’m sure there are San Francisco Giants fans who are sick of hearing about them.
Maybe everyone in orange and black in the Bay Area is saying, “Screw Michael Lewis’s book, we won the World Series only two years ago. Where’s our movie starring Brad Pitt? Or, you know, somebody younger.”
“A’s Beat Tigers With 9th-Inning Comeback: Coco Crisp Hits Walk-Off Single” — Huffington Post Canada (October 10, 2012)
Really, though, if I can go back to naively assuming that the A’s are now everyone’s favourite team… Moneyball is not the reason. It’s not their salary or their ongoing rivalry with the concept of capitalism. That’s too easy.
Rich vs. Poor. If you want that, go watch Les Mis.
No, the real reason is that this team – this Athletics Franchise, as a business and a family – seems to do this every four or five years. If they’re lucky, they string two seasons together. Once, three. But, they do it wth a different manager and a different cast of contributors (i.e. players) every single time.
It’s incredible. The A’s are baseball’s shooting star. Look now, because you may not see them again.
With other teams – such as the Yankees, Cardinals, Phillies, Red Sox, and Rangers recently – when they lose, you think, “Well, they could be back next year.”
With Oakland, you don’t have that luxury. They don’t have that luxury. There is no next year for Oakland. Everything they have goes into this one season. Every time they make the playoffs, it’s extremely conceivable that it might be the last time you see them for a while.
Every year they lose, you know each one of those guys on the roster feels it in their gut and in their heart, and you can see it on their faces.
It’s become a custom now for losing teams to hang their heads after a series loss, in any sport. I remember it, I was sitting there live when the Canucks lost the Stanley Cup to Boston in Vancouver. As genuine as it probably is, it always seems like a photo-op.
It always seems like the losing team is expected to do that. You know, to sit in its own dugout or take a knee on their side of the ice and reflect on their loss, and watch the victors celebrate and pour champagne over their high-priced superstars.
With the A’s, though, it’s not a photo-op. You have the sense that these guys are hard-working, blue collar-type players who will be substitute teaching in San Jose when it’s all over.
They’re the only team that, when they lose, has to start all over again. They can’t just go out and buy their heroes, unless you would have considered the heroics of Coco Crisp or Seth Smith predictable.
If the A’s lose, they go home. And, not for 2012 but, like, forever. They were done. The Tigers would have done to Oakland exactly what they did to them in 2006, and exactly what the Red Sox, Twins, and Yankees did before them, from 2001-2003.
Every time Oakland hits the playoffs running, there’s a sense of desperation.
And, there’s a feeling of loneliness with this team, too. They’re not like everyone else. They’re not in the fold. They’re like the black sheep of the Major Leagues. When they lose, people rip apart their system. They call them foolish for trying to win with things like stats and computers, and research.
Oh, God forbid.
No other team has a leash as short as Oakland’s. Or, an expiry date like Oakland’s.
Their whole future is riding on every swing and every at-bat.
And so, when you take that desperation into the bottom of the ninth inning, down 3-1 in the game and 2-1 in the series, and you come out of it 20 minutes later with a 4-3 win and a tie…
Boy, that’s a miracle. And, it’s the result of hard work.