Thursday, October 4, 2012

94 Reasons I Love the 2012 Oakland Athletics

After winning 74 games last year, the Oakland Athletics decided to rebuild again in the hopes of having a young nucleus ready for a potential move into a new stadium somewhere other than in the city of Oakland.  Traded away were All-Star pitchers Gio Gonzalez, Trevor Cahill and Andrew Bailey.  In return the Athletics acquired Tommy Milone, Derek Norris, A.J. Cole, Brad Peacock, Josh Reddick, Miles Head, Raul Alcantara, Ryan Cook, Collin Cowgill and Jarrod Parker.  Ten hopeful future quality players for three current good players.  To everyone outside of the Oakland executive offices (and maybe them too) this was seen as waving the white flag at the 2012 season.

I had seen this before.  The Athletics traded away Mark Mulder and Tim Hudson within two days of each other in the winter of 2004.  They missed the playoffs in 2005 with a much better starting roster than was the 2011 team, but went to the ALCS in 2006.  This was the idea although the plan was set for 2014, not 2012.  By 2014 the hopes was to have moved the team into a brand new park in San Jose with a brand new television deal that would afford the Athletics to hang onto some of the new, young talent.

The 2012 season started as everyone expected.  The team could pitch, but couldn't hit at all.  They were floating around the Mendoza line...AS A TEAM!!  You don't believe me?? Try a .209 team batting average in March/April and a .210 team batting average in May.  It was a miracle that they were only 22-29.  June was a bit better as the team stabilized into .500 baseball going 15-13 that month.  What momentum that had built that month seemed to melt away as they left June on a three game losing streak, 13 games behind the 1st place Texas Rangers and even 6 games out of the 2nd Wild Card.  It should have been worse.  In my mind the team was playing better, but without the ability to hit, it wasn't going to matter.  The calendar then turned to July 1st.

I happened to fly into Texas the night that Oakland had just lost that 3rd straight game against the Rangers and what hope they had at making a run in the West seemed to be gone.  Then something funny happened.  In my five days in Texas, Oakland didn't lose.  When I got home, the winning ways continued.  By the time July was done the Athletics had gone 19-5 and were the talk of the baseball world.  They were all of sudden just 3.5 games out of first place in the West and now in a playoff position as they held the 2nd Wild Card spot.  One month doesn't make up for a horrid start, but I now had hope.

August was more of the same as Oakland went 18-10.  I was in utter amazement.  While they stayed hot, Texas got a bit hotter and stretched the lead to 4 games out West.  Oakland did manage to climb to the 1st Wild Card spot and thoughts of making the playoffs became a distinct possibility.  I knew September was going to be difficult.  There was a 20 game stretch with 17 road games and the only 3 home games were against equally surprising Baltimore.  This was going to be a long month.

Oakland won the first two games of the month, but then dropped three straight to surging Los Angeles at home and the 20 game stretch from hell was now about to begin.  I didn't think this young Athletics team would survive.  I feared the worst.  I thought back to 1999 when injuries and youth aided in the collapse down the stretch.  This team is young, talented, but not ready for prime time just yet I said.  I was just preparing myself for the inevitable.  Of course they won 6 of the first 7 games on the road.  Of course they did.  They took two of three at home against Baltimore and I thought for a second that they might just make it.  They had 10 road games left against future playoff teams New York, Detroit, and Texas.  They needed to just survive.  They did...barely.  They went 4-6 including the heart breaker of heart breaker games, blowing a 4 run, 13th inning lead against the Yankees.  The spirit of this team could not be broken.

Along the way they had lost their only three veteran pitchers.  Bartolo Colon was suspended for PED use with 40 games left in the season.  Brandon McCarthy was hit in the head with a batted ball and cracked his skull and was lost for the season.  Brett Anderson who had worked tirelessly to get back from Tommy John surgery to pitch wonderfully strained his oblique and was lost for the regular season.  Oakland now relied on 5...count them...5 rookie starting pitchers to finish the season.  The record for starts from rookie pitchers on a playoff team was 69 from the '52 Dodgers.  This Athletics team finished with over 100.

Oakland lost their final road game against Texas and stood 4 games back with 6 to go.  It was Wild Card or bust it seemed.  Oakland did their part sweeping away Seattle in dramatic fashion and welcomed Texas for the final three games of the season needing a sweep to win the West.  Of course they swept them.  What couldn't this group of kids not do?  Whatever happens in the playoffs seems almost meaningless compared to the wild ride that Oakland took their fans on in 2012.  Instead of 1999, this team turned into the 2000 team that won the AL West on the final day of the season as well when they swept Texas at home.  That 2000 team ended up going to the playoffs for four straight years and had a movie made about them.  What will the 2012 version accomplish?  I cannot wait to find out.

Here are 94 reasons why I love the 2012 Oakland Athletics:

  1.  The Athletics pick one day to be in first place by themselves.  It was the final day of the season.    
  2.  The McCarthy's twitter accounts.  Brandon and his wife Mrs. McCarthy are hilarious (@BMcCarthy32  & @MrsMcCarthy32)
  3.  The Bernie Lean music video
  4. Josh Reddick's Arm
  5. Coco Crips's speed
  6. Yoenis Cespedes' massive swings
  7. Josh Donaldson getting a second chance
  8. Brandon Inge carrying the team for a month and trying to comeback with his arm ready to fall off, just because
  9. Jarrod Parker's change up
  10. A.J. Griffin's curve ball
  11. Grant Balfour's rage
  12. The dedicated fans in the bleachers (The Bleacher Creatures)
  13. Daric Barton and Jemile Weeks for vowing to get better and not complaining after being demoted
  14. Winning 14 games with walk off hits
  15. Kurt Suzuki being a million times better to the city of Oakland off the field than on the field and being a pretty damn good leader on the field
  16. Brandon Moss figuring it out in front of our eyes
  17. Chris Carter shortening his swing
  18. Derrick Norris' facial hair changes
  19. Jonny Gomes' shaving his mohawk to end a slump and homering that night
  20. Bartolo Colon throwing 38 consecutive strikes
  21. The Australian Athletics
  22. The Story of Sean Doolittle 
  23. Kila Ka'aihue getting his walk off hit and taking his release the right way
  24. The Gold alternate jerseys
  25. Cream Pies
  26. Josh Reddick's fascination with WWE
  27. Stephen Drew stabilizing the SS position just in time
  28. Taking the Red Sox behind the woodshed in August 20-2
  29. The hustle of Adam Rosales around the base paths
  30. Seth Smith pinch hitting for Jonny Gomes and vice versa
  31. The platoon of Chris Carter and Brandon Moss combing for 37 home runs in 556 plate appearances
  32. Management realizing that 5 home runs in 275 plate appearances from Barton and Ka'aihue wasn't good enough and trying something...anything else.
  33. Eric Sogard wearing glasses and looking like he's 12
  34. The release of Brian Fuentes
  35. Bringing in another side armed pitcher in Pat Neshek following in the line of Dennis Eckersley, Brad Ziegler and Chad Bradford
  36. Tommy Milone somehow getting away with it on the mound
  37. Brett Anderson losing weight and looking like his old self
  38. Josh Reddick climbing the wall in Toronto like Spider-Man, then buying a Spider-Man outfit in Baltimore at a Comic Convention and pieing his teammate while wearing it.
  39. The Oakland clubhouse being everything that Boston and New York aren't
  40. Ryan Cook's slider
  41. Evan Scribner in game 162
  42. Billy Beane for never giving up
  43. Yoenis Cespedes for surprising everyone
  44. George Kottaras for stepping right in as if he'd been there all along
  45. The Twitter handle of Josh Donaldson (@BringerofRain20)
  46. Brandon Hicks and Derrick Norris hitting their 1st career home run in walk off fashion
  47. The bulls-eye tattoo on Coco Crisp's neck with piercing
  48. The tattoos on the arms of Travis Blackley
  49. Grant Balfour's warm up music choice and the fan reaction
  50. The dance between Coco Crisp and Yoenis Cespedes after a home run
  51. The Bernie Lean dance that started it all between Coco Crisp and Brandon Inge after a home run
  52. Bob Melvin mixing and matching at all times
  53. The team for accepting their limitations and being okay with the platoon situations
  54. A 9 game winning streak during the 10 year celebration of the 20 game winning streak
  55. Sean Doolittle fooling batters by throwing fastball after fastball after fastball
  56. The unabashed leadership of Jonny Gomes in his 1st year with the team
  57. Brandon McCarthy coming back stronger after each DL stint
  58. Daric Barton's splits when he stretches at 1st
  59. The double play combination of Cliff Pennington and Jemile Weeks allowing me to forget that they were barely hitting their weight
  60. The way Adam Rosales waddles as he runs off the field
  61. The amazing agility of Bartolo Colon at his size
  62. The way Jerry Blevins owns Josh Hamilton (0-7 5 K's 1 BB)
  63. Every inning not pitched by Tyson Ross
  64. The fact that no starting pitcher threw more than 120 pitches in a game (only playoff team to do so)
  65. The mid season hype of Dan Straily coming out of nowhere
  66. The fact that Josh Reddick shaved his face clean after batting practice to end an 0-30 slump and got two hits that night and two home runs the next night
  67. The way Travis Blackley overuses #hashtags on Twitter and is proud of it
  68. Setting an American League strikeout record as a team (the hitters...not the pitchers) and winning despite it
  69. Turning a triple play
  70. Committing the 3rd most errors in the American League and winning despite it
  71. Having the 2nd worst team batting average in the American League and winning despite it
  72. Hitting 81 more home runs this year than last year
  73. Jordan Noberto being excellent when healthy
  74. The classic second half surge that made the teams of the early 2000's famous
  75. Every time Josh Reddick says how thankful he is to be out of Boston
  76. Derrick Norris hitting .201 and seemingly being an upgrade to Kurt Suzuki at the plate
  77. Brandon Moss practically placing the ball in the exact same spot in the right field corner with every swing of the bat
  78. Scoring 11 straight runs in game 162 when down 5-1 with the Division at stake
  79. Surviving a stretch of losing 10 of 11 games while being shut out 5 times and then winning 3 of 4 against Texas
  80. Getting to have two champagne celebrations in the same series
  81. The way Yoenis Cespedes covers ground in bunches
  82. Brandon Inge considering not having surgery to stay a DH while hitting .226 and Oakland considering it for a second
  83. Sweeping the Yankees in a four game set at home...all by one run
  84. Jim Miller being effective while being as flashy as his name is
  85. Stephen Drew stepping in for Coco Crisp in the lead off spot while he had pink eye and having his best week long stretch of the season
  86. Grant Balfour losing his closer's role to allow Ryan Cook to emerge as an All-Star and then not blowing a save when he returned to the role after Cook struggled
  87. Surviving a start to the season where Felix Hernandez had his first three starts of the year against Oakland.  Who made that schedule?
  88. Realizing the Athletics were 92-53 in games where Tyson Ross and Graham Godfrey (who won't be on the playoff roster) didn't have a decision.
  89. Hanging Brandon McCarthy's jersey in the dugout
  90. Billy Beane not mortgaging the future for Hanley Ramirez
  91. The announcing duos of  Glen Kuiper & Ray Fosse (television) and Ken Korach & Vince Cotroneo (radio).  Both are excellent and fair to both teams.
  92. Being too young and too inexperienced to know any better
  93. For Dallas Braden trying so hard to get back to pitch for the team he loves only to suffer a setback and for not letting it get to him publicly.  Still a great Twitter follow @DALLASbRADEN209
  94. For making me feel young again with another spectacular summer of excitement and surprises

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