Gone to Soon…
This has been the first post that I didn’t want to write. Not because the subject matter is bland or because I didn’t feel like I had anything to say but mainly because it hurt to much to type out the words expressing the “What could have Been” of the Oakland Athletics 2012 Playoff Run. Seeing how the Detroit Tigers easily disposed of the New York Spankees in 4 games just rubbed more sea salt into the “What Could Have Been” wound. Then couple that with the Giants current run in the playoffs with a Game 7 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals last night, I can’t get far enough away from baseball to ease the pain of the Division Series loss.
If you’re still with me, then you’re probably feeling the same way I am about the loss of one of the most exciting teams is recent Athletics history or you’re an internet sports voyeur who likes to see the carnage that ill-timed and abrupt series ending losses leaves in the form of emotional fan flotsam. Or you could just be doing some final troll excavating and picking over the carcasses of down trodden A’s fans who are still in the “What Could Have Been” haze of the ALDS and the felony assault that Justin Verlander put on the A’s line-up in Game 5 of the ALDS.
The 2012 season the the A’s had was a season that was hard to imagine, hard to replicate, and even harder to let go when the team doesn’t quite meet the expectations that you continued to build upon with each passing game and series like a baseball tower of Babel. No one knew what to make of what was going on in Oakland from the hardest core segments of the fan base to the new hat wearing hangers-on who wanted to be in Oakland at the end of the season because it was the place to be. The 2012 season was a confluence of love, hate, passion, ignorance, excitement, and debilitating sadness.
Love because of what happened at the end of the season with the A’s and how they were able to scratch, scrape, and claw their way to the AL West division title. Even the manner in which they caught the Texas Rangers transcended all conventional wisdom as to how this team, on this budget, was able to come out of nowhere and over take Texas and push the Tigers to a game 5 in the ALDS. The feat was a microcosm of the Eastbay mentality and the ability to overcome through the grit and grime of the struggle and against all odds. The A’s were able to encapsulate the love that the Eastbay, Southbay, and all parts in between still have for the Oakland A’s even if ownership wants to argue the contrary.
Hate because at times, I caught myself being more preoccupied with how Ownership wasn’t taking advantage of the wave of enthusiasm that the fan base was showering on the team and instead just sat on it’s hands. The fact that I would see more commercials for the new San Francisco Bulls hockey franchise than new commercials promoting the OAKLAND Athletics and how to get tickets for next season was irresponsible and reprehensible. In my opinion, the fact that the A’s were winning and the way in which they were winning was a surprise to an ownership group that has been looking to move elsewhere since the day they purchased the team. They were probably hoping that this team would just fade into the baseball ether in order to make sure the light wasn’t shone in their direction. Hate because fans who wanted to go to games couldn’t because ownership didn’t see it fit to take off the tarps in the 3rd deck of the Oakland Coliseum for the opening round of the playoff’s in spite of ticket demand and everything that was happening on the field. The fact that ownership couldn’t read the room and that fans actually had to petition ownership to actually take down the tarps because they wanted to go to a game was ridiculous. Lew Wolff expounded to anyone that would listen that they’ve created an “Intimate environment” and that was why it was so loud in Oakland and had nothing to do with the fans finally coming back after he and John Fisher have tried so hard to drive them away.
Luckily Wolff finally relented on the tarp issue but only under the condtion that they make it to the next round of the playoffs in order for it to happen. To add insult to injury, making sure that the statement was released on the day of game 5 which was sure to rankle the baseball god’s. God forbid hardworking fans try and hand ownership easy money. You wouldn’t want to blow up arguments saying that there is no fan base in Oakland or in the Eastbay, that have been carefully manufactured and manicured since 2005. Oh and did I fail to mention that ticket prices go up for each successive round of the playoffs? Yeah there’s that too.
Passion because the Oakland Athletics were able to reinvigorate a dormant fan base through hard nosed winning baseball. The Green Collar baseball slogan, more than any other year that I can remember, finally fit. The A’s were able to take their inspired and passionate play on the field, and inject it into the fan base like a much needed needle of adrenaline.
The Oakland Coliseum came to life that last week of the season and brought back memories of those late 80′s early 90′s teams that I grew up on. If there was one place in baseball that could be considered a living breathing organism, it was the Coliseum in all it’s Frankenstein-ian glory.
Ignorance because no one wanted to believe in this Oakland team, well expect for me and the loyal group of die-hard A’s fans that still root for this team no matter what. It’s flagship radio station didn’t want to believe, the local media didn’t want to believe, and the national media definitely did not want to believe. It was blissful ignorance that allowed this team just enough light in order to grow while in obscurity. Plus the fact that the players and coaches on the team could careless about what the outsiders thought of them because they were there to win and play hard. They were able to harness the negativity and constant chiding about losing 100 games like baseball solar panel and redirect that energy on to the field.
Excitement because 15 Walkoff’s through out the season was just another day on the job for the Oakland A’s. The Athletics embodied excitement because fans knew that no matter what there was always a chance for them to make a comeback in the last inning. Attending some of those Walkoff games was exciting because you always got the sense from the fans that they knew this team would find a way to pull off a victory. Son’s and the fathers would talk about how they weren’t worried and how they were going to win. The son would say to his father “Dad I bet you Reddick hits a home run to win the game!” and the father would respond, “I don’t know son, I think Cespedes is gonna come through this time.” But never once wavering in their belief that the A’s would find a way to fight back and win the game.
Finally, debilitating sadness because that has been what I’ve been feeling with the A’s out of the playoffs so soon. I’m not one of those people that roots for Bay Area Team’s or wears a split cap once my team is out. I’m an A’s fan and only an A’s. Baseball has always been my sanctity and the Athletics were able to draw me back in like never before. It truly was one of the greatest season’s of my life following and covering the A’s this year. I got to take my newborn son to his first baseball game on the road in Anaheim where the A’s beat the Angels 6-0 and then just kept taking him to games all season and he ended up being 6-1 in the regular season and 1-0 in the playoffs when in attendance. I finally got to attend and cover the A’s for their Media Day. Overall I just got to envelope myself in the A’s this year then in any year previously which just made the losses that much harder.
Living and dying with every pitch is why baseball is so different from any other sport. In Football you get 4 downs to make something happen, in basketball you get 24 seconds on the shot clock to run a play but in baseball the fortunes of a team can change from pitch to pitch in every single at bat. I’m still not out of the emotional fog that the ALDS has left me in for this baseball season because I keep wondering “What If”. What if Coco catches that pop-up in game 2, does he then end the Tigers season in Game 4 in Walk off fashion? What if Mike Gallego doesn’t send Coco in the early part of game 2 to get thrown out at the plate on a Brandon Moss Single? What If, What If, What If.
Sure I can take solace in the fact that the A’s over achieved and won the division when nobody thought they would. But i would be lying if I said I was happy with just that. I want this team to win, win often, and win consistently and with the A’s current ownership group you just never know when a season like this may happen again. So I will move on from this season and take the memories that it brought and file them away until next next year but don’t tell me not to be upset that the Oakland A’s story was cut short and gone too soon because it was.
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