Good news? I suppose. I haven’t seen the details of the deal, and I don’t particularly care. It’s hard to get too worked up about these things when your team is awful. But, it will be interesting to see if these officials get back into the game and end up being terrible. It’s entirely possible, I would imagine they’re pretty rusty. I guess we’ll get our first look tonight when the Browns take on the Ravens.
In sports that haven’t had a real labor dispute for almost two decades, the pennant races are really coming down to the wire, and thankfully, the big stories aren’t for the stupid second wild card. Although they are in the American League, which is disappointing. In any case, all three division races just got awfully interesting. The Yankees and Orioles both won big last night, leaving that division separated by just a game and a half. In the Central, the Tigers squeezed out a win, while the White Sox fell just short, giving the Tigers the game advantage. And out West, the real big story down the stretch. The A’s ran the Rangers off the field, cutting the Rangers division lead down to three.
The A’s have been a curiousity all year. For the longest time, it was just a thought of “Man, the A’s are actually doing halfway decent this year.” But everybody waited for the inevitable second half collapse.* The All-Star Game came and went. The A’s kept hanging around. Then everybody turned to look at the wild card standings and . . . the A’s? Really? It was already a nice story, but a playoff spot? Shut the front door. I mean, the Orioles had a really nice start last year and had some pieces, you could squint a little bit and maybe see that one coming. But the A’s?
*For an example, look at the Pirates. That’s just a sad story.
And now, with seven games left to go, we look at a division that everybody had just assumed belonged to the Rangers after the Angels disappointing season, and it looks entirely possible. Not the least of which is because they’ve got another game with the Rangers tonight* before finishing up September with three games against the not-nearly-as-inept-as-you-think-but-still-not-good Mariners. The Rangers get to tangle with the Angels, which I’m sure looked like appointment viewing at the time the schedule was released. Which, I suppose, still is, but not nearly for the reasons we first believed. The Angels can take this a couple ways. Either decide this season was one of the bigger busts in MLB history and just pack it in, or realize they’ve got three games left to make a mark and still get some revenge in the division and take some of these games. After that, we get the A’s and Rangers again, which will certainly be the appointment viewing we thought were getting in the last days of September.
*When they’ve already won two out of three.
While it’s not impossible otherwise, it starts with the A’s winning tonight. I would think they would want to at least be tied going into that last series with the Rangers. So, they win tonight, get the lead down to two games. Then, they just need to take two out of three from Seattle, which seems very doable. The Angels would also need to take two of three from the Rangers, which also seems doable. Then, essentially, we get early playoffs. Three games to decide who carries the AL West. If those games aren’t carried nationally somehow, the MLB needs to take yet another long look at how they’ve got their media deals drawn up.
If Oakland call pull this off, has there ever been a more unlikely division champion? I mean, I really can’t think of anybody close. The closest thing I can think of is the Rockies of a few years, but they did have some top shelf talent that people already knew about, at least with Matt Holliday. Most people probably couldn’t name five players on the A’s, and the players that people do know, most fans would have raised an eyebrow and said something like “I didn’t realize he landed out there.” Players like Coco Crisp and Jonny Gomes. Heck, I’ll bet most people forgot that’s where Stephen Drew landed after he pulled a version of his older brother with the Phillies.*
*Maybe it’s closer to JD Drew with the Cardinals, but I don’t remember that being particularly contentious. Just the Cardinals deciding they couldn’t live with all the injuries.
And how embarrassing if the Rangers slip to a wild card spot. Back-to-back American League champions. Looking like, if anything, they’re even better than the last two years. Their main competitors, the fully-loaded Angels, pissing away the season almost from day one. And they still manage to lose the division? And if they get into a one-game playoff with either the Yankees or Orioles, they may find themselves in a world of trouble. The Rangers have been fifty-fifty at best in do-or-die situations over the past few seasons. The Orioles especially seem to have a particular flair for playing with their backs against the wall in the past two seasons. If you remember, the Orioles came back from what seemed to be an impossible situation against the Red Sox in the “greatest night in baseball” last year. Everybody remembers the Rays comeback because it involved more runs, and it got the Rays into the playoffs. But the Orioles had to come up with two ninth inning runs after staging quite a few comebacks last year. And this year, well, they’ve done nothing but play their best in the clutch. The Rangers might go from World Series favorites to out of the real playoffs in the course of a couple days.
So, wake up, Oakland. If you want to keep this team, this is the time to show it. You fill that stadium for the Raiders whether they’re good or not. Hint: they’re usually not. It’s time to show your support for the scrappiest underdogs in baseball. This isn’t the La Russa era A’s, but it just might be far more entertaining.