Breaking Your Heart Part Three

Supporting a team involves hope being dashed time and time again.

Today was the final day of the regular season in baseball. The season that started in April with all teams level with zero wins concluded with each team having played one-hundred and sixty-two games. On Friday the play-offs start. Six teams enter the main post-season, four more play a single elimination game to make eight teams in the main post-season. 

Anyone who reads this blog will know that I have fallen for the Oakland A’s – The Gold and Green. Last year we finished second bottom of the American League West and never came close to making the post season playoffs. During the off-season, the team lost their home-run leader and traded three All-Star Pitchers. The trades brought in prospects and a reduced payroll.

These moves left  the A’s  with the second lowest payroll in baseball – whilst competing in a division with the Rangers (2010 and 2011 American League Champions)  and an Angels team who had spent big in the off-season;  including the 2011 World Series Most Valuable Player, Albert Pujols. The pundits predicted a last or next to last finish in the American League West, with 70 wins being the expected total. A dismal couple of opening months and a nine game losing streak left them thirteen games adrift of the Rangers. What little hope that we had was lost in the harsh reality of defeat.

July happened and the A’s surged. The team won eighteen of twenty two games and they were in the race to make one of  the wildcard spots and a do or die game on Friday October 5 to play a division winner in the post-season. 

The A’s would try to compete with the Angels whilst fielding nine players whose total salary was less than one player on the Angels starting team. They would compete against the Damn Yankees, whose payroll is about ten times of that of the Gold and Green.

At the end of July I posted my emerging hope that Oakland would grab a wild-card spot.

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Today those hopes were dashed.

Today, the A’s played their last game of the allotted one-hundred and sixty-two. In a game that reflected this year’s amazing roller coaster, the A’s had a third inning that left them 5-1 down against a Texas offense that is the best in baseball. The final score 12-5.

Great Oakland hitting, poor Texas pitching, and a fielding error of which I would be ashamed game the A’s a victory. The Rangers were swept, having led the Division for all of the season, they lost the AL West on the final day to the Oakland A’s. A team who most predicted would finish, at best, in the penultimate slot had won. A team full of future prospects had seen the future arrive way sooner than anyone dared think possible.

There is no wild-card for the A’s, because they are Division Champions. The A’s do not face a sudden do or die elimination on Friday, but start a best of five against the Tigers on Saturday.

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If the 2002 season spawned an Aaron Sorkin penned movie starring Brad Pitt, what should this so much more impressive achievement bring? In that year General Manager, Beane found a way of replacing several key players in a winning team. This year he built a team from scratch, whilst cutting the payroll.

It is said that believing in superstition is bad luck; so I wonder if I should ignore the fact that  I saw them win twice on seven visits, despite winning 61% of home games across the season. 

 

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Despite the euphoria I feel, I know that defeat and heart-break lies somewhere in this post-season. For baseball is a game designed to break your heart. Yet, it captures that heart and your mind as it does. Football may be the beautiful game, but baseball is the perfect game.

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Published in: on 3 October, 2012 at 20:09  Leave a Comment  

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