I must admit, I have been a little dubious of the A's recent success. (Please, forgive me. I'm a stock market guy, so I always believe disaster is right around the corner.)
In an odd way, I am more encouraged by tonight's 4-3 loss to the Twins than I have been by the six-game winning streak they just completed. Why? Because they reminded me of the 1984 Detroit Tigers.
I realize I'm a bit older than most of the folks who comment here, so let me reminisce a moment. The `84 Tigers started the season winning 35 of their first 40 games. It was quite a story at the time. They also won 104 games and the World Series that year with Jack Morris, Kirk Gibson (the accursed Kirk Gibson), Lance Parrish, Chet Lemon, Alan Trammell, Lou Whitaker, Willie Hernandez, Darrell Evans, et al.
The problem was, after their 35-5 start, the Tigers only played .500 baseball thereafter. Of course, they were so far ahead, they practically fell asleep and still finished 15 games ahead of the Blue Jays.
But they had their doubters. In fact, in one regular-season televised game I watched, the announcers were playing up the fact that the Tigers seemed very beatable lately, and, of course, we all remember what happened to the 1954 Indians. (That was the last time the Giants actually rose above expectations.)
At that televised moment, the Tigers were in the field. The hitter (no, I can't remember who; that's not the point) rocketed a line drive to the right centerfield wall. It was an easy double. The only question was, could the hitter turn it into a triple?
Of course, the Tigers weren't listening to the commentary.
Chet Lemon, the centerfielder, pounced on the ball like a wildcat. He dug the ball out of the warning track dirt, whirled and threw instinctively to where he knew Lou Whitaker would be standing. Receiving the Lemon's throw in mid-right field, Whitaker fired the ball (almost without looking!) to the precise spot he knew Alan Tramell would be standing.
And that was straddling second base. Trammell took Whitaker's perfect relay without lifting his glove from second base. The runner, who had been gliding towards second base with at least a double, saw that he would be dead meat and stumbled back to first.
Right then, I knew the Tigers were the best team. And tonight, I got that feeling about the A's.
Yeah, sure, Calero and Duchscherer gave up the last two runs but, c'mon, how often is Michael Cuddyer, a guy with 8 total homeruns, going to hit two homeruns to beat anybody? The A's have always been creamed by anomalies in the Twinkiedome.
The telling moments for me were the top of the 8th inning and the bottom of the 9th. After losing the lead in the bottom of the seventh, Swisher smashes a double immediately. Ellis places a terrific bunt (his second in two nights!) and almost beats it out! Swisher moves to third, and Jason Kendall expertly lifts a sacrifice fly to right. Badda bing! Game tied.
In the bottom of the ninth, Morneau walks (never good) and Lew Ford lines a rope to right. Swisher might have misplayed the fly but he recovered and pounced on the ricochet like a wildcat. Bam! Relay to Ellis. Bam! Relay to Kendall who tags Morneau a millisecond too late. Game over.
No joy in Mudville but, folks, I'm here to tell ya. The A's now look more like the '84 Tigers than any other team I've witnessed this year.