Rewind to 1998.
In 1998, before gametime on July 16th, the Oakland Athletics had a record of 44-49. In that same year, the A's had a nine game losing streak in July, from July 21st to July 28th. They finished the month 11-16. In the end, the A's finished the 1998 season with a record of 74-88, in fourth place behind the Texas Rangers, Anaheim Angels and Seattle Mariners, respectively.
Fast-forward to 2007.
In 2007, after gametime on July 16th, the Oakland Athletics have a record of 44-49. In July, the A's already have an eight game losing streak under their belts and their record in the month is 3-10. Since the A's play twenty seven games in the month of July, to finish the month over .500, they need to go 11-3 in the next fourteen games. Currently, the A's are in third place, behind the Anaheim Angels and Seattle Mariners and ahead of the Texas Rangers.
In 1998, before game on July 16th:
Month (Games) Won Lost WP
April (26) 12 14 0.462
May (27) 10 17 0.370
June (28) 15 13 0.536
July (12) 7 5 0.583
In 2007, after game on July 16th:
Month (Games) Won Lost WP
April (25) 12 13 0.480
May (27) 14 13 0.518
June (28) 15 13 0.536
July (13) 3 10 0.231
1998 was the last time the A's finished the season under .500.
You're probably all asking yourselves, "Why is GNGG giving us such somber news? These stats aren't making us feel better about the current crapshoot play the A's have displayed!!" To me, 1998 is much more than just a mediocre year. It's more than the record the A's finished with, more than the losing streaks and more than the dissapointments. 1998 is the year I first became an A's fan.
The 2007 season has been, for lack of a better word, brutal. It's taken a toll on me, no doubt about it. I've been disappointed, heartbroken, ecstatic, hopeful, excited, apprehensive, angry and dumbfounded--all in the past month. Hmm... sounds a lot like my love life. The expected has taken us by surprise because of the extent of destruction and the unexpected has torn us apart. In my own naive mind, though, this season is a sign. It's a test and it's taking my heart by storm.
In 2005, the forgettable month of May had us A's fans flabbergasted. To our dismay, we had an eight game losing streak... followed by another one later in the month. "It's okay," we sighed. "It's only May." I, for one, vowed to wear my Kotsay shirt until we won again. Pretty knarly. I tried "charms" and superstitions, arranging and rearranging, rituals and routines. When they kept losing, I kept trying. Now, don't lynch me, but... I have a confession to make.
After we lost the second straight to the Twins this weekend, I gave up. I stopped with my pens and OCD calendar. I put my lucky t-shirts away. I stopped updating the schedule I have on my page. I even went as far as to change the AM station on my radio (something I DO NOT DO during baseball season). In a way, I had given up. I didn't want to hear about the baseball game the next day. I didn't want to subject myself to watching the A's get beaten yet again. I just didn't want it. I missed the third game of the series completely. This was the first time I had purposefully missed a game, knowing there were ways to listen to it and/or watch it. My curiosity got the best of me at around midnight, so I went onto the website and, lo and behold, they had lost. Resentfully, I snapped the computer shut, trudged upstairs and hurled my A's pillow out the door. The next day, I decided to give them another chance and watch the game. Although it sounds like I made it through the previous day with no A's baseball, it was hell. I knew the game was on, but I knew I had to avoid it. I loved it, but it was hurting me, so I needed to cut back. At the same time, going cold turkey would not be beneficial to me or my possessions, so at 11:10 AM, I turned on the TV, took a deep breath and watched the game. You all know how the story goes. When the game ended, I rose in a stupor. I didn't know if I was more angry at myself for watching the game, knowing it was going to end badly (call it a premonition), or diasppointed at something that I couldn't control.
After about a minute of blind fury, I went to my room, took off my Swisher shirt and just sat on my bed for a good thirty minutes. I looked around at my walls, filled with A's posters and pictures, articles and memorabilia, and found that with every glance I took at my walls, a pang would go through my heart. It was as if every image on the walls was a reminder of how deeply involved I was with my team. A voice inside of me whispered, "Oh, GNGG, you expect this sort of thing in May, but in July?? What's going on?? They're letting you down again, but this time, it's during the stretch you always feared they'd break down in. This time, there's no salvation from the dreaded pit of third place." I shook my head, urging that thought out of my brain, hoping in vain that the corrupt contemplation was fleeting. The rest of the day, I plodded around my house like I would after a breakup. My hair was pulled up, I was walking around in sweats and no makeup and I had the irresistable urge for chocolate. I avoided my room for fear that the baseball pictures would come to life and claim my soul. It was a stupid fear, but I seriously thought it would happen.
I didn't watch the game on Monday. I couldn't. It hurt too much. My sister knew it would bug me if she gave me constant updates, so every so often she'd say, "Ummmm, this guy who's on the big dirt thing, ummmm... well, he's like, doing hecka bad! There's two little diamond thingies that are filled in on the big diamond on the top and like, this Bradsomething guy keeps throwing LOTS of balls!!" I swear, it was that same statement for what felt like an eternity. To my displeasure, she screamed, "Omigod!!! This one dude hit the ball, and it went hecka far!!!" I scrambled up from my seat on my bedroom floor, and yelled, "A's?!?!?!" She laughed at me and said, "Nooooo. Some guy from the other team. They scored!! Ha ha hahaha!!!" I stood up, slammed my door, and took back my seat on the floor of my bedroom. Unsurprisingly, my sister kept saying things to push my buttons, but I wouldn't let myself crack. When the game ended, she went around singing, "They're such loser-freaks, loser-freaaaaaaaaaaks!" I wanted to kill her. Strangle her. Push her in a hole. ANYTHING. I went to bed. I was too depressed. Earlier in the day, I'd taken all of my A's shirts and put them in a box. Instead of sleeping in my usual A's shirt, I slept in a normal t-shirt for the first time in forever. I was just too sad.
Folks, the trying times are the toughest, but faith finds it's way to you in one way or another. When I got up this morning, I was set on missing the game tonight. I was going to watch it with a friend tonight, but there just wasn't any point in watching them lose. I didn't want my heart to hurt for them anymore. I clambered out of bed and looked in the mirror. Besides the reflection of my stinky face, I could see green and gold splattered everywhere in different patterns and shapes, sizes and forms. Everything A's in my room was visible in my mirror. I sighed, thinking about how much I really did love them, and opened my closet to decide what I was going to wear to work today. As soon as I slid the door open, three things fell out of a box I had placed above the closet--my good luck Kotsay shirt, a Zito picture and a ticket stub for a 1998 A's game. It was for Friday, September 25, 1998, a home game versus the Angels. I remembered how I got that ticket stub. I hadn't gone to the game, but someone close to me had given it to me because I said it was "cool-looking". I remember the guy who gave it to me spoke with such a passion about the game, moving his arms wildly about when explaining how the match unfolded. It happened to be a Kenny Rogers start on a Friday night and although the A's had secured a losing record for the season, this game was fabulous. Rogers picthed a complete game against the Halos, giving up two runs and allowing the A's to win 7-2. This guy spoke with an exuberance I'd never known, explanining every detail of the game and making the A's seen as if they were the best team in the world. At the time, I hadn't realized just what power the A's would have over me, but that day, that ticket stub and that talk about the baseball game with my fourth grade teacher sealed the deal. I was going to watch this "fabulous team called the Oakland A's".
The ticket stub, shirt and picture brought back a lot of memories this morning. I felt it was so weird that out of everything I had in that box, all of the ticket stubs, pitcures and A's junk, those three things had to fall out. Granted, the entire box came crashing down about fifteen minutes later, but for those five minutes, I couldn't stop thinking about how much of a sign it had been that those objects floated to my feet. After thinking about the ticket stub and the story behind it, I smiled, pulled on my Kotsay shirt and said to myself, "You klnow what, GNGG? It's gonna be okay. It's just a rough spot for your beloved team. Yeah, this year is probably not gonna be it, but they'll always be back next year. And like the '98 team, even if they did have a mediocre season, it doesn't mean they sucked all the time. They had their good games and bad games, but there was always a great game in there somewhere. Don't worry about it so much. Things will look up."
And you know what, AN? Things will look up. This evil streak won't last forever. It just seems like it will. Hang in there, everyone. The storm will pass :)
P.S. The last time the A's were swept by the Twins in a four game set was in 2003. They finished the season 1-8 against Minnesota. Smile. It's not that bad this year :)