And Now the Kind of History that Sucks (well, depending who you talk to)

NOTE: Former A's manager Tony La Russa has retired.  Going out the way we all would want to: on top.

*** 

Butler grounded out (second to pitcher)

When Dennis Eckersley secured Tony Phillips' toss to first base, he did more than put the finishing touch on a thoroughly dominant sweep of the San Francisco Giants in the 1989 World Series.

He put an exclamation point on the first 22 years of baseball in Oakland.

Oakland.  The city that Gertrude Stein famously lamented had "no there there."  The city that Missouri senator Stuart Symington claimed was the "luckiest since Hiroshima" after Charlie Finley successfully orchestrated a move to the West Coast following the 1967 season.  The city that Finley tried to leave on several occasions.  The city that Al Davis did leave in 1981.

None of that mattered.  Oakland was now home to four World Series champions in 22 seasons- doubling its nearest competition during that same time span- and the A's were the envy of Major League baseball.

Life was good. 

And then it wasn't. At least where the history books are concerned.  You see, the history books don't mention the regular season very much, unless it's about monumental collapses.  The 1951 Giants.  The 1978 Red Sox.  The 2011 Braves and Red Sox.

In the last 22 seasons, the A's actually posted a better winning percentage (.520) than they did from 1968-89 (.517).  Check that.  They posted a better winning percentage in the regular season.

To many, the true measure of success is determined by the six-month haul.  Crazy things tend to happen over the smaller sample of games that play out in the Fall.  Just ask the Rangers.

The two eras of baseball in Oakland is eerily similar (see chart), although there were four seasons that were shortened by strikes- 1972 (155 games played), 1981 (109), 1994 (114), and 1995 (144). 

Year

W

L

 

Year

W

L

1988

104

58

 

1990

103

59

1971

101

60

 

2002

103

59

1989

99

63

 

2001

102

60

1975

98

64

 

1992

96

66

1973

94

68

 

2003

96

66

1972

93

62

 

2006

93

69

1974

90

72

 

2000

91

70

1970

89

73

 

2004

91

71

1969

88

74

 

2005

88

74

1976

87

74

 

1999

87

75

1980

83

79

 

1991

84

78

1968

82

80

 

2010

81

81

1987

81

81

 

1996

78

84

1984

77

85

 

2007

76

86

1985

77

85

 

2008

75

86

1986

76

86

 

2009

75

87

1983

74

88

 

1998

74

88

1978

69

93

 

2011

74

88

1982

68

94

 

1993

68

94

1981

64

45

 

1995

67

77

1977

63

98

 

1997

65

97

1979

54

108

Games

1994

51

63

Games

TOTALS:

1811

1690

3501

TOTALS:

1818

1678

3496

PCT:

.517

 

PCT:

.520

Projected over 162 game seasons, only two wins separate the groups. Amazing.

Year

W

L

 

Year

W

L

1988

104

58

 

2002

103

59

1971

102

60

 

1990

103

59

1989

99

63

 

2001

102

60

1975

98

64

 

2003

96

66

1972

97

65

*

1992

96

66

1981

95

67

*

2006

93

69

1973

94

68

 

2000

92

70

1974

90

72

 

2004

91

71

1970

89

73

 

2005

88

74

1969

88

74

 

1999

87

75

1976

88

74

 

1991

84

78

1980

83

79

 

2010

81

81

1968

82

80

 

1996

78

84

1987

81

81

 

2007

76

86

1984

77

85

 

1995

76

86

*

1985

77

85

 

2009

75

87

1986

76

86

 

2008

75

87

1983

74

88

 

2011

74

88

1978

69

93

 

1998

74

88

1982

68

94

 

1994

73

89

*

1977

63

99

 

1993

68

94

1979

54

108

 

1997

65

97

TOTALS:

1848

1716

 

TOTALS:

1850

1714

PCT:

.518

 

PCT:

.519

But it is what happens in October that history remembers. Which is unfair, but so is life.

And in that regard, it's not even close.  See chart. PSW stands for playoff series' won.

Year

W

L

PSW

Year

W

L

PSW

1971

0

3

0

1990

4

4

1

1972

7

5

2

1992

2

4

0

1973

7

5

2

2000

2

3

0

1974

7

2

2

2001

2

3

0

1975

0

3

0

2002

2

3

0

1981

3

3

1

2003

2

3

0

1988

5

4

1

2006

3

4

1

1989

8

1

2

 

TOTALS:

37

26

10

TOTALS:

17

24

2

PCT:

.587

 

PCT:

.415

While the A's of 1968-1989 made the most of eight trips to the playoffs by winning it all in half of those seasons, the 1990-2011 squad squandered opportunity after opportunity. Only twice have they won a post-season series- both in sweeps- and both times they immediately found themselves on the opposite side of the broom.

Two playoff series victories in 22 years.  Hell, the Rangers won three this year alone.  Well, they would have if Nelson Cruz decided to, you know, catch the last out of the World Series.

The A's last appeared in a World Series game in 1990.  Since then, 20 different teams have won a league championship.  19 teams have more PSW's than the A's in the last 22 years.  This makes me sad.

On one hand you can say it really is an unfair game.  Top five teams in PSW's since 1990: Yankees (21), Braves (12), Cardinals (12), Red Sox (9), Phillies (7).

On the other hand, every team but three- Kansas City, Pittsburgh, and Washington- has at least one playoff series win to its name.  As compared to 1968-1989 when the post-season parties were more exclusive.  In that era, only 17 teams won at least one playoff series, topped by the A's with 10.

What's it all mean?  I don't know.  I just like seeing the A's finish first in something.

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