At first, I was thinking of titling this post "2012: A Season We'll Never Forget", but I think behind every magical season is a magical story for each fan who lived through it, so - as a young A's fan who lives and dies by his green-n-gold - I felt like posting mine, for my benefit as much as for the benefit of any reader who makes the effort of skimming over this post.
I'm 13 years old, and when you're thirteen, you kind of reach the point where you don't cry anymore about your team losing. 13 years isn't enough to say that you are a die-hard fan who cares more about your team than anyone else, but I've supported the A's since I was 5, in 2003. I didn't really understand what was happening when the A's lost to the Red Sox in a heart-wrenching ALDS, just that my brother - a Sox fan - was ecstatic. In 2004, I didn't comprehend the late-season heartbreak A's fans experienced until I read the book Aces by Mychael Urban (a great book for anyone who hasn't read it yet). 2005 came and went and then 2006 arrived. That was my first great season as an A's fan, and I was gutted (yes, it's quite a British word but it felt appropriate) after Detroit swept the A's in the ALCS. I watched every ALDS game against the Twins and it was a great season, but I cried a little when the A's got knocked out (and no, I'm not ashamed of it). Then came the Bob Geren years, years of me getting more and more into baseball, years of me loving the A's more and more after every disappointing season. Skip forward a few years, and you get to 2012: I have gone from a 5 year-old A's fan to a teenager, and one who is absolutely obsessed with the game of baseball. 2012 was just.... magical.
I didn't think the A's would have a good season. I really didn't. After trading Gio, Cahill and Bailey - as well as failing to acquire anyone formidable apart from some Cuban player who we got in February and was unproven at an MLB level - I thought the As would flop. But I adapted a positive attitude and predicted the A's to finish two games over .500 - 82-80. The season got off to a slow start, and before I knew it it was June and the A's had lost nine straight. I was resigned to another lousy season - and more ridicule from Giants fans - when something changed....
Suddenly, this was a different team. A team that wouldn't give up. A team that became formidable. A team that was so lovable, it was impossible not to get swept up in the magical whirlwind. While my brother was watching Bobby V captain a rapidly sinking ship, the lil' old A's were sweeping the Yankees, rising to 10 games over .500 and making noise in the WIld Card race. This was a team whose stars were a Cuban outfielder, an Australian closer and a Petaluma slugger. This was a team that - if it won - would be cemented in A's history as one of the most amazing teams ever, right up there with the WS teams of the '70s and '80s. Walkoff after walkoff, win after win, game after game, the A's kept on rolling and I was loving it. I started to believe that this team had a serious chance to go far.
Of course, the TEX juggernauts were still ahead of us, and 5 down with only a couple left to play things didn't look promising for the Division Crown. Then, all of a sudden, the A's were two back with three games left and had to sweep Texas to win the AL West crown. And they did. And it was one of the most unbelievable, amazing, awesome things I'd ever seen. Every day for years I had woken up in the morning and checked if the A's had won, and now I was going to be rewarded with a playoff appearance by the scrappiest team in baseball, the Oakland Athletics.
I don't care if we lost last night. We got to the postseason, and never stopped fighting. This team was just... incredible, and the group of guys that did this is just fantastic. Even down 2-0 against Detroit we forced the Tigers to play three more games, and maybe we couldn't go all the way. Two appearances by arguably the best pitcher in baseball would be too much for 90% of teams, and a challenge for all of them. No matter what, the A's made it here and I have to thank some people for all this, and for a wonderful season:
Thank you Bob Melvin, for leading a group of misfits to the playoffs. Your gutsy, smart skipper skills should be more than enough to win you the AL Manager Of The Year Award.
Thank you Billy Beane. I don't know what you did during the offseason, but it worked and the team you put together won big-time.
Thank you Pat Neshek for pitching in a playoff situation after the death of your son just 23 hours after birth. No matter what, your performance was inspirational and I feel so much pain for the suffering you and your wife must have dealt with.
Thank you Josh Reddick for leading 15 walkoff celebrations. Piederman will never be forgotten.
Thank you to the entire A's team and organization for playing your hearts out each and every day of the season, ignoring all the critics and playing awesome baseball while at the same time being great people. All the staff deserve credit as well.
Thank you to the writers of AN; Nico, baseballgirl, cuppingmaster, anyone other writers I may have forgotten (not on purpose, I assure you) and of course Blez. I am indebted to all of you for what you did. You're all freakin' awesome.
Thank you to paris7 for taking the time to run the GOG's, the best prediction game I can think of. Your commitment is amazing.
And finally, thank you to all of AN. You are all amazing, funny and insightful people and it has been an honor experiencing this special season with each and every one of you. I will never forget some of the amazing comments or some of the hilarious pictures (the STFD dude comes to mind) you posted over the course of this year. You are the A's 10th man.
Thank you, all of you. what a year.
And of course deep down we all know that the A's only lost last night to up the pressure to win the WS in 2013; we are taking it home baby!