And my grand kids finally grow bored with their 4-D brain implanted micro chip video game system or tired of America's new pastime - mixed mixed martial arts - because some self righteous commissioner tweaked the rules so that competitors are allowed to carry swords into the polygon- but no longer guns-thus threatening the "integrity of the game". When these young people approach me as I'm sitting in my reclining chair trying to find the ballgame on my favorite channel- Google Sports Bay Area- and they ask me "How come you like that stupid game baseball so much?", I'm going to tell them about this year.
Of course this isn't the year I became a baseball fan- that was when I was 7 and my mom was pregnant with my sister and I played baseball in the back yard every day and Kirk Gibson broke my heart. This also isn't the year my team won the World Series- that was when I was 8, and an earthquake before the beginning of game three collapsed free way structures and bridges and with no cell phones it was hours before my family knew for sure that my dad was okay. This defintely wasn’t the best version of my team, that was in 2001 when 102 wins, a lineup full of stars, and a pitching staff full of aces was bested by a flip and a non-slide. This wasn’t even the team they made a movie about, that was the 2002 version that miraculously went on the greatest winning streak in American League history and Brad Pitt played all nine positions in a single game (or something like that).
This was a year of miracles, and surprises, and celebrations. It was a year of break outs and broken hearts. I’ll start my story by telling my grand kids about how our general manager traded our 3 best pitchers before the season started. I’ll tell them we lost our best hitter from the year before to free agency and our second best hitter to an injury sustained on the first day of spring training. Although we’ll have evolved beyond the concept of money I’ll try to explain that the 2012 A’s had the lowest payroll in the American League.
My grand kids will hear that I was there on opening day- although it wasn’t really opening day, the season actually started a week earlier in Japan- with absolutely zero expectations. But no matter that everybody (including myself) thought this group of rookies and misfits was probably going to lose 100 games, I was curious to see if our rookie Cuban defector outfielder, Cespedes, would be able to learn how to either hit or lay off of a hard slider away. I'll tell them how excited I was, even on opening day, that I might get a chance to maybe see the suspended Manny Ramirez in an A’s uniform- in June. I might even tell these impressionable grand kids of mine how late in the game I drunkenly climbed into the luxury suite from my bleacher seat and evaded security guards as I raced out of the stadium. (How different would this year have been if I had been caught and banned from the O.co?)
I’ll tell them about how our starting catcher, first baseman, and leadoff hitter in that first game in Oakland weren’t even on our roster at the end of the season. Neither was our starting pitcher, but I‘ll get to that later. I’ll talk about how Manny Ramirez never made it to the A’s big club, because well, it turns out we just didn’t need him.
Somehow I’ll get to the story of picking up Brandon Inge on waivers after we ran out of 3rd basemen (again) and somebody in the club house made history when they introduced Inge to the song “Movin’ Like Bernie”. My story will involve walk off grand slams, and pie, and Spiderman costumes. I’ll tell them about Coco’s amazing catches, Jonny Gomes’ spectacular home runs, and Reddick’s arm. Almost as an aside I’ll tell them about the triple play they turned one night. I’ll tell my grand kids about how some journey man outfielder named Brandon Moss played his way into becoming our starting first baseman and cleanup hitter. I’ll try to explain how a minor league first baseman named Doolittle can do a lot as dominant big league set up man and how a closer can be from Australia and his name can be Balfour.
But because no story is great without its share of tragedy I’ll tell them about those as well. Some are your regular run of the mill baseball tragedies, like a 9 game losing streak in the middle of the season, but some are much much more than that. Like when our opening night starting pitcher, our best pitcher, had a line drive go off of his head late in the year and he almost died. When trying to explain Colon’s suspension I’ll probably try to weave in a life lesson about how my grandkids shouldn’t do drugs until they’re in their late 20’s and at Burning Man. And when I tell them about the tragedy that happened to the Neshak family on the day his team clinched the division I’ll tell them that this is one of the many many reasons that they should always remember to give their mothers real big hugs.
Because I’ll be old, I’ll try to make some meaning out of the story of the 2012 A’s, but because I’m old everything will just sound like a cliche. I might tell them that that the lesson of these A’s is that “every day is precious”. Maybe the moral will be about teamwork and how “the sum can be greater than its parts”. Perhaps it will be a story of “second chances”- and how “one team’s trash is another team’s treasure”. Because I’ll be talking to young people I might want to highlight the magic “exuberance of youth”, how a starting rotation full of rookie pitchers can make “success look easy” because “they don’t know any better”. Because this team overcame so much the moral might be that “sometimes a robot with a broken flimmel can find utility in the silicon garden”- I apologize not all of these cliches have been invented yet.
The most important point for me, and the reason I’ll tell my grand kids I love baseball, is that on April 6th 2012 I was already the biggest A’s fan I knew, and 165 games later on October 12th my fandome and my love for this team and my love of baseball had increased exponentially- and I didn’t know a team or a season could do that. Of course by this point in the story my grand kids will all be in the other room listening to some new pop-sensation that to my ears is not even recognizable as music. But it’s okay, one of the kids will have fixed the remote when I wasn't looking, and I’ll be watching baseball.