I became a Cubs fan near the end of the 2002 season. My love for the Cubs has grown every year since, and I won't ever find myself attached to another team in the same way. But recently, I found space in my life for another team, a team that I have always been interested in as a baseball nerd: the Moneyball A's.
Now let's be clear, it isn't exactly difficult for an outsider to root for the Athletics. If given the choice, people will almost always choose to root for David. But I became interested in the A's because of Billy Beane and his well-chronicled story of going against the grain. Billy Beane changed the game, and you don't need a Jeremy Brown-metaphor to realize that. I read Moneyball in 2010, and soon began casually following the A's.
By the time this June rolled around, I was watching a game or two a week. I started frequenting Athletics Nation in an attempt to understand the character of the team and its fans, (my conclusion: you guys are awesome). But deep down, I was still trying to come to judgment on the concept of having a second favorite team. I had always heard people say, "I'm primarily a Cubs fan, but I'm also an Indians fan," or something of the like, and I would always question how they could be emotionally vested in two different teams. I preferred monogamous relationships with teams. But that changed this year. As the A's started playing well, and the Cubs continued to play poorly, I found myself spending more time watching the A's than the Cubs, and found my polygamous inhibitions melting away -- I started falling for the A's, and boy was I in for a ride.
On April 1st, the A's had a 3% chance of making the playoffs according to Baseball Prospectus, and a 1.7% chance of winning the division. If we replayed the season one hundred times, the A's would win the division twice.
On June 30th, about the same time I really started to pay attention, the A's had a 1% chance of making the playoffs. The chart below best captures the improbable journey that ensued.
On October 9th, the A's find themselves in an 0-2 hole against the Tigers. For simplicity's sake, let's say each team has a 50% chance of winning each of the next three games. That means that the A's have a 12.5% chance of winning the series. The A's winning this series is four times as likely as them making the playoffs was, and six times as likely as them winning the division was. And the odds only improve once you consider the home-field effect. While the odds are still stacked against them, this isn't something new for the A's. For at least this year, they're the kings of beating the odds, as not even the Orioles faced playoff odds as poor as those of the A's.
While the A's will never mean what the Cubs mean to me, they'll come in as a close second. When Coco hit the home run against Verlander to start the series, I couldn't help but jump up and shout "Coco!" as soon as the ball was in the air. (I found myself doing the same when I thought Brandon Moss was going to tie the game, only to find disappointment -- a feeling that Cubs fans are all too familiar with -- quickly sink in). Suffice it to say, regardless of what happens over the course of the next few days, weeks, or month, I'll proudly be the guy that says, "I root for the Cubs and the A's."