"Ah, September... How art thou? 'Tis been long since last we were acquaintedth. I have been suffering from, if you like,an ailment of the most serious type that had caused many to believe that I was crippled. Alas, thy eyes would not fall upon me so I had to make do with less worthy maidens, like thy cousins April and May. But now I have returned, and mighteth I sayeth my dear, you are as always the seductress and my heart flutterthehtet..."
Alright, forget the Olde English. The fact of the matter is, the Oakland A's are playing September baseball that actually means something. Yes, we finished 81-81 in 2010 but it took a four-game sweep of the Mariners in October (no, not the playoffs) to secure a .500 season. This year, the A's are for real. The question is, how? If you say that you predicted all of this - that you knew the A's would be big contenders for a playoff spot and would have a better record than the Yankees - then you're either high, a liar or some kinda psyche.
The thing is, the A's have gone from being the "How did this happen?" team to the "We're for real" team. They're winning games, and they're winning a lot of 'em. Oakland is 40-18 since the All-Star Break, while they were just 43-43 before that. In July, they won 19 out of 24 games including a four game sweep versus the dreaded Yanks. They were 18-10 in August. They're 9-4 this month. They hold the top WIld Card spot (3.0 GB Texas) and show no sign of slowing down. The young pitchers are coping just fine. The hitters are getting key hits when we need them (if you don't believe me, look up our record in extra-innings and our number of walk-offs). It's just... happening, and it's a great experience.
So, who is to thank for this magical run? Well, for one, Bob Melvin. He has just been fantastic, and he is definitely the right guy for the job here in Oakland. Billy Beane has to get some credit too; hey, he got all the new guys - maybe he saw something we missed (or maybe it was just pure luck). Give credit to Reddick and Cespedes, who we knew (or hoped) would hit and who have been hitting very well (and fielding well if you ignore Cespedes' early season jitters). But there are other, less obvious candidates and here they are (not ordered in any way, mind you):
1) Jonny Gomes
Ah, the Pride of Petaluma. Not only did he experience his hometown LL team advance deep into the Little League World Series but he's also been a huge part of the A's run this year. In 247 games (mostly DH and the OF), Gomes is hitting .263 with 16 homeruns and 48 RBI. That may not seem amazing, but Gomes has been real solid. First of all, he's always been there; when Smith was injured, when Cespy was out, Gomes was there to provide some stability. He gets big hits. He has an attitude. He's fun and is a gamer. He also seems to be a great teammate from what I've heard. And he has a shot at 20 HR's. Not bad for someone who was a little offseason addition to add a bit of power.
2) Coco Crisp
OK, to be totally honest, I didn't like the signing of Coco. 14 million over two years? We could've gotten Willingham - a guy coming off a 29 homer season for US - for that kind of money. But guess what: after a miserable first half, Coco's been having himself a neat little second half. Walk-offs, big hits, getting on base, stealing, playing great defense... He hasn't amazed in any sort of way. But he's a veteran, he's probably been helping some of the rookies, he's a good influence (great, funny guy) and like Gomes, he's come through when needed. I was all for trading Coco at the deadline. Now... not so much.
3) Brandon Inge
True Grit would be a good moniker for Inge's season which was sadly cut short due to a shoulder injury. No place for you in Detroit? Hit a walk-off grand salami soon after joining the Green'n'Gold. BA under the Mendoza Line? Pshaw, just get the big hits. Dislocated your shoulder on a magnificent diving play? Pop it right back in and hit a key RBI double. Yes, Inge is out for the year but he was great. So good that we're forgetting something: Brandon Inge - just like Sogie and the hot-hitting Donaldson - was a replacement. A lot of people were talking about the lack of depth at third for Oakland. Sizemore, Donaldson and Inge should be interesting to watch (if it works out that way).
4) A.J. Griffin
6-0 is a good way to start your career. It's been among the best streaks of any Oakland rookie starter. And Griffin was just an afterthought in Spring Training. To put it simply, A.J. Griffin has come out of nowhere, dominated, gotten injured and dominated a bit more. In a rotation filled with young, inexperienced guys... Griffin fits right in. The difference being, of course, that he has a minuscule 1.94 ERA. But that's nothing to get excited about, right?
5) Chris Carter
AND IT'S ABOUT DANG TIME. Yes, Chris Carter, the oft-talked about rookie first baseman who started his career with 31 hitless at-bats and who couldn't get it together. Who, until this year had appeared lost in the majors. Well, not anymore. I don't know how else to say this but Carter is an OPS machine: a .912 OPS (.363 OBP, .549 SLG%). I mean, that's crazy. He's played defense, hit homeruns and driven in runs. He has put together a very nice little season in limited playing time. Could the A's 1B problems be solved? nah, it's never that easy. But there's a chance.
And of course there are other unlikely heroes. Just check out the A's 40-man roster and you'll see some of them. from Milone to Kottaras, from Smith to Donaldson, the A's are a bunch of young guys who are putting it together and make the rest of the MLB look down right silly. Heck, maybe this year is our year...
October... Thou and I shall be reacquainted... Perchance without the bloody Tigers to spoil it all.