The Moneyball Paradox

I have to admit, I didn't watch game four and I haven’t seen a single video replay of any on field moment. Like many of us I was at work and all the information I have about that game comes from anxiously watching dots move across my computer screen on MLB gameday and from what I’ve read here on AN. I didn’t see the A's fail to score after loading the bases in the 8th. I didn't see our bullpen collapse. I didn't see us score 2 runs in the 9th before Seth Smith ultimately struck out after coming up as the game’s potential tying run.

And I don't need to see those plays because I've seen them before- or at least I’ve felt them before.

While maybe not to the same level of excruciation as little brother’s non-slide, or Tejada and Byrnes forgetting how to run the bases, the fan interference play is definitely (pun intended) in the ball park. And that 9th inning rally was eerily similar to game 5 in 2002 when that version of the A’s mounted their own 9th inning rally only to fall short to Torii Hunter’s Twins- coincidentally both of those rallies may very well have been enough if the respective A’s bullpens had been able to prevent the opposition from tacking on.

Since 2000, the A’s are now 1-11 in potential clinching games and 0-5 in game 5’s. In the last 13 years our team has had more than its share of playoff heart breaks and bad luck. In addition to the plays mentioned above we’re haunted by the ghosts of Jermaine Dye’s shattered leg, Terrence Long looking at a series ending strike three, and Huston Street walking off the mound as the Tigers celebrate behind him- just to name a few.

But we’re A’s fans. There is no such thing as jinxes or curses, right? We’ve read Moneyball, we read fangraphs, and we know that certain numbers are meaningless- that our historical playoff win/loss record is meaningless. We know that coincidences are just that, coincidences. We know that the 2013 team and the 2002 team are full of different players who just happen to wear similar outfits on game days. We all know, intellectually, that the playoffs are a crapshoot of small sample sizes.

But we still feel the sting.

We feel the ache in our hearts every single time we recall Derek Jeter flipping that ball home. And that feeling is real- every single time. As much as we want to break the game down logically into statistical probabilities and win shares it continues to have an irrational emotional effect on our psyche.

How can the most sabermetrically inclined fan base also believe we’re jinxed? Why is the most innovative executive in sports incapable of watching the games live (or so Brad Pitt would have us believe)? Because shut up I’m too busy crying, that’s why.

I’m calling this phenomenon: "The Moneyball Paradox".

Baseball, and I’d argue especially Oakland A’s baseball, is as much logic as it is feeling. It is as much statistical probability as it is curses and ghosts. And that’s why I can’t wait for game 5. I don’t know if we’re going to win or lose on Thursday, but I know the ghosts of Giambi, Jeter, Byrnes, Tejada, Dye, Koch and Odrdonez and Street will never be vanquished until an Oakland Athletics team wins a game 5 of an ALDS. It has to be. There is no other way.

Thursday’s game starts at 5 pm. I will be home from work by then. I will be sitting on my couch in my living room in front of my television, with my right hand firmly grasping the remote. My stomach will be full of butterflies. It won’t be until game time that I decide if I’m going watch the television broadcast, or if I’ll be following the game by reading your comments.

The one thing I do know is: Let’s Go Oakland.

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