First of all, let me just say this about winning meaningless games: It still beats the crap out of losing. (Note: We all understand what "beating the crap out of" means, so this is not, repeat not, an invitation to post your favorite photo of a baby seal being clubbed.) OK, on to other matters...
October 1st is a perfect time to put on your 20/20 glasses and enjoy a glass of hindsight on the house. We all know the A's lacked that extra heavy-hitter down the stretch, and we also know that the available possibilities were simply too expensive--either in terms of the cost in dollars or the cost in talent.
There is only one potential move I can really wonder about. Not one I lobbied for at the time, mind you--this is the "20/20 hindsight" room; in case you got turned around, the "I knew it at the time" room is down the hall to your left. At the of May, the Yankees were so desperate to get rid of Jason Giambi they asked him to go to the minor leagues (he refused), and so they asked around, "Anyone want a sub-.200 hitting, steroid-scandal-tarnished, aging hitter who can't field?" Remarkably, 29 teams said, "You know, actually, we'll pass."
Would the Yankees have traded Giambi and paid a portion of his salary, in order to rid themselves of part of Giambi's salary and Giambi himself? Could the A's have acquired, and afforded, Giambi in exchange for prospects they could reasonably spare?
Who knows? But the question is certainly made far more interesting by the fact that from June 1st on, Giambi has, in 98 games, hit .292, with a .455 OBP, 28 HR, 73 RBI, and an OPS of right around 1.000. So if the question is reduced to, "Would Giambi's presence in the A's lineup made the difference?" the answer is probably, "In hindsight, yeah."