Thank you, A's. Thank you for a wonderful 2005. A season of amazing highs and remarkable lows. A season of 40-10 also included a month of 7-20.
A season that brought us four young kids who had distinctly different paths. You had the college kid, barely out of school who wound up being one of the best closers in the American League thanks to an injury to Octavio Dotel. You had the Moneyballer outfielder, who progressed quickly through the A's system to have a season very similar to the Crosby 2004 rookie campaign. You had the big Kentucky pitcher who had the worst of seasons and the best of seasons all in his 32 games started. Big Joe could wind up with the second best ERA on the staff behind the suddenly fragile Rich Harden. And finally, you had the guy stuck under a glass ceiling because of the presence of an experimental first baseman and the holy grail. The grail got injured and the glass shattered and we all finally found out that DJ could be a huge part of the A's future.
2005 also saw the resurrection of a proud pitcher. A 2002 Cy Young Award winner had some tough sledding early, but then became the leader the starting staff needed him to be.
This year can also be remembered as the one when Bobby Crosby took a quantum leap forward despite his fragile bones. Crosby showed that many projecting his future to be equal to if not better than Miguel Tejada were NOT the dreamers many made them out to be. He still had peaks and valleys, but I expect Crosby to be a possible MVP candidate next year. If he can stay healthy, that is.
The A's $66 million man was credited with the turnaround of the season. In the clubhouse, many pointed to a bus tirade by Chavez that helped spark one of the most impressive streaks in baseball in several years. Chavez didn't have the type of year that you want from someone in his role making his money, but I think we'll see a different player next year when Billy Beane surrounds him with more power. It will be Beane's number one offseason priority, I imagine.
The A's catcher will probably go the entire season without a home run. He would be the first to say that he didn't perform offensively like he would've wanted to. But I expect him to have a shot at redemption in 2006. Thank you for helping nurse this young staff through the ups and downs of the season and helping them to become brilliant. And who can forget Kendall's face-first slide into metal cleats in Texas to help the A's win a ball game or his awareness to bust his hump down the line to win a game against the goggle-pen to temporarily put our Athletics in first place?
The bullpen performed unlike an A's pen of recent seasons. For once, the group of Justin Duchscherer, Kiko Calero and the aforementioned rookie made us all breath easy whenever they entered a game. The A's pitching in general, whether it was Haren or an unheralded fifth starter was brilliant.
And Jay Payton, the machiavellian genius who orchestrated his departure from Boston, helped to fuel a club with his power. Something the team desperately needed. Payton also was a smooth and competent outfielder and was a nice complement to our defensive crew.
Speaking of beautiful defensive outfielders, Mark Kotsay, thank you for another season of brilliance in the outfield. Doubles die in your presence. Get that back healthy and let's see your offense return again in a better lineup in 2006.
Was there a more clutch player in 2005 than Marco Scutaro (sorry stat guys, but he was clutch)? He is one player who defies statistics and logic because he seemed to come through in key situations, over and over and over again. He tried to revive the team tonight after all appeared lost, but to no avail.
And last, but certainly not least, Mark Ellis. Was there a better story than Ellis? A man who at best, seemed like he might be a part-time player again. A man whose career seemed over. But he was emblematic of the fight in this group of players. This team, despite $40 million less than the Angels from wherever, pushed that group to Game 157 after being down by 15 games at one point. This team was trying to make history because of the hole it dug. Unfortunately, it couldn't pull itself out.
This was a story of remarkable odds for the team rebuilt over a winter holiday. This was a story of a team written off for dead, but resisted it's death sentence and fought through injuries it couldn't afford.
Yes, the ultimate goal is to win a World Series, and this team would've had a much better shot if their shortstop and flamethrowing pitcher could've remained healthy.
But those who claim this year was a failure lack perspective. This is a foundation. A foundation for 2006 and 2007. It's been said many times before, but this season is 1999 revisited. We all know what came after that year.
Find your zen place and realize the beauty of this "rebuilding" year. Enjoy these last five games because the next time our A's will return with a shot at the World Series will be in April 2006.
Thank you green and gold. It's been exhilarating, frustrating, joyous and maddening all at once. And I wouldn't want it any other way.