All this talk about how 2008 won’t be a winning year, won’t be a year when the A’s compete for anything, won’t be a year the A’s come out on top in the end. Baloney, I say; you must simply be using the wrong lens. In seasons like 2008, it’s essential to remember that a game and a season are twins – zoom in and you see one, zoom out and you see the other.
What is the allure of a pennant race that you crave, and already miss? It’s riding along the roller coaster of an unfolding battle to come out of the peaks and valleys on top. It’s watching who starts out fast or slow, knowing there’s a lot of season still left to play, getting to the middle of the season seeing that there is a favorite and an underdog but nothing has yet been won, approaching the stretch drive seeing teams eyeing the finish line and lining up their best guns as time draws short, and finding out – as the finish line becomes clearly visible – whether a last-minute comeback will create an upset or whether the winning team can hang on to become the team that has indeed prevailed in the odyssey that is the exciting and nerve-wracking roller-coaster of a season.
This is what you miss; this is what you crave? Go back and re-read the previous paragraph, but substitute “game” where you see “season”. Each game is a season unto itself. There’s the one where you start 17-32, I mean get down 7-0 in the 3rd inning, and know you’ll have to put together a big and sustained rally the rest of the way to overcome the hole you’ve dug yourself; the odds aren’t good but there is still time and so there is still hope. There’s the game you find yourself up 4-3 in the 6th inning though you know you’re not playing that well, and you just hope you can either kick it into high gear the rest of the way, or “trade” your ok pitching for your best pitching just in time to maintain the slim advantage you’ve been fortunate enough to maintain this long. There’s the game you trail 3-2 in the 8th inning and need a big moment, or a key break, to make up that slight but all-important gap in the standings, I mean score, before time runs out.
2008 is a “zoom in” year. The A’s will contend 162 times – which is to say that there are 162 games in which as it begins you and I will truly have no idea who is going to win – and the A’s are almost guaranteed to win 60-80 times. Zoom out and the deal isn’t as good: the odds of the A’s winning a playoff spot 60-80 times in my lifetime are about as good as the odds I’ll live to be over 200 years old – which are 50/50 at best.
So my advice, if Lew Wolff is wrong and the rest of the planet is right and the A’s aren’t fighting for a playoff spot all season, is to approach every game as if represents a brand-new season, and to enjoy the roller-coaster of a nine-inning game as it mirrors, in uncanny parallels really, the roller-coaster of a 162-game season. And here’s to “winning it all” in 2008 – again and again and again.