Update: Check out this article from SB Nation for more on the A's/O's.
And watch this video. Seriously.
So I was playing softball last night, when our center fielder looked at his phone, and said, "You'll be happy." Knowing his proclivity for a certain baseball team, that could only mean one thing. I yelled (probably a bit too loud for his liking), "The Rangers lost?!" As nice as it would be to be within two games of the AL lead, I'm just happy that yesterday's loss didn't cost us in the Division race. You can't win 'em all, and when you lose, you certainly want your #1 rival to lose, as well. It's easy for me to root against the Angels, the Yankees, the Tigers, even the Rangers, whom I do not hate.
It's harder for me to root against the Orioles.
The Orioles are us, except without all of the magical 2000's seasons. The O's haven't been to the playoffs since 1997. I was in college then. I can't imagine what it would be like to have that kind of a drought without so much as a winning season. Not only have they missed the playoffs, but they haven't been over .500 in fifteen years! They play in what has been the toughest division in baseball over the last decade, where the Red Sox and Yankees battle it out on an annual basis, allowing the Rays to jump in the fray every once in a while. But there has been no room for the Orioles.
If the A's had been the team they were billed to be, I would be 100% behind the O's. Who doesn't like an underdog story; a little team that could battling head-to-head with the big, bad Yankees? As of today, the Orioles are tied with the Yankees for first place in the AL East, looking to take over the Division lead, while the Yankees play the Rays (and actually have a chance to put the Rays away in the Wild Card). And if the Orioles were playing anyone else, I'd be rooting for them.
But in what should be an amazing story for baseball, the 2012 season has not one, but two, Cinderella stories, and the A's are the other one. The A's arguably need this series more than the O's; despite having the second best record in the AL, they are still three full games behind the Division-leading Texas Rangers. And obviously, I'm an A's fan, and rooting for the A's; the A's need 2 out of 3, and I wouldn't be sad if they swept.
Like the O's, the A's continue to get love, even from unlikely sources. Here's Monte Poole's take this morning:
Oakland leads the A.L. wild card race and is stalking the division-leading Rangers because it has done a fabulous job utilizing its rebuilt farm system and Melvin has masterfully blended precocious kids with such veterans as Coco Crisp and Brandon Inge.
More than 40 percent of the team's 167 homers have come off the bats of those who have spent part, if not most, of the season in the minors. More than 30 percent of the runs have come from the same bunch, as have more than one of every four pitching victories.
The sheer numbers suggest general manager Billy Beane has done a better job of constructing an organization than simply building a team. And I say that as a compliment.
The A's are putting together a season to be savored, vastly more compelling than the 2002 club that rode its talent and Beane's swagger to a best-selling book and a movie.
The Kansas City Star did an O's/A's game preview this morning; we are looking at a Tommy Milone vs. Joe Saunders battle tonight. Saunders used to be an Angel; can I hate him?
So the moral of the story is: Sorry, Baltimore. I really do want you to win the East, and I'll be rooting that way in four games. But for tonight, tomorrow, and Sunday, my A's are my only priority, and we have as much at stake as you do. May the best Cinderella win.
The Yankees play the Rays at 4PM, Detroit plays Cleveland at 4PM, Texas plays Seattle at 5PM, the Angels play the Royals at 5PM, and our marquee match-up starts at 7:05. See you back here for all the action!