For the last week, we've been voting on the 2014 SB Nation MLB awards. The polls have closed and the final precincts have reported, so it's time to announce the winners. Each of these top A's moments will be considered by a special panel for the top moments of the year in all of MLB later this week.
(Voting results are as of 7:30 a.m. PT on Tuesday, Nov. 18.)
Funniest A's moment: Vogt as NBA referee
Voting result: 25%, 148 out of 584
This one might be cheating, because it was intended as a comedy routine. But you can see why Stephen Vogt scored so well in the team's preseason talent contest (allegedly for his Chris Farley impression).
I don't know about you, but I believe in Stephen Vogt.
Funniest A's moment that wasn't a planned comedy sketch but instead a truly organic moment: Reddick beard stroke
Voting result: 17%, 100 out of 584 ... runner-up (catchers race to put on gear) had 99 votes.
Baseball players are a superstitious bunch. You never know what might bring you good luck, so better try everything just in case.
Do what you gotta do, boys.
Most regrettable A's moment: Lester gives up 6 runs in Wild Card game
Voting result: 31%, 157 out of 510 ... runner-up (Cespedes trade) had 155 votes.
Lester was acquired, at great cost, in order to be the ace starter who could win all the big games in the face of massive pressure. Some of those big games were supposed to be playoff games, and hopefully the most important ones. Things started well in the regular season, as he tossed a quality start all 11 times he took the mound for Oakland. And then they started well in the Wild Card game, the first real must-win outing for Lester.
After seven innings, the A's had a 7-3 lead and Lester was rolling. He entered the eighth having retired 13 of the last 14 batters, and he was still under 100 pitches. And then everything fell apart. Alcides Escobar bounced a single up the middle, stole second, and went to third on a groundout. Lorenzo Cain bounced another single up the middle to drive in the run. That's three batters and three ground balls, but only one out to show for it. Cain stole second. When Eric Hosmer worked a seven-pitch walk, it was clear that Lester was done. He was at 111 pitches, the Royals were making too much contact, and now his control was wavering. Enter bullpen, end season. Luke Gregerson allowed both inherited runners to score, and the rest is history. The six runs matched the total from Lester's three regular season starts against the Royals.
Did Melvin leave Lester in too long? Should he have let Gregerson start the inning? Or, on the other side of the spectrum, should Melvin have let Lester work out of his own mess? Or was this one of those things, a signal that no matter what the A's did, victory just wasn't in the cards? I don't know, and I don't want to talk about it anymore. Lester was awesome right up until the moment when it mattered most, which was exactly the opposite of how it was supposed to go.
Best A's defensive play: Cespedes throws out Kendrick from outer space
Voting result: 55%, 186 out of 337 ... runner-up (Cespedes nails two Angels in one inning) had 48 votes.
This might have been one of the best plays in all of MLB this season. Yoenis Cespedes initially bobbled a relatively routine hit to left field, then nonchalantly trotted over to pick up the ball, and then unleashed a 300-foot strike directly into Derek Norris' glove to nail Howie Kendrick at the plate with room to spare.
Here it is in GIF form, completely unedited.
Oh, pardon me, I just need to launch this baseball through time and space real quick and then we can continue whatever we were doing before.
Most important A's hit: Moss' two homers in Wild Card game
Voting result: 34%, 92 out of 268 ... runner-up (Donaldson walk-off vs. Orioles) had 75 votes.
Brandon Moss entered the year with a career playoff batting line of 4-for-33 with one homer and 20 strikeouts. (And five walks!) He was the epitome of the Oakland playoff choker, the Billy Beane spreadsheet special who couldn't come through when it mattered in October. He was also playing with a serious hip injury and had hit two homers (with a .549 OPS) through his previous 52 games. So naturally:
This one is kind of cheating since it's really two hits, but I'll allow it. Turns out the playoffs are a crapshoot after all. Moss' five RBI helped stake the A's to a 7-3 lead.
Best A's pitching appearance: Sonny's shutout in Game 162 vs. Rangers
Voting result: 72%, 155 out of 214 ... runner-up (Kazmir out-deuls Sanchez) had 17 votes.
Sonny Gray actually threw two shutouts against the Rangers this year. On April 28 in Arlington, he tossed the first of his career; that start was the best of Oakland's season according to Game Score, with a total of 88. He allowed just two hits and a walk, with six strikeouts. What's more, in his previous start a few days prior, he'd been on the losing end of Martin Perez's shutout, so this one had a payback angle to it as well.
But that's not the game we're talking about here. Rather, this is about his shutout in Game 162, the one that officially sent the A's to the playoffs. His pitching line wasn't quite as good -- six hits, only five strikeouts, Game Score of 80 -- but the win meant so much more. The A's entered just one game ahead of the Mariners for the second Wild Card, and a loss (plus a Mariners win, which did happen) would have meant a Game 163 tiebreaker in Seattle. Instead, Sonny put the team on his back and carried it to the playoffs. Well, playoff, singular.
Team of the Year: Kansas City Royals
There was one more award, but I decided not to even bother putting it up for a vote. I did that for two reasons. The first is that the award had nothing to do with the A's and would only have drudged up sad memories, and the second is that the Royals were going to win anyway.
There were four serious nominations from the intro post: A's, Royals, Orioles, and Angels. I would have added the Giants and the Nationals to that list as well, the former for winning the World Series and the latter for finishing with the best record in a particularly mediocre National League, so there would have been six clubs.
No one would have voted for the Nationals, because they aren't really relevant to our lives as A's fans and because they let the Giants walk all over them in the NLDS. There's no way Athletics Nation would have collectively chosen either the Giants or the Angels despite those teams' strong resumes, based on the intense hatred that the vast majority of the community feels toward both clubs. Manny Machado would certainly have cost the Orioles votes from this fanbase, and they get no extra love from our fans for dumping a steaming pile of Jim Johnson on us. And no matter how much we love our A's, I don't think any of us are fooling ourselves into thinking we had the team of the year after that second-half collapse.
And then there are the Royals, the ragtag underdog team that reminded A's fans everywhere of our own past contenders (except for the part where they won a couple series). Everyone wrote them off at every step of the way, and they used an unusual and highly questioned strategy to vanquish the richer and seemingly superior teams in their path. It was like A's fan fiction, except the players were wearing the wrong uniforms. Add in extra points for respect toward the club that knocked us out of our own postseason run, and a few more for being the champion of non-Giants teams, and K.C. was going to win handily anyway.
That's the end of this year's SBN Nation MLB awards! Thanks for reading and vogting. Our national site will run a post later this week with nominations from various teams' votes to find the top moments in all of MLB, so look out for that to see if the A's make the cut in any category!