One theory goes, "It doesn't matter how you get there, just get there." They can't take away the wins you earned in an earlier part of the season. Another theory goes, "You can go as a more or less deserving team."
If you subscribe to the latter way of thinking, it has been difficult to watch the A's turn prosperity into free-fall as the division, the first wild card, and eventually any certainty of anything beyond the regular season, unraveled bit by bit. The past two months have mostly been akin to a bandaid removed from the hairs on your arm in slow motion.
How deserving are these A's, whose 16-30 record down the stretch may have been jussssst good enough to ward off Seattle but also cemented a dubious place in history: The playoff team with the worst ever second half record. I'm not here now to judge 23 other players who ended the season on Oakland's roster, nor many others who made contributions -- if you want to call them that -- to Oakland's second-half thud.
Josh Donaldson and Sonny Gray deserve the post-season, period.
Donaldson proved to be a genuine warrior, speaking not with impassioned speeches but with tremendous results under visible adversity. He could not run but he could mash, he couldn't not jog but he could dive and spring to his feet to throw out a runner at 1B. He looked physically unable to play yet Bob Melvin was physically unable to get him off the field. Josh would grab his leg in agony, walk it off, and then drill a HR to the back of the LF bleachers.
Today, Gray joined Donaldson in the ranks of the saviors. His performance had "Give me a run and I'll get us to the wild card" determination, right down to a 1B and 3B nobody out jam in which the defense set up to yield a run and Gray simply pitched out of it entirely.
It was a throwback to a bygone era where starting pitchers finished what they started. Gray tossed all 9 IP on just 103 pitches, 74 of them strikes. Sean Doolittle got up in the bullpen once in the 8th and again in the 9th, but seemed out of place. Gray wasn't coming out of the game, he was dealing. He probably could have pitched the 10th.
Whenever I'm tempted to feel a slight sense of shame at how Oakland couldn't score or play defense for 6 weeks, blew saves in the strangest ways and to the strangest opponents (I'm looking at you, Tyler Flowers), could not beat Colby Lewis or Scott Baker, were dominated yet again by Jerome Williams and could not keep Freddy Galvis in the yard...
...Josh Donaldson and Sonny Gray, they were true warriors in the end. No, they are true warriors. They deserve a shot at the post-season, and thanks to them the 2014 Oakland A's have that shot.