Every contending baseball season brings with it some iconic moments, and the 2018 Oakland A’s got one of theirs on Saturday. Trailing in the 7th inning, Mark Canha entered as a pinch-hitter and launched a two-run homer, taking the lead and serving as the eventual game-winner. He was pumped.
Last week, the upstart A’s announced to the world that they are for real. They went on the road and beat some other AL heavyweights, and along the way they put themselves in genuine contention for a postseason berth. The only task remaining before the All-Star break was to face their local rivals, the Giants, a winning team in their own right.
This series is always a big one because of the geography, but this time both clubs also have their eyes on Wild Card hunts. There’s a trophy now too, but the important thing for Oakland was maintaining their momentum into the break and putting as much pressure as possible on the Mariners, the only team they need to pass in the standings.
The series got off to a rotten start, as the A’s dropped the opener in borderline embarrassing fashion. They squandered a couple big rallies, made a couple silly mistakes in the field, and experienced a bullpen meltdown so toxic that they straight-up cut a veteran reliever the next day. It was not the result Oakland was hoping for after storming San Francisco by both air and sea before the game.
Things were beginning to look dire again on Saturday. Starter Brett Anderson didn’t make it out of the 4th, and by the 7th the A’s were trailing by a run. But this Oakland team is never out of a game, and right on cue Canha launched them back into control of this one. It was the 10th time they’ve come back from a deficit in the 7th inning or later to turn a loss into a victory, and Outta Da Pak Mark celebrated accordingly.
⭐️The swing⭐️— Oakland Athletics ⚾️ (@Athletics) July 15, 2018
⭐️⭐️The flip⭐️⭐️ pic.twitter.com/vTe40NFMIU
That bat flip is every A’s fan, screaming to the heavens that we’re here and we won’t be taken lightly. Forget the long rebuild and the three last-place finishes, and all the jokes about trading away All-Stars or how the stadium is full of more sewage than spectators. None of that matters now, because we’re focused on the present day and an honest-to-goodness playoff push.
For his part, Canha was not the least bit sorry if anyone took umbrage with his antics.
Canha doesn't feel that bad about his bat flip pic.twitter.com/6k4Zb3TNp7— A's on NBCS (@NBCSAthletics) July 15, 2018
“People getting offended by bat flips is so silly. I’m not sorry. I’m not really sorry. ... I got thrown at in the past, this season, for bat flipping. I clearly didn’t learn my lesson. If you’re offended by that, I don’t care.”
That’s similar to the feeling A’s fans get when our team unexpectedly competes. Sorry, nation, that we messed up your narratives. You were hoping for Trout and Ohtani’s Angels in this spot, or at least the trendy Twins, but instead you’ve got us. You were expecting our tiny payroll to sink us to the bottom of the tank amid talk of collusion and MLBPA grievances, but instead here we are. Sorry, but not really sorry.
The moment was even better coming against the Giants, who have seen everything go their way over the last decade and consequently earned a virtual monopoly on the Bay Area’s attention and adoration. Our own flagship radio station covers the other guys almost exclusively, and you’d be hard-pressed to walk into a bar or a clothing store anywhere in the region and see the green and gold on primary display. Even the pitcher who served up Canha’s dinger, southpaw Tony Watson, was an Oakland target last winter before landing in the Giants’ laps on a laughably team-friendly deal. Now it’s hopefully the A’s turn to shine, and they’re not going to be quiet about it.
And who better to bring us this attitude than Canha, a Bay Area native who grew up rooting for the Giants before becoming one of the A’s classic misfit toys. He arrived as a Rule 5 castoff, and four seasons later he’s finally panned out as a significant contributor on a good team — his 120 wRC+ is tied for third on the club, and his 12 homers are tied for fourth. As he mentioned in his quote above, this wasn’t his first notable flip of the year.
That came after a game-winner off Seattle’s All-Star closer, Edwin Diaz. The Giants got off light in comparison.
Opinions are split on bat flips, and whether they’re fun or disrespectful. The tide seems to be turning toward the fun side, though, as folks learn to enjoy some harmless cheekiness deservedly tacked onto the end of a major accomplishment. Even McCovey Chronicles wasn’t upset. But if anyone is left who hasn’t caught up with the times, Canha doesn’t care and neither should we. Bat flips are now a thing, and so are the Contending Oakland A’s. Get used to it, America.