“All right people, we got 10 minutes ’till game time, let’s all gather ’round. I’m not much for giving inspirational addresses, but I’d just like to point out that every newspaper in the country has picked us to finish last. The local press seems to think that we’d save everyone the time and trouble if we just went out and shot ourselves. Me, I’m for wasting sportswriters’ time. So I figured we ought to hang around for a while and see if we can give ‘em all a nice big shitburger to eat!” Lou Brown (Charles Gammon) as the Indians Manager in Major League
When the season began no one expected for the Oakland Athletics even to have a winning record. Most experts predicted them to finish last in the American League West. In fact it wasn’t until September that most experts even believed that they were for real, that they wouldn’t fold going down the stretch. They had to. They didn’t have the payroll and most people couldn’t name five of their players. The Angels and Rangers would battle it out and Texas would win the division. The Angles despite a bad start would take a Wild Card bid, they had to. They had the depth, the payroll and the all-star lineup.
At the end of June they were 13 games behind the Rangers. With 9 games left the A’s still trailed the division leading Rangers by 5 games. The experts were ticking down the magic number, the A’s would have to battle for the Wild Card. But the A’s stunned the baseball world taking 5 of 7 from the Rangers in the last 10 games of the season, winning 8 of their last 10 games. They did not take sole possession of the division lead until today.
On game 162 after the A’s had defeated the Rangers to tie division the teams met in Oakland to decide the AL West. The A’s took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first but saw it go away in the top of the third when the Rangers scored five runs. But the A’s were not done. Their pitching kicked in and their bats came alive. In the bottom of the 4th the A’s put 6 runs on the board. They followed adding another in the bottom of the 5th. With two outs in the bottom of the 8th it appeared that the Rangers would be able to keep the game in reach, but then the A’s broke loose with another 4 runs. Grant Balfour came in and retired the Rangers in order in the 9th and the A’s won 12-5.
It was such an unlikely scenario. The A’s have the lowest payroll in the American League. Their rookie pitchers won 53 games, a Major League record. Baseball Prospectus said they would win just 72 games.
It is one of the most amazing stories in recent MLB history. The A’s certainly gave the Texas Rangers, Los Angeles Angels and the experts a big “shitburger” to eat.
Congratulations to a most deserving team. It will be fun to hear the A’s being announced during the Division series as the “American League West Champion Oakland A’s.”