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A’s Have Traveled An Improbable Road

Posted By Josh Muller On Sep 13 2012 @ 9:30 pm In Oakland A's | 5 Comments

As I write this on September 13, the Oakland Athletics [1] have just taken three out of four in Anaheim, a little payback for the sweep the Angels [2] handed the A’s in Oakland about a week ago. Since then, the A’s have won six out of seven games on the road. In fact, the A’s tied an Oakland record with 12 strait road victories, they have a one game cushion for the top wild card spot and only sit 3.5 games behind the Rangers, the only AL team with a better record.

Did I mention it was September 13?

This isn’t just a good story anymore. This is a reality and we can see the finish line. And while there is a lot of baseball yet to be played, all against worthy opponents, it is amazing that the A’s are even in this situation in the first place.

I’ve already talked (at length) about the substandard expectations for Oakland coming into the season, but what’s as amazing is the amount of adversity this already overlooked squad has overcome to get to this point.

I’m not saying that the A’s are the only team to use the disabled list, but by taking players out of an equation most thought wasn’t any good to begin with, it’s borderline unbelievable the A’s are in the playoff race.

Before I get into the meat of this article, I’d like to talk about the Brandon McCarthy incident. McCarthy was recently struck on the side of the head by a line drive off the bat of Erick Aybar and was very seriously injured by it. It was scary at the time but even scarier when we found out he needed brain surgery later that night.

I want to tread lightly here because I’m certainly not a doctor and I only know the little information that has been released. I’d just like to say that my thoughts and prayers go out to the McCarthy’s and their family and friends. This isn’t a matter of baseball. It’s a matter of Brandon’s quality of life. All the news has been encouraging and I wish him a speedy recovery.

As scary as it was, it is the latest example on a rather long list of obstacles the A’s have hurdled thus far.

Let’s start with the pitching. Without including the trades of three all-stars in the offseason, the A’s started the 2012 campaign without arguably two of the staff’s better pitchers, Brett Anderson and Dallas Braden, both of whom were recovering from arm injuries (Braden is still recovering). Prior to his season ending scare a few days ago, McCarthy had his own arm troubles and missed several starts. Bartolo Colon, Oakland’s most seasoned veteran and consistent pitcher was suspended 50 games for elevated testosterone.

Because of all this, the A’s have relied primarily on the unexpected success of their seemingly endless supply of rookie pitchers. Jarrod Parker, Tommy Milone, A.J. Griffin (who has also seen his fair share of time on the DL this year) and Dan Strailey have all impressed as starters this year. So much so, in fact, that A’s fans might get spoiled and start to expect this from all rookie pitchers. The bullpen has had some key rookies as well including, but not limited to, Sean Doolittle and Ryan Cook.

I don’t know how he does it but one thing Billy Beane always seems to have in his arsenal is relief pitchers. His resume over the years is pretty impressive: Jason Isringhausen, Keith Foulke, Billy Koch, Houston Street, Andrew Bailey, and that’s just the closers. I mean the guy got Travis Blackley, one of the most overlooked, and versatile pitchers on the A’s staff this year, off waivers when the Giants [3] released him.

But back to those adversities I keep talking about; it continues to the hitters as well. Projected starting third baseman, Scott Sizemore, who the A’s thought could break out this year, had a season ending knee injury the first day of spring training. His eventual replacement, Brandon Inge, suffered a season ending shoulder injury about a month ago. The A’s saw significant drops in production from previously dependable guys like Kurt Suzuki (since traded to the Nationals [4]), Cliff Pennington (on a tear right now), and Jemile Weeks. Weeks, if you remember, was the only player Billy Beane deemed untouchable in trades this off-season. He recently rejoined the team after a demotion to AAA.

Oh, then there is the revolving door at first base. By my count, the A’s have used six different guys at first base this year. Yoenis Cespedes, who’s the A’s most valuable player in my opinion, has missed 33 games to injury this year. He may miss more too as he just came out of the game today with a wrist sprain, though it’s expected to be minor.

The A’s have met all of these challenges head on with contributions from up and down the lineup. Even though he has cooled off lately, Josh Reddick has put up career numbers, Cespedes is amazing and Coco Crisp has played like an MVP since he got healthy. And how Awesome is Brandon Moss? He’s 18-homers-in-67-games awesome. Josh Donaldson is finding a home at third after his most recent call up. And Chris Carter is finally delivering on his power potential.

When you look at the win total thus far, you can’t help but think that everything has gone right for Oakland throughout the year. But that just isn’t true. I’d say it’s quite the opposite. Unthinkably so. The road these guys have traveled says a lot about their character and resilience. There’s a little more than two weeks left so it’s far from over, but I’ve learned my lesson about limiting what this team can accomplish. I don’t want to jinx anything but this feels special, doesn’t it?

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[1] Oakland Athletics: http://www.prosportsblogging.com/sports/mlb-baseball/oakland-as/

[2] Angels: http://www.prosportsblogging.com/sports/mlb-baseball/la-angels-of-anaheim/

[3] Giants: http://www.prosportsblogging.com/sports/mlb-baseball/san-francisco-giants-mlb-baseball/

[4] Nationals: http://www.prosportsblogging.com/sports/mlb-baseball/washington-nationals/

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