With a win against the Texas Rangers last night, the Oakland Athletics clinched a … something. One of the two wild cards. They still have a shot at the division. All they know is they'll play past their 162nd game. But there was champagne. There was a party. There was a manager getting hit in the face with a shaving-cream pie.
It was a weird party. They clinched a postseason berth, but what does that really mean in 2012? Should they have had a formal celebration with champagne and all the fixin's?
A look at both sides.
The A's clinched a chance to maybe go into Baltimore and have a one-game playoff. They still have a chance to win the AL West, something they had a 0.6-percent chance of doing on June 1. And the benefits of winning the division go well beyond the verbiage on the t-shirts and an extra home game.
The last time a team clinched the right to a) play past their 162nd game without b) securing a full playoff series was 2009. The Twins beat the Royals on what could have been the last day of the regular season, forcing what was essentially a one-game playoff with the Tigers. There was no champagne. They had work to do if they wanted to play a real playoff series. And if they won that game, well, then they'd storm out onto the field and act the fool.
That's the same thing as what they A's clinched. They clinched the right to play for the real playoffs. The only thing that's changed is the designation is a "one-game playoff" instead of "an extra day of the regular season" to settle things.
Or put it this way: The Rangers, still leading their division, clinched a playoff spot on Sunday. The absolute worst they could do is get that second wild card. But they haven't celebrated anything yet. The Orioles didn't have a celebration, either:
The Orioles are assured a wild-card berth, but they're looking to get into the post-season as AL East champions. Upon arriving in Tampa area, where the Orioles open a season-ending series at the Rays on Monday night, manager Buck Showalter said, "I think everybody knows where the finish line is, and we're not there."
The Orioles haven't finished over .500 since Cal Ripken, Harold Baines, Pete Incaviglia, and Eric Davis were on the team. They had a better chance of finishing sixth in the AL East than they did of making the playoffs. But when they finally secured that postseason berth, they didn't celebrate. They still had a division to win and a full playoff berth to secure.
The A's won a chance to go to the playoffs. Suggesting they've already made the playoffs is a marketing trick, a ruse. Bud Selig wants you to think they've made the playoffs. If you think the A's should have celebrated, you're agreeing with Bud Selig. You should probably take a hot shower.
The A's were supposed to be awful. I follow the team on Facebook, and it amused me over the offseason. Every piece of news was met with raaaaaaage. Ain't no rage like Facebook rage.
That was one of the calm ones. I couldn't find the Gio Gonzalez trade because the Facebook timeline is borked -- don't you just hate it when your familiar sites go through a substantial redesign? -- but that was apparently the end of the A's. They were going to be relegated or contracted, and the fans were raging.
The A's were awful. At least, they were at first. In late May/early June, the A's went 1-5 on a road trip through Minnesota and Kansas City. They were shut out three times, once in a game that Vin Mazzaro started. After that trip, they were 23-31 and nine games back in the AL West.
The A's were supposed to be an afterthought in the eyes of the Bay Area. They play in a park that I envied growing up. It's right by public transportation? You don't have to light your jacket on fire to stay warm at night? There's an open concourse in the outfield. It was baseball heaven to me.
Then the Raiders came back and made it a football stadium. That's around the time the A's made a big point of telling everyone to stay away until they got a new ballpark, at least implicitly. Tarps went up in the outfield. I'm not the first or the hundredth to think of it, but you have to figure the A's have a cardboard cutout of Lew Wolff in the clubhouse, and they're removing a piece of clothing for every win.
The A's were supposed to fade. When Dallas Braden had setback after setback, when Jemile Weeks was sent down after a disappointing season, when Bartolo Colon was popped for PEDs, when Brandon McCarthy suffered a devastating injury, when Brett Anderson came back only to tweak his oblique, and when they looked at their late-season schedule to find contenders and road trips and more contenders, they were supposed to fade. Nice story, kids, but it was all a mirage.
The A's are filled with players who were told, "You can't help our team that much in 2012, so we're exchanging you for someone who can." Josh Reddick couldn't help the Red Sox as much as Andrew Bailey. Tom Milone couldn't help the Nationals as much as Gio Gonzalez. Same with Jarrod Parker and Trevor Cahill. The guys the A's got were supposed to be good someday. Or maybe never at all, which is why they were expendable. But in 2012, they weren't supposed to help anyone.
The A's weren't supposed to do any of this.
So say they didn't celebrate on Monday night. Pretend they kept their heads down, moseyed back to the dugout, and prepared for the next two games against the Rangers. Then say the Rangers won one or the final two games, which allowed them to clinch the division. They'd have a celebration, a big ol' dogpile right on the Coliseum mound.
What would the A's do then? Celebrate their wild-card spot? Have a competing dogpile in center field? Pop corks at the same time the Rangers were doing it? No, of course not. There wouldn't be a celebration. There wouldn't be a celebration for doing something that people thought impossible before and during the season. They wouldn't get to acknowledge they did something pretty special, in front of their hometown fans. It doesn't matter if the honor ends up being something that was made possible only by the new format.
If the A's win the last two games, there will be another celebration. They didn't forfeit their right to that. No, there needed to be a celebration for something. And it would have only made sense on Monday night.
Bob Melvin got hit in the face with a pie, and Brandon McCarthy was given a drool cup and a helmet with which to celebrate. The 20,000+ in Oakland went nuts, and all of the A's fans on my Facebook timeline seemed thrilled. So I'm erring on the side of ol' counterpoint right now. But if the A's get bounced out of the one-game playoff, maybe it'll all seem silly in retrospect.
This new setup is confusing.
We can all agree the A's are pretty amazing, though, right? As long as that part's out of the way. There could be a playoff game between A's and Orioles, just like we all drew it up before the season.