A's Walk Off Again, Sweep Yankees, Meaning ... What?

Coco Crisp #4 of the Oakland Athletics (right, finger extended) is congratulated by teammates after hitting the game winning RBI against the New York Yankees at O.co Coliseum in Oakland, California. The Oakland Athletics defeated the New York Yankees 5-4 in 12 innings. (Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images)

These Oakland Athletics have been incredible.

We do tend to exaggerate these things. Not this time, though.

If I had told you a month ago that the A's would

a) win 11 games before the end of July with walk-off jobs, and

b) sweep the Yankees in a four-game series for the first time since before World War I, and

c) be right in the thick of the Wild Card race

what would you have said?

You would have said, "Rob Neyer, I find that you have now lost all credibility."

But the A's have indeed done all of those things. Incredible.

Here are the 11 walk-offs, with No. 11 coming just yesterday in the 12th inning, three innings after Seth Smith hit a game-tying homer off Rafael Soriano.

Seth Smith
Grand Slam
3-run homer
Derek Norris
sac fly
Chris Carter
Brandon Hicks
Brandon Moss
Coco Crisp

Wait a minute! The A's have been wearing their home whites just once when walking off with a win? I mean, I'm happy for their fans and everything, but I don't like what this says about the future of baseball fashion. Those green and yellow jerseys are supposed to be alternates, right? Saved for special occasions?

What seems most shocking is that the A's hadn't swept a four-game series at home against the Yankees since 1913. Not in Philadelphia. Not in Kansas City. Not in Oakland. Not in nearly 100 years.

Flukes, all of them. I mean, c'mon ... Derek Norris? Brandon Hicks? You simply can't do what the A's have done without a lot of luck. I'm sure they've got terrific chemistry right now, but that's not the cause of all these wins; it's the effect. Or one effect, anyway. Another is that the A's actually have a legitimate shot at the postseason, despite entering this season with the lowest payroll in the majors.

How legitimate, though?

I wrote specifically about the A's just a few days ago, so I won't belabor that analysis so soon. Rather, let's handicap the American League Wild Card candidates, generally.

First, the A's still have just the eighth-best run differential in the league. That's not real good, since only five teams qualify for the postseason. And two of those teams are practically guaranteed to be the New York Yankees and the Texas Rangers.

Which essentially leaves six teams -- the Red Sox, Rays, Tigers, White Sox, Angels, and Athletics -- for three spots.*

* Yes, I left out the Orioles and the Blue Jays. This was on purpose.

The Angels would seem to lead this list, because ... well, because they're pretty obviously the best club on the list. They've got the league's third-best run differential, they've got three premier hitters, and their three best starting pitchers stack up with any other 1-2-3 in the majors.

Which leaves five teams for one spot.*

* Still leaving out the Orioles and the Blue Jays. Still on purpose.

According to Baseball Prospectus's Playoff Odds Report, that spot is most likely going to whoever doesn't win the American League Central. But next on the list are the Athletics, followed by the Red Sox and Rays. Does the Playoff Odds Report account for Jacoby Ellsbury's return? Does it account for the White Sox and Red Sox probably being more aggressive at the trade deadline than the A's?

I don't know.

Should a team like the A's mortgage some of their future in the pursuit of a 1-in-4 chance of playing in a one-game playoff for the right to face a far better team in a Division Series?

Well, that's a metaphysical sort of question.

Please stick to quantifiable questions, and vote in our Super-Poll!

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