The Oakland Athletics could have sent a message throughout baseball. They could have won two games against the Yankees in the Bronx. It could have solidified their postseason position and shown the world that they are indeed an elite team.
And the A's could have crept to within two games of first-place Texas.
Instead, they lost both games. And they lost them in two ways that had one thing in common: Total agony.
At this point in the season, theoretically, a win is a win and a loss is a loss. It is better to win ugly than lose with a moral victory.
But as I wrote in a Bleacher Report article a few weeks ago, the best kind of loss is a blowout. Seriously, when your team loses 10-0, there is no frustration. Blowouts are a complete breakdown by your team.
After a 10-0 loss, there is no one play to lament, no one lost rally or error in the field that cost your team the game.
Contrast that with the agony that Oakland experienced on Friday night and Saturday afternoon.
In the Friday opener, the Athletics experienced the first kind of brutal loss, as they were victimized by a wasted great start.
Jarrod Parker was brilliant, shutting down the Yankees on one run, six hits and no walks over eight innings.
But CC Sabathia was even better, throwing eight shutout innings, striking out 11. A's pinch hitter Brandon Moss homered in the ninth to send the game to extra innings, but Russell Martin, he of the .206 average, hit the walk-off homer to win it for the Yankees.
The A's wasted a terrific start, a dramatic home run and a few potential rallies, including leaving the bases loaded in the eighth.
A hit here or there and it would have been a 2-1 victory. Instead, it was a loss and lots of teeth were ground.
On Saturday, the A's experienced the second kind of brutal loss: The Wasted Offensive Outburst:
The team that could not score except for the Moss home run the night before came out smoking. The A's scored two runs in the first inning and knocked out Yankees starter Ivan Nova after just 2.1 innings.
And with Rafael Soriano and David Robertson being held back after working the night before, the A's had the rest of the game to face the Yankees shaky relief corps.
Unfortunately, the Oakland staff was not much better. Travis Blackley lasted only two innings and the A's bullpen was on overtime as well.
In the 13th inning, the Oakland offense unloaded on hapless Freddy Garcia and reliever Justin Thomas.
Johnny Gomes, Yoenis Cespedes and Chris Carter all homered, giving Oakland a four-run lead and control of the game.
All they needed was a reliever who could hold the Yankees to three runs. Letting in three runs in one inning is a horrible outing for a relief pitcher, but would have done the trick for the A's.
It was too much to ask for.
A's reliever Pedro Figueroa looked overwhelmed by the task, giving up hits to the only three batters he faced. Pat Neshek came in and gave up a game-tying homer to Raul Ibanez, who didn't start but hit two home runs.
In the 14th inning, the Yankees loaded the bases. But, of course, they could not win it on a homer or a line drive. After a bizarre play at third in which pinch-runner Melky Mesa missed third base on what should have been the winning run, the A's looked like they were going to get out of it again.
But first baseman Brandon Moss, who looked like he was going to be the hero the night before, could not handle Eduardo Nunez's hot smash and Ichiro Suzuki scored the winning run.
The final score was 10-9. A mediocre start, or a bad relief appearance in the 13th inning, or a clean play in the 14th inning, and the A's would be celebrating.
So Oakland fans can compare and contrast. Which loss felt worse? The wasted start or the big leads blown.
One thing is for sure. If they were blown out in both games, the record would be the same, but the frustration levels would be much lower.