I have got to admit something off the bat: This exact same story was ready to be written a little less than 24 hours ago. The Oakland A's seemed unable to get the key hit against Max Scherzer and the Detroit Tigers bullpen and it was a resignation that the finish was at hand.
But for the 15th and final time, the A's defined themselves as a team of character and resilience, storming back to win 4-3 with a three-run ninth inning.
But with the euphoria over and gone, reality in the form of Justin Verlander set in. Verlander was simply dominant Thursday night, leading the Tigers to a 6-0 series-clinching win. Jarrod Parker did what he could do, but from the first inning, the game felt like a matter of a dam slowly cracking and chipping until it finally burst. The A's just couldn't do anything with the best pitcher in baseball. There is no shame whatsoever in that.
And really, that's the purpose of this writing. These Oakland A's provided the most incredible season I have seen in 26 years as a fan. Even the title team in 1989 couldn't compare because they had an expectation of greatness.
This team, this stone soup of baseball players, was just remarkable to watch this year.
Win or lose, they competed like no team I've seen in recent Oakland memory. It has been said over and over, but this team (as originally constructed) was picked to finish last by most experts and publications. At 26-35, that seemed like a realistic landing spot. But these players and their calm but strong manager Bob Melvin never allowed that thinking to take hold.
In many ways, these last three months brought the sport of baseball slowly back to relevance in the East Bay. Yes, the team has been on the periphery of Bay Area news, but not because of their performance. No, the consistent desire from owner Lew Wolff to move the club to San Jose took a lot of the shine away from the casual fans and strained relations with many die-hard fans.
However, the last three months have reminded people of why the A's have been in Oakland for 44 years. Even though the crowds might not always be large, they are always filled with real, passionate fans.
The winning brought the casuals back slowly but surely and it all crested with this three-game joy ride in October. They lost Thursday night, but in many ways this team won—it won a city back that had started creeping toward the exit.
The season in review comes later. Tonight, I want to celebrate the spirit of a team that made covering baseball fun again this past summer. From the ascension of Jarrod Parker to the promise fulfilled of Yoenis Cespedes, the exuberance of Josh Reddick to the rage of Grant Balfour, the power of Brandon Moss to the cool of Tom Milone, this was an incredible group of guys.
What happens next year is unknown.
Will the A's respond to increased expectations and the likely notion that this was a fluke year of kismet kicking into overdrive? We don't know and, frankly, it's not the time to speculate. I just want to express my gratitude as a fan for the way this team played.
It wasn't perfect and it wasn't always pretty, but it was never short on effort. Often, it was big on magic and that helped to remind many that there are indeed two teams in the San Francisco Bay Area.
So I tip my cap to the now departed 2012 A's. No matter what happens going forward, it won't duplicate the feeling this team gave its loyalists. To watch them defy everyone and win in such thrilling fashion, I'll never forget. The A's didn't lose the crapshoot this time. Just being at the table was a win.