When the Oakland A's were eliminated from the postseason in 2012 by the Detroit Tigers, there was still a sense of accomplishment and a moral victory. The A's had come from behind and thrived in the role of the underdog, as they won the A.L. West on the last day of the regular season and then took the Tigers to a winner-take-all Game 5.
After losing in the fifth game, the A's came back on the field for one last standing ovation from a sold-out O.Co Coliseum crowd thanking their team for an amazing ride.
The A's did much of the same in 2013. After being picked to finish behind either the Texas Rangers or L.A. Angels in preseason predictions, the A's once again won their division. Once again, the A's took the Tigers into a do-or-die Game 5 in the ALDS, only to be dominated by Justin Verlander and the Detroit Tigers.
So why does a Game 5 loss and ALDS elimination hurt more this year than last year?
Last year was just a crazy season in Oakland highlighted by walk-offs, the return of the home run, the creation of "Balfour rage," Bernie-leaning and much more.
The A's were given low expectations before the 2012 season and were believed to be an also-ran team in rebuilding mode keeping last place warm until the Houston Astros came over from the National League. The loose clubhouse in Oakland never got that memo and they won their division in dramatic fashion, going to the playoffs for the first time since 2006.
This year the bar had been raised in Oakland. Despite most of the outside world once again not expecting a division title from this team, the A's and their fans knew this team could compete.
The pain of the 2013 elimination—in contrast with that of 2012—is that this time the ALDS series was Oakland's series to lose, which they did.
In 2012, Detroit had won the first two games, putting the A's on the brink of elimination for Game 3. The A's fought back to tie the series only to be put down by Verlander and the Tigers.
This year, the A's had a one game lead, with the Tigers now facing elimination in Game 4. The A's blew a three-run lead, a one-run lead and then left the bases loaded in the eighth inning after Detroit had gone ahead. The rest of the series is now history.
In 2012, the A's were seen as a team playing above and beyond expectations and potential. In 2013, the A's were seen as a team that just wasn't good enough. That's where the pain comes from.