The A's are playing well, but let's face it, they're playing for 2012.
At least, that's the best way to remain positive about the results of this current up and down season.
With just over 30 games remaining, rookies Jemile Weeks and Brandon Allen stand out as the main reasons for optimism moving into another long offseason.
True, the team has been hitting and scoring runs at a pace that would make any manager proud since the All Star break.
What is also true is that the pitching through most of the first half of the season was the best in the American League, and looked like it was going to repeat its success from the 2010 season.
Unfortunately, both have been wildly inconsistent when you look at the season as a whole.
We likely won't have Brett Anderson in the rotation at all next season and both Trevor Cahill and Gio Gonzalez have been inconsistent since coming out of the gate hot to begin the 2011 campaign.
Add into the consideration that our hottest hitter for the entirety of the season, Josh Willingham, and the hottest hitter since the All Star break, Hideki Matsui, are both impending free agents, gives more reason for concern than optimism.
Trades from recent seasons have not paid off how the A's had hoped (i.e. Carlos Gonzalez & Huston Street for Matt Holiday for Brett Wallace for Michael Taylor, amongst others) and the draft had failed to yield an impact hitter since Andre Ethier (who was also traded away).
The managing? Well, few would argue that former skipper Bob Geren was given the optimal situation to succeed, but fewer would argue that he didn't deserve his dismissal either.
And then, almost instantly, the glass goes from half-empty to half-full.
Bob Geren out, Bob Melvin in—and the entire feel of the team changes.
Fan favorite Mark Ellis goes down to injury and his era with the A's ends; In large part because highly touted, yet often injured rookie, Jemile Weeks performs fantastically.
How does Weeks respond? He hits his way into the lineup and sets up the longest tenured A's veteran for his ticket out of town, and the hits just keep coming.
Weeks is batting .291 on the season with 75 hits in just his first 62 games while displaying good speed on the base paths. He has 13 stolen bases in 20 attempts so far this season.
Whether the A's choose to retain Coco Crisp following the season, the A's seem to have found a dynamic leadoff man in Weeks.
Not surprisingly, the arrival of Weeks coincided with the beginning of the A's resurgence offensively.
A trip to the 15-day disabled list by Josh Willingham opened an opportunity for Chris Carter to come back to Oakland and showoff his bat, unfortunately he failed to capitalize.
All of the excitement surrounding Weeks would seemingly intensify the disappointment A's fans felt about Carter. The difference could not have been any more the polar opposites of each other.
Fast-forward just a few weeks though and General Manager Billy Beane makes a low-profile trade at the deadline, sending veteran reliever Brad Ziegler to Arizona for minor league first baseman Brandon Allen.
How has the power-hitting prospect, Allen, responded to his audition in Oakland? He has taken the Jemile Weeks approach and just kept hitting, inserting himself right into the starting lineup nightly.
He was batting .391 since being traded to the A's entering Saturday's game against the Blue Jays.
In his first eight games with the A's, he already has 10 hits, including a pair of triples, and has shown great athleticism at first base (something Carter failed to do in his opportunities).
Do Jemile Weeks and Brandon Allen make you optimistic for 2012?
And just like that, an impact bat produced by the draft and an impact bat produced via a low-profile trade.
The A's have a very promising right side of their infield to give fans something to look forward to for years to come.
Carter can now be given the time necessary to develop into a big league hitter capable of filling the designated hitter role and Michael Taylor won't have the pressure of high expectations when he finally does arrive in Oakland.
The pair of moves, although dealing within a small sample size, demonstrate that Beane has not lost the magic touch that previously earned him the "genius" label.
You see, Allen and Weeks represent more than just their promising production on the field. They represent the thought that the A's front office has not lost touch with the current way the game is played. They have not been left behind by the rest of the league.
Allen and Weeks should give A's fans a reason to be excited again about future trades, future draft picks, current prospects in the system and their own production while wearing the green and gold for at least the next five seasons.
If Beane can bring back Willingham (another trade that went in the A's favor) for 2012 and the pitching staff can perform to their capabilities, optimism should quickly turn to excitement and real opportunity towards contention next season.
Now, if we could just do something about that stadium issue...