This season has felt completely different from any other season in recent memory. After last year’s litany of walk-off wins and improbable run to the playoffs, I came into 2013 with supremely high expectations. In my mind, anything short of a championship would be a huge disappointment. Perhaps it’s a bit brash to think that way when you’re a fan of a small market team, but that’s what happens when a young squad makes the postseason and returns next year with much of the same roster. I fully expected the A’s to pick up where they left off, and Bob Melvin seemingly did too after declaring the team has some unfinished business to take care of after Sunday’s victory.
Last year, it seemed as though many people were simply happy to be in the playoffs. Most of the so-called experts picked the A’s to finish dead last, with some predicting 100 or more losses. So when the A’s won the division, many people seemed satisfied with merely bucking the odds. I was definitely satisfied, but years of frustration from roster turnover and ridicule from opposing fans had me starving for way more. With the way the A’s played in the second half I expected the run to continue all the way to the championship. They seemed like a team of destiny that just wouldn’t be denied.
Alas, that dream died on a cool October night in East Oakland thanks to Justin Verlander and the Tigers, but as soon as the last out was recorded my mind instantly jumped to next season. I knew the bulk of the team would be returning, and I believed their newfound experience would be the key to winning it all. My expectations shot way higher than ever before.
However, I was also worried about underperforming and failing to make it back to the playoffs since nothing is guaranteed (just ask the Washington Nationals). Part of me felt like I wouldn’t be able to relax until a playoff berth was locked up. Of course, once the playoffs start my nerves will be shot to shit again, but as I told everybody from the bleachers as we partied in the parking lot after Sunday’s win, “Step One is complete.”
The current standings have the A’s, just a game back of Boston for the best record in baseball, set for a rematch with the Tigers in the ALDS. If the A’s can overtake Boston they will face the winner of the wild card game. Regardless of who they face the A’s will look to go further than last year. So will Billy Beane, whose teams have lost in the first round six of the seven times they have made the playoffs since he became general manager in October 1997.
This year’s team, which is probably the most complete squad the A’s have had in the past 20 years, has already scored more runs than last season (744 so far compared to 713). The pitching staff’s numbers are pretty much in line with what they did last year. Despite some down seasons from some players, this team has gotten better in every facet of the game and is truly among the best in baseball.
After totaling winning records in every single month, the A’s are seemingly ready to finally break through and bring a fifth championship back to the East Bay.
Come October 4, it’s time to take care of some business.