You’ve probably noticed it’s been a few days since my last update. That’s because going into the first round of the playoffs I told myself I wouldn’t celebrate anything until the A’s got past Detroit. I’ve seen this song and dance way too many times now. So when the A’s lost this past Thursday I didn’t want to acknowledge it. I just wanted to forget it happened again.
While I’ve tried to move on, I’ve spent a great deal of time trying to come up with a theory to clarify the repeated playoff failures. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to come up with anything resembling a plausible reason. I can’t explain it statistically, mechanically, or philosophically. Trying to reason why the A’s can’t get it done in the postseason is as futile as watching the lineup repeatedly flail away at untouchable fastballs from Justin Verlander.
Some people having been saying it’s because Billy Beane’s teams aren’t built to win in the playoffs, but that’s a load of nonsense. If a team wins 90+ games in the regular season they’re certainly good enough to win a playoff series. The A’s have had plenty of chances to advance during their recent forays into the playoffs.
Others have lamented the fact the A’s never have a true “superstar” hitter in the middle of their lineup to intimidate opposing pitchers the way somebody like Miguel Cabrera does for Detroit. Well, the A’s had Jason Giambi in 2000 and ’01, Miguel Tejada in 2002 and ’03, and Frank Thomas in 2006, and none of those teams went all the way.
I used to think it was because the A’s had grown so accustomed to playing with a chip on their collective shoulder and relishing the role of the underdog that they didn’t know how to handle glory, but if that were the case I don’t think they would’ve been able to take the AL West the past two seasons, especially when you consider the dogfights they’ve had to withstand.
I’ve always been a huge proponent of the timeless saying “Shit happens” because it not only hilariously observes that life is full of unforeseeable events, but because I don’t think everything happens for a reason. Some stuff happens because that’s just the way it is. There are plenty of things on this planet that just can’t be completely elucidated no matter how you look at it or break it down. A 1-12 record in elimination games since 2000 can’t be explained by any statistical measure or theory anybody can propose. There is no rhyme or reason why a team continues to fail in the same fashion despite a shuffling cast of characters and a number of changes in the game (less offense, more dominant pitching, etc.). Six first-round exits in seven postseason berths is unfathomable, and anybody who claims to understand it is a fibber.
You may think that something would have to give at some point, but in the random chaos that is the playoffs, all conventional wisdom must be thrown out the window like unusable World Series tickets. The playoffs are a completely different beast from the regular season. Even though the game itself is still the same, nothing surrounding it is. How it all affects the A’s is a mystery to me, one that will probably never be fully understood.