Regardless of what happens in the playoffs, it's been an incredible ride.
What if I told you seven months ago that the Oakland Athletics would win 97 games during the 2018 regular season and go on to play the New York Yankees in the American League Wild Card game?
Well, you'd probably think I was crazy, which would be justified.
Even as a dedicated A's fan, I couldn't have possibly predicted success for this season. The A's only won 75 games in 2017, missing the playoffs by 10 games. Although younger players, such as Matt Olson and Matt Chapman, or the "Killer Matts" as I refer to them as, displayed promising talent, Oakland got off to a sluggish start and couldn't recover in the second half of the season.
When the offseason arrived, no one expected Oakland's General Manager David Forst to make any monumental acquisitions. The A's are a smaller market team and thus do not have the financial flexibility that big-city teams, such as the Yankees and Red Sox, do. Forst, however, made some under-the-radar moves that would eventually prove to be crucial for his team.
First off, the A's traded with the St. Louis Cardinals for outfielder Stephen Piscotty. This was more of a courtesy move than a strategic one. Piscotty's mother, who lived in the Bay Area at the time, was suffering from ALS. Piscotty joined the A's so that he could spend more time with his mother before she passed.
The A's also signed veteran catcher Jonathan Lucroy, journeyman starters Trevor Cahill and Brett Anderson, southpaw reliever Ryan Buchter, and platoon player Nick Martini, none of which were viewed as significant pickups.
Lucroy is past his prime but was brought in as a mentor for younger players on the roster. Cahill and Anderson, who previously played for Oakland earlier in the decade, returned on one-year deals to fill spots in the team's injury-plagued rotation. Buchter arrived as a cheap lefty specialist, and Martini was signed to add depth to the roster.
I didn't think much of these moves. To be perfectly honest, no one did. These players aren't household names. They aren't guys who turn a bad team into a playoff-caliber one. I was content with another season of mediocrity. I was content with another season of losing.
Unsurprisingly, the Green and Gold got off to a slow start out the gate. By mid-June, the team was struggling to stay above .500, falling farther and farther behind in the AL playoff hunt.
Then, something magical occurred.
I'm not sure exactly what instigated it, but the team started winning games. A LOT OF GAMES. Eventually, Oakland found itself back in the thick of the playoff hunt. Not only were the A's on a roll, but the Mariners, who at the time held the second Wild Card position, began spiraling downward.
Everyone was in sync with one another. Khris Davis continued to smash dingers throughout the second half. Blake Treinen was unhittable. Matt Chapman did everything right. Bob Melvin had found the perfect formula: it doesn't matter whether the rest of the league notices your success, as long as you do your part and win ball games.
Somehow, some way, the A's had moved into a playoff spot by August. The makeshift pitching rotation was comprised of veterans who'd seen better days, yet they exceeded expectations. The young studs impressed, and the role players came up clutch on a nightly basis.
This story may sound familiar if you've seen the movie "Moneyball". The A's are notorious for defying the odds. The team whose key players this season included Edwin Jackson, Marcus Semien, and Ramon Laureano is playing the Yankees in a do-or-die elimination game. Take a second to digest that.
I don't expect the A's to win the World Series. Hell, I don't even expect them to beat the Yankees. I'm still proud of this team and all it has accomplished this season. Everyone counted us out, yet we're still here in October.
Keep doubting us. Keep hating on our inability to attract commercial players. Keep making fun of our shitty stadium. We'll just continue to prove you wrong like we've done all year.
I'm excited to see what the future holds, but for now, we have business to take care of.
Bring on Goliath; David is always up for the challenge.