So, you really like what’s going on in Oakland these days? And you really want to throw your support behind the A’s now that they’re officially going to be in the playoffs and aren’t sucky anymore? Well, that would qualify you as a bandwagon fan. No, don’t worry, I’m not using that term in a derogatory sense. Truth is, I invite people to jump on the A’s bandwagon, and the A’s community should welcome you. WHO ELSE IS GOING TO FILL THE COLISEUM IN THE PLAYOFFS? But you should at least know a little about what your supporting. What do you think this is, the presidential election? This is sports, damn it. This **** matters!
Anyway, please feel free to use this as a reference guide as you join the Athletics and their fans in progress of what’s been a totally amazing journey. But, remember: if this good thing the A’s have going suddenly crashes and burns, it’s all your fault.
First things first…
The back story
Simply put, the A’s were not supposed to be in a pennant race in the late stages of the season, let alone actually make the playoffs. This is a team of cast-offs and up-and-comers. A who’s who collection of players. A motley crew of Billy Beane’s finest bargains. Any great success this team would have was supposed to be a year or two down the road. But not this season. It was looking like that would be the case for the first couple months of the season. And then, sometime shortly before the All-Star break, it happened. The pitching was coming together, the A’s were getting timely hitting, and the playoffs suddenly looked like a possibility. The team rode that momentum in the second half of the season, and now here they are. A playoff team. A wild card team at the very least, with a puncher’s chance still remaining to steal the division crown.
Sooooo what’s the deal with this wild card thing? It’s only one game?
Yes. This is the first year where MLB is having a second wild card team in each league. That changes the playoff picture a bit. Now, both wild card teams play in a one-game playoff. The winner goes on to play the team with the best record in their respective league in the Divisional Series. It still counts as the playoffs, but there’s still a distinct possibility your postseason will be extremely short-lived.
Why’d they change the old format? If it’s not broken, don’t fix it.
Actually, the old way was broken. This added wrinkle came about because people were tired of wild card teams winning the World Series without even winning their own division (look no further than the Cards last season). By introducing a wild card round, it puts the wild card teams at an added disadvantage (namely with pitching and potentially also travel) heading into the LDS and gives teams added incentive to become division winners.
Ah, totes makes sense. But what’s this mean for the A’s?
If the Rangers win the AL West (they only need one game to do so), that means the A’s will definitely be playing in the wild card game. Whether they’ll be hosts or visitors is still to be determined. It also matters what happens out in the AL East. The Yankees and Orioles are still battling it for that division crown. Whoever doesn’t win the division between those two teams will be the A’s wild card opponent. As of writing the Yanks are a game up and have two games with the awful Red Sox. The O’s are playing the Rays. Right now, it looks like the wild card game could wind up being played in either Baltimore or Oakland (if they finish with the same record, whichever city has the least amount of murders this year is not a tiebreaker). But funny things can happen in the final two games of a season, and the A’s could wind up playing for their lives in the Bronx by the end of the week. And that would suck.
This may come as a surprise, but Brad Pitt is not actually the general manager of the Oakland Athletics. (Jaw on the floor.) I know, right! There was that whole documentary last year where the A’s won 20 games in a row and Brad Pitt threw a lot of furniture!
Well, turns out “Moneyball” is what Hollywood insiders call a “movie.” (There was a book, too!) And Brad Pitt was really just playing a guy named Billy Beane, the actual GM of the A’s, who actually did win 20 games in a row in 2002 with an actual payroll of paper clips and pocket lint.
Remember that movie from the ’80s “Weekend at Bernie’s”? You know, the one where two bumbling employees find their boss dead at his beach house and they try to pass him off as still alive for the entire weekend, and hijinks ensue because HE’S DEAD THE WHOLE TIME? (Yes, that is a real premise to a real movie.) Well, somehow Bernie is maintaining relevance over 20 years later thanks to the A’s.
It started when pitcher Jerry Blevins introduced outfielder Coco Crisp to the Bernie dance, inspired by a dance Bernie does in “Weekend at Bernie’s II.”
Hold up. “Weekend at Bernie’s TWO”?!
Yes, there was really a sequel to “Weekend at Bernie’s,” much to Elaine Benes’ dismay. Anyway, the dance started to become a running gag in the clubhouse. Then Brandon Inge made it his walk-up music as a joke. Then the players started doing the dance after walk-offs and big plays. Then the dance caught on with the fans. All the cool kids were doing it.
And now we have a phenomenon our hands. The song regularly gets played at the Coliseum, with the right field bleachers leading the fans in full Bernie. The A’s got to make a music video with ATM and IMD for their song “Bernie Lean,” which Crisp uses as his walk-up music. The entire saga culminated when the actor who played Bernie in the Bernie movies came to the coliseum to throw out the first pitch. And it was awesome:
(My favorite part about that game was when the actor, Terry Kiser, came up to the TV booth for an inning and A’s color man Ray Fosse evidently could not get over that Bernie was dead for the entire movie.)
So, Bernie has become an unofficial mascot for the team. And the dance has been a go-to celebration. Oh, and now there’s also the #OctoBernie hashtag, which I’ve already fallen in lust with. Such is the phenomenon of the Bernie.
That’s the A’s payroll.
You mean for their best player, right?
HA! Who do you think owns the A’s, Walter White? No, that’s how much the A’s are paying their whole team. It’s the lowest payroll in the league. And now the A’s even still have a chance to finish with the best record in the AL. MONEYBALL!
OK. On to the team…
Starting center fielder. Lead-off hitter. Really fast on the base paths (39 stolen bases, as of Tuesday). Used to have the best hair in all of baseball. Hasn’t rocked the fro as wildly in a while, but it’s all good now because he’s the proprietor of all-things Bernie. Had some type of pink eye last week but sadly didn’t use it to sabotage any of the A’s opponents.
Wait. His name is really Coco Crisp? Like some type of cereal?
Yep. Covelli Loyce Crisp. But for some reason Rob Gronkowski is the one who gets his own cereal.
Starting right fielder. A’s leader in home runs (32, as of Tuesday) and RBI. Acquired in the offseason as part of the Andrew Bailey/Ryan Sweeney trade. Clubhouse prankster. Likes to pie teammates after games. Made a brilliant Spider-Man catch in Toronto, so he later dressed up as Spider-Man. Coming off an ugly 0-for-30 slump, but is now seemingly (hopefully) back to crushing the ball. Will piss you off immensely when he occasionally lamely pops out in crucial at-bats. Working his way back into the cleanup spot in the lineup.
Starting left fielder, occasional center fielder. Three-spot hitter. Hits baseballs really far. Workout video demigod. Defected from Cuba last year. Five-tool player. Was a highly touted foreign-import free agent in the offseason, despite being shrouded in mystery due to playing in Cuba (history lesson: Cuba y Estado Unidos no es amigos). The A’s somehow came away with him after outbidding the likes of the deeper-pocketed Marlins, Cubs, White Sox and Tigers.
But I thought the A’s were cheap?
They are. That’s what made his signing so out-of-nowhere. But, boy, has it worked out. Probably would have a decent chance at AL Rookie of the Year, if not for that Trout fella in Anaheim.
Pronounced Yo-ennis Sess-puh-diss. I think.
Starting pitcher. Super funny on Twitter. Has an attractive wife. Out for the season after having brain surgery when a line drive struck him in the back of the head last month.
Brain surgery? That sounds scary. Is he OK?
It was really scary. There were legitimate fears that his life was in jeopardy. For real. But, yeah, he’s progressing just fine now, and doctors believe he’ll be able to pitch again. It didn’t take long for his sense of humor to return. You’ll see him hanging around with the team in the clubhouse and dugout.
Starting pitcher. Friend of stripper-looking ladies. At 24, remarkably is one of the A’s most experienced pitchers. Came back in August from Tommy John surgery and pitched pretty well. Strained his oblique after six starts and is out for the rest of the regular season. There remains a possibility he could return in the playoffs. Once mistaken by Manny Ramirez as the team’s video coordinator.
Former all-star. Former world champion. Alleged juicer. Ostensible weirdo. Doer of water aerobics. The A’s inexplicably signed Manny, 40, in the offseason despite his standing 50-game drug suspension. The plan was to make him the DH when he came back. That never happened. His suspension ended, and the A’s never called him up. He asked for his release and was gone.
Starting pitcher. Perennial fat guy. 39. Signed by the A’s to add some veteran experience to the rotation. Pitched up and down for most of the year—mostly up, probably because he was juicing. Busted for synthetic testosterone (a week after Giants OF Melky Cabrera was. The Bay Area and steroids. Like peas and carrots!) and suspended for 50 games. Could return in the postseason should the A’s make it far. But he’s likely done with the team.
Back-up catcher. First career home run was a walk-off back in June against the hated Giants, your other Bay Area bandwagon choice this postseason.
Primary catcher. Picked up by the A’s after being DFA’ed by the Brewers in July. Has come up huge with some timely hitting. Further proof the A’s can get things done with parts picked up at the scrap yard.
First baseman. Splits time with Brandon Moss at the position. Soft spoken dude with a big bat. Former top prospect. Finally understanding things on the big-league level after being called up to the majors and demoted, like, 30 different times.
Third baseman. Long-time Detroit Tiger. Tigers cut him lose early in the season. Naturally, the A’s picked him up, and it’s paid dividends. One of the team’s leaders in the clubhouse. Out for the season after needing shoulder surgery last month. Has super douchey tattoos of his sons names on each of his forearms.
Starting third baseman. Converted catcher. Began the year as the starter but got sent down when the team got Inge. After Inge’s injury, became the starter at the hot corner again. Rookie.
First baseman/outfielder. Baseball journeyman. Surprise story on the team this year. Was hoping to just get a job overseas when the A’s came calling in December. For every headache he’ll give you while he’s in the field, he’ll make up for it with his bat. One of, like, 15 Brandons on the A’s.
Occasional left fielder. Occasional DH. Local guy. From Petaluma. Probably the only person in the Bay who legitimately cared about Petaluma’s run in the Little League World Series. Signed with the A’s in the offseason. Solid contributor on offense. Looks like a tool. Actually a good guy.
Relief pitcher. Rookie. Top lefty in the bullpen. Drafted by the club as a first baseman. Switched to pitching while still in the minors last year.
Starting shortstop. The new guy in the clubhouse. Acquired in August from the D-Backs for practically pennies. Came back in June after missing a year with a broken ankle. Best year was 2008, when he hit .291, 21 home runs and scored 91 runs. Hitting .250 since joining the team.
Starting second baseman. Former starting shortstop. Moved over when the club acquired Stephen Drew. Great with the glove, bleh with the bat.
Closer. Had the role to start the year but lost it when his pitching went on the fritz. Regained the role in August when Ryan Cook’s pitching went on the fritz. Hasn’t blown a save since then (16-for-16). When he enters games, rage. Australian.
Like, “From Australia” Australian?
As Australian as Hugh Jackman chugging some “grog” riding a dingo while listening to AC/DC and waiting for his boomerang to fly back.
Pitcher. Currently a starter. Sometimes a reliever. Veteran-turned-rookie. Leads the A’s in tats. Another player the A’s have found magic with after being dumped by another team (U mad, Giants?). Australian.
Wait, the A’s have TWO Aussies?
Yes, as if having one Aussie who plays baseball wasn’t rare enough, the A’s went ahead and got themselves another.
Relief pitcher. Local kid. Went to Bishop O’Dowd High School in Oakland. Pitched at Cal. Second-round pick by the A’s in 2008. Tried to make it work as a starter but it didn’t really pan out. Voluntarily went to the minors briefly to reinvent himself as reliever because he is a team player. The jury is still out on how that will work out. Mostly used in long relief whenever A’s starters decide to poop their pants, which is more often than you think.
Relief pitcher. The A’s lone, token all-star this season, and impressively did so as a rookie. He earned that honor as the A’s closer, but, as mentioned in the Grant Balfour section (see “Grant Balfour”), he has since lost that role. Now a rockstar set-up man. Still prone to occasionally do rookie things that will make your skin crawl, such as give up leads or put men on base.
Starting pitcher. Rookie. 25. Doesn’t throw a lot of heat but still very effective. Has been favorably compared to Barry Zito. Cool at home, dicey on the road. Set the A’s record for most wins by a rookie starting pitcher. Acquired with Derek Norris in the Gio Gonzalez trade in the offseason.
Starting pitcher. Rookie. 23. Perhaps the most consistent and reliable A’s starter currently in the rotation. Nearly no-hit the Rangers (the Rangers!) in June. Starting pitcher of Monday night’s clincher. Acquired in the Trevor Cahill trade in the offseason.
Starting pitcher. Rookie. 24. 7-1 record. 2.71 ERA. Not acquired in any offseason deals. Home grown.
Starting pitcher. Rookie. 23. Fifth starter in the A’s current all-rookie starting rotation. Struggling of late. Probably won’t see any starts in the postseason if the A’s go far.
Wow, those were a lot of rookies you just mentioned.
Yeah, well, such are the A’s this season. That’s part of why they’re one of baseball’s great stories this season.
Manager. First full season with the club. Came on board on an interim basis last season after replacing Bumbling Bob Geren. Has a legitimate shot to win AL Manager of the year. Who knows where this team is without him.
Team owner. Loves everything about the A’s ending their playoff drought because it probably means the MLB will finally decide whether he can build a new stadium in San Jose. A’s fans hate him because of this. Whenever he is shown on TV or his picture is taken, unicorns are slaughtered and puppies are maimed.
Green-collar baseball, ladies and gentlemen. Enjoy the playoffs and rest of regular season.
Photo by Keith Allison
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