Their classless fans once caused Texas reliever Frank Francisco to throw a chair, Boston’s David Ortiz to contemplate jumping into the stands Ron Artest-style, and even the mild-mannered C.J. Wilson to say “I hate pitching” in Oakland.
They wave flags, beat drums, ring cowbells, and toot air horns. They wear odd paraphernalia more suitable for a hippie Halloween party than a baseball game, and sit 10,000 feet from home plate which means they probably cannot tell the difference between long-haired hillbillies A.J. Griffin and Josh Reddick.
Why is baseball so whacky in Oakland? Maybe because it was founded in the late 1960s, duuuuude. Nothing has changed since the Woodstock Era. Second baseman Eric Sogard looks like he’s gonna jump on stage and sing with Fleetwood Mac, catcher Derek Norris probably hasn’t showered since spring training, and Reddick has living organisms inside an unkempt, bushy beard that makes Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg look clean-shaven. (By the way, last year Tigers fans coined him, “ReddicKKKKKKKKKK” for his 10 strikeouts in the ALDS.)
They play in a stadium that allegedly gave birth to the Steroid Era, the entire upper-level is composed of unused seats, and there’s been three sewage eruptions in the bowels of the ballpark since June. MLB commissioner Bud Selig isn’t right about many things, but he recently called Oakland Coliseum “a pit.”
Add it together, and maybe this is why Oakland has won one playoff series in the past seven attempts. Or maybe it’s because the payroll of $71.1 million causes the front office to employ interchangeable parts which makes it difficult to build a dynasty.
Who are these guys in the mustard-stained yellow? One batter hits above .300: That’s Josh Donaldson, who claims to be an MVP candidate – as Miguel Cabrera laughs in the distance. Then again, it’s quite amazing Donaldson can maintain a healthy batting average in a park that has 150,000-square feet of foul territory. That does speak volumes – until Miggy laughs again.
Anyway, before you say the A’s are those “on-base percentage specialists” straight out of the Moneyball cast who were assembled by genius GM Billy Beane, think about this: The Tigers have a better on-base percentage (.349-.327).
Sure, the A’s are pesky. Sure, they battle every at-bat, foul-off pitches, and raise a starter’s pitch count. But remember: They have a lingering nightmare of Justin Verlander’s Game 5 complete-game shutout in last year’s ALDS.
The Verlander horse is whinnying in the Coliseum stables as he readies to break hearts in the Bay Area again. Did you watch that Sept. 23 start against Minnesota? Ten strikeouts through 11 possible outs? Vintage Verlander. He had that “hop” off the mound, that shuffling of the feet, that electricity smoking out of his delivery. The curveball buckled knee caps. The fastball was sizzlin’.
Keep dreaming, Oakland. Championships aren’t won in August, as much as you like to boast about the 34-run, 52-hit outburst at Comerica Park. Tigers hibernate sometimes, but not in October. And they certainly do not fear elephants.
And do you really think fate is on the side of Bartolo Colon? The pudgy fella is 40. We’re not going to make any allegations here, but there’s something fishy going on with a guy who was a mound phantom in 2010, mediocre the past two regular seasons, suspended for last season’s playoffs, and is suddenly a Cy Young candidate.
Oh, by the way, for all those worried about the Tigers “hitting issues,” we have one word for you.
They averaged 3.8 runs per game in an 18-game stretch prior to the season-ending meaningless series in Miami. Not great numbers, but they’re enough for Max Scherzer, Anibal Sanchez, and The Horse to win. Even with a hobbled Miggy, this lineup can detonate any Oakland starter. Remember that August series that the A’s boast about? The Tigers had 13 hits or more in three of four games.
And remember who won last year’s ALDS. Now that lineup adds a pro’s pro in the likes of Torii Hunter, the return of blue-light specials at VMart (Victor Martinez) and a dynamic defender up the middle in the likes of shortstop Jose Iglesias, the next progression in the shortstop timeline that started with Ozzie Smith and was carried on by Omar Vizquel.
Keep dreaming, Oakland. Stick to the cinemas. That’s your best shot at fame until there’s a new stadium, lucrative luxury boxes and, of course, revenue to keep the stars. It’s been a franchise-wide problem since Reggie Jackson jumped to the east coast in the mid-’70s.
And don’t feel sad when the Tigers win in 4: Halloween is right around the corner.