What was once a statement that would be mocked and chided has now become inevitable: The A’s will make the playoffs in 2012.
Yes, it’s hardly official with 16 games left and a tough 10-game road trip facing the A’s. But entering today’s game against the Detroit Tigers, Oakland owns a 1½-game edge over the Baltimore Orioles for the top wild-card spot and, more importantly, a 4½-game lead on the Los Angeles Angels for the all-important second wild-card berth.
With each passing day, and each passing game, the A’s take another step closer to becoming the ultimate Cinderella invited to the postseason party.
And while the 2002 Oakland team inspired the book and movie “Moneyball,” this current club is proving to be the better Hollywood story.
From the superhero Spider-Man (Josh Reddick) — who when not saving damsels in distress is scaling walls to make acrobatic catches or launching homers into the night — to the stoic brains behind the operation, manager Bob Melvin, who should win the AL Manager of the Year award in a landslide, this Oakland club has it all.
Controversy? Bartolo Colon’s 50-game suspension for testing positive for a performance-enhancing drug fits the bill.
Tragedy? The line drive that struck ace Brandon McCarthy in the head and forced him to need surgery appears likely to end his season.
Comedic relief? The “Bernie lean” dance craze, inspired by an ATM and IMD rap song based on the character from the movie “Weekend at Bernie’s,” has swept across the Coliseum.
The A’s also have their own version of the Horse Whisperer in pitching coach Curt Young, who could probably turn Tim Tebow into a Cy Young Award winner. His staff, despite trading Gio Gonzalez, Trevor Cahill and Andrew Bailey in the offseason, has the third-best ERA in baseball (3.41) and is tied for the third-most shutouts in baseball (13). It’s also a staff that currently features four rookies (Jarrod Parker, Tommy Milone, A.J. Griffin and Dan Straily) and one player coming off Tommy John surgery (Brett Anderson) in the rotation. No matter whom the A’s seem to throw on the mound, they seem to put up zeros on the scoreboard.
The 2002 squad and its 20-game win streak had the big three of Barry Zito, who won the 2002 AL Cy Young, Tim Hudson and Mark Mulder, all proven big-league commodities. The offense had 2002 AL MVP Award winner Miguel Tejada and a bona fide slugger in Jermaine Dye; minute details that were overlooked in the movie “Moneyball.”
This club had a streak of its own, 12 straight road victories, that might be equally as impressive. But they won’t have anyone garner a Cy Young or MVP vote. They hit just .236 (29th in baseball) as a team and have an on-base percentage of .308 (25th in baseball).
And yet they’ve managed to outscore their opponents by 80 runs for the season, and with a solid road trip can lock up a spot in the playoffs for the first time since 2006.
The ultimate question, though, when it comes to the A’s is will there be a Hollywood ending to the 2012 season?
Stick around for the final act in October and find out.
Dylan Kruse is the sports editor of The San Francisco Examiner. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Twitter @dkruse16.