In April, Baseball Prospectus picked the Oakland A's to finish 73-89. In June, we called the team "hopeless," and said they were playing out the string. Today, they beat the Rangers, 12-5, to finish 94-68, one game better than Texas. In first place. The Oakland A's. They won the AL West. Holy shit.
Oakland triumphed with a roster of riffraff. Today's batting order included one player drafted by the A's and another signed as a Cuban free agent. The rest of the A's batters were mostly failed Red Sox, like Brandon Moss, Josh Reddick, Coco Crisp, and George Kottaras, with other castoffs peppered in. Reddick somehow hit 32 homers. Moss—who was dumped by the Pittsburgh Pirates—hit .291/.358/.596 in half a season. We laughed our asses off at Cespedes before the season, and he had a 136 OPS+.
The pitching staff was, as usual, a gang of anonymous youngsters who pitched well enough—Tommy Milone, Jarrod Parker, A.J. Griffin, Travis Blackley, and Dan Straily among them—with Brandon McCarthy and Bartolo Colon providing adult guidance, until both had to bow out. And yet the A's didn't slip. The bullpen got great stuff out of Grant Balfour, and Ryan Cook, and our man Sean Doolittle, not to mention all the other anonymous A's arms.
Oh, you want more wackiness? Let's give you some schedule-based stuff. Oakland never led the division by itself this year. Until today, that is. They shared first place for nine days all year. What else? Oakland went 51-25 in the second half. It's not quite 2001, when the A's went 58-17, but it's good. They were 13 games behind at the end of June. Now, as you know, they're one ahead.
What about the other indicators of the Athletics' health? Surely they must have predicted this! Nope. They did not hint at greatness. The A's ranked 12th out of 14 teams in attendance. The only people who showed up to their games were mean dogs. And their visible public support—despite the release of a major Hollywood movie about the team in 2011—came chiefly from the guy who played Bernie in Weekend at Bernie's.
But the A's have little in common with Bernie Lomax. They never were dead. They were just pretending all along. Holy shit.