August 16, 2012
In A Pickle
Oakland's Not-Too-Wild Wild Card Scenario
I write this on Wednesday evening. It is mid-August. The Ides of August, even, though you're reading this the day after. The Oakland Athletics are 61-55, counting the Wednesday loss to the Royals. The last time the A's had a record this good this late was 2006, when they won the AL West behind Frank Thomas's bat and then went 3–4 in the playoffs—three wins against the Twins and four losses to the Tigers.
They're not looking at the division crown this year. They were up 5 1/2 games in the Short Stack in 2006, and they're down six now. Six games doesn't sound like a lot when there are 46 still to play, especially with seven of those 46 against the first-place Rangers. But it is a lot. The Rangers are a better team than the A's, so those games remaining are more likely to bury the Green & Gold than they are to become their salvation. This is why Oakland is only given a 1 percent chance at winning the division in the current iteration of our Playoff Odds. (Current as of my writing, anyway, which doesn't incorporate the Wednesday games yet, though I'll eat my hat with mustard if that figure differs much as you're reading this.)
No, the wild card, that's the prize. (Such as it is, anyway. You can call it what you want, but I ain't calling them "the playoffs" unless it's a multi-game series.) The A's stand a game back of Detroit and 1 1/2 back of Tampa and Baltimore. There are three games remaining with each of those teams as well. From here, there are some things that would be easy to do: I could tell you why the A's won't make the playoffs or I could tell you how the A's can back their way in (Miguel Cabrera gets hurt, the Rays slump, whatever). The first thing is boring because it's probably true and the second thing is depressing because playing "anything could happen" with negatives is morbid. It carries a whiff of ill wishes. It invites karmic whiplash. We don't want that.
Instead, let's muse on how Oakland can fin