It was a heartbreaker for me to watch the Texas Rangers implode the last month of this season. Like other Rangers fans I was looking forward to a three-peat of the World Series with the Texas team going all the way this time. But as fate would have it, their old patterns resurfaced as their bats and pitching became ineffective. They were leading the American League West pretty much all season only to lose it to a scrappy Oakland A’s team that spent half the season at or near the bottom of the division.
Oakland won the last three games of season against the Rangers and clinched the division title in the final game, doing it in style by coming back from a 5-1 deficit in the 4th inning and winning with an impressive 12-5 score. In their playoff series with the American League Central champs, the Detroit Tigers, they came back after being down 2 games to none, they tied the series up 2-2, winning the 4th game 4-3 in the bottom of the ninth inning, after being down 3-1.
Unfortunately this remarkable effort to become a World Series contender from a team that has the lowest payroll in MLB baseball fell short last night as the Detroit Tigers were able to take their 5th highest payroll team and end Oakland’s fantastical rise to the top with a 6-0 win. Yet there is still much to be said about how this team of relative unknowns came as far as they did this season.
The A’s have represented baseball at its best and serve, I think, as a metaphor for life itself. This game use to be about heart, not salaries. About team work not prima donnas. About natural adrenaline, not steroid-induced heroics. About the collective effort not the self-interests of individuals. When you watch a team like the A’s beat the odds you have to love them for that trait that makes any of us remarkable – a passion for what drives us. To achieve what they have done with so little fiscally is to take nothing for granted and not see yourself as anything less than the best.
Adversity is but a road bump for those who see themselves going to the heights rather than as victims who are unable to move past disappointment. The A’s didn’t make it as a group of individuals with their own ambitions and the need to fulfill only their self-interests. Each man didn’t make the team because they were the best but because they had heart and someone was willing to give them chance to see where it would take them. They didn’t succeed alone but were successful because the other 39 members of a 40-man roster were there to catch them when they were weak and to fill the voids that happen incrementally throughout a season, career or an entire life.
I was hoping the A’s make would make it all the way to the World Series and walk off with that trophy. But even though they are not they have shown us all that success is more than just a personal will to win. As important as that is, it is still just a piece of a team effort that requires the stronger ones to carry the weak when needed with an ultimate goal of pulling everyone in that direction that makes them all winners.
I hope we can all learn something from the efforts of the A’s and see that working together is vital for success. When we put ourselves outside of the what’s best for all people we may have personal records that we can show off to others but we can’t parade that alleged exceptionalism around as a nation. Not while fewer and fewer people are living the American dream that once existed and only those at the top of the income tier are seeing gains.