Just about this time last year, I remember writing about how completely deceived I was by the Oakland Athletics, a team I thought should have lost 90 games by late September, not win that many.
But, Oakland used their experience last season, and were brilliantly managed by Bob Melvin, coming amazingly close to even making it to the series last year.
However, I saw the moves Billy Beane made over the off-season, like acquiring Jed Lowrie, John Jaso and Chris Young while retaining Coco Crisp, and it was very clear to me what the 2013 path could be.
In fact, just before Tout Wars, on the CBS Broadcast hosted by Nando DiFino, I was pretty sure that Young would get 400 at-bats (currently at 353 plate appearances, and 315 at-bats, with an average that just crept over the Mendoza line), that neither Jemile Weeks nor Hiroyuki Nakajima would be a factor, and that pretty much every position player on the team was capable of double-digit dingers over the course of the season.
Add in that those record setting rookie pitchers of last season all were now essentially veterans, with playoff experience, along with a pretty good bullpen.
Still, in the toughest division in the Majors--and I do mean the AL West, with the Rangers and Angels--going into the 2013 season it seemed that despite the solid roster, Oakland would still have a tough row to hoe to make it to the postseason.
However, after last night's 11-0 trouncing of the Twins, brilliantly manipulated by the wiley Bartolo Colon, who nabbed his 17th win, Oakland now has 174 homers for the season, including four players with 20-plus big flies.
And, paramount among those players is third sacker Josh Donaldson, who at .306-24-91 is among the league leaders in hits, and has 54 multi-hit contests. If you have not paid much attention to Donaldson, remember that going into the spring of 2012, he was a catcher, not a third sacker, and he was struggling with defense and the plate such that he had to spend the first couple of months of the year in Sacramento.
Since his return to O.co, however, the 27-year-old has been more than a revelation, playing an increasingly strong defense, and proving himself to be the best pure hitter on the team.
The only exceptions to the double-digit taters are catcher Derek Norris (who does have eight, but also has missed time on the DL), any of the three Oakland second basemen (although by the third week of spring, Scott Sizemore was still the Athletics second sacker) and the DH spot (Seth Smith also has eight). However, fourth outfielder Chris Young does have 12.
Still, Oakland is largely unknown and underestimated.
But, with a great defensive lineup--the team can essentially play centerfielders at all three outfield spots--great pop on both sides of the plate meaning good platoon possibilities, and a postseason rotation that is probably Colon (17-6, 2.64), Jarrod Parker (11-7, 3.81), A.J. Griffin (14-9, 3.78) and Dan Straily (10-7, 4.08), or even more dangerous Sonny Gray (3-3, 2.50), the other postseason teams better not let down for a second.
If you remember way back in the spring, when I noted the Athletics were really good, it seemed everyone's favorite in the American League were the revamped Blue Jays. In fact, conversely, while the Athletics might have been underrated, the Red Sox and Yankees were flat out dismissed.
However, if we look at the standings today, well, the Sox, and soon the A's may well have the last laugh, while the Jays, despite all their talent, will have to wait until next year.
What that means is the best collection of players does not necessarily constitute the best team. The collection of players needs to perform well as a unit.
I am not sure if Oakland has the best of those, as in team, but they certainly are one of them.
Don't say I didn't warn you.