A’s Sweep Rangers, Win AL West

Why Oakland is one of the most surprising championship teams in the history of baseball.

Josh Helmuthby Josh Helmuth

I had tickets to see the Oakland A's play their historic one-game-playoff Wild Card matchup on Friday night. I wanted to witness history. It's now evident that history decided to arrive early and I am now in need of a refund.

The A's completed the unlikeliest of sweeps on Wednesday with a 12-5 win at home over the Texas Rangers, earning them the AL West crown and avoiding the one-game Wild Card playoff. The Athletics hadn't led the division all season long…until Wednesday, the last day of the regular season.

Outfielder Jonny Gomes said to MLB Network after the game, "Who thought we were going to be here? I know a manager and G.M. thought we did… it took us 162, and that's why we play them all."

Let's look at why this run by the Oakland Athletics is so historic:

— The A's are only the 3rd team in the history of baseball to win a division or pennant without spending a single day in first place all season. Only the 2006 Twins and 1951 Giants can make that claim.

— Oakland is just the 5th team in history to bounce back from a deficit of 13 games or more and the first since the '95 Mariners.

Here is the short list of teams in MLB history that were down the most games after coming back to claim 1st place.
–1914 Braves, 15 games back on July 4
–1978 Yankees, 14 games back on July 19
–1995 Mariners, 13 games back on August 2
–1951 Giants, 13 games back on August 11

–Two of the four teams to previously come from 13-or-more games back went on to win the World Series.

— After losing Brandon McCarthy to injury most of the year, Bartolo Colon to drug suspension mid way through the season and after trading away key starters Gio Gonzalez, Trevor Cahill and Rich Harden after 2011, Oakland spent much of 2012 starting nothing but rookie pitchers. And they stepped up big. So big in fact, they broke nearly every pitching rookie record in baseball, which includes 53 wins by rookie starters, the most in league history.

— The A's were 37-42 and 13 games out of first place on June 30. Since that time, they've gone 57-26. They've also won 9 of their last 11.

— Since June 10 they have the best record in the game at 68-33

— They've scored 394 runs since the all-star break, best of any playoff team.

–They have a 2.25 ERA during late, close games – which is No. 2 in all of baseball. They also have a 1.04 WHIP during late, close games — which is best in baseball as well.

–Their OPS with 2 outs and runners on is tops of any playoff team as well at .779.

— The last time Oakland simply shared the division lead was March 30, when they had a record of 1-1.

It's no secret that this is a magical run Oakland has put together. But after seeing the stats laid in front of your eyes it seems to jump off the page at you to another level.

Gomes went on to talk about how management took on less widely known players — dubbed 'blue collar' —  and how they all really have a strong bond because of it.

"How can you explain it? Bob Melvin, 17 rookies, Yoenis Cespedes, Josh Reddick getting an opportunity…but there's one thing we all have in common and that's camaraderie. You take fun way from this team and I don't know what we got."

A's pitching coach, Curt Young spoke to the MLB Network TV crew as well following the historic win, saying, "It's so special, what those guys have done. It really is. They've all come up and did what they've been asked to do. It's such a long season and having it come down to the way it did is really incredible."

Although Texas jumped out to a commanding 5-1 lead after 3 innings on Wednesday, Oakland surged with 6 runs in the 4th with the help of a Coco Crisp two-RBI double and by taking advantage of a dropped two-out pop-fly in center by Josh Hamilton.

A's first baseman Brandon Moss went 2-4 with 3 RBI, a double and a run scored. A's rookie catcher Derek Norris had the game's only home run, a solo shot off Alexi Ogando in the 8th inning.

How fitting is it also that this team of misfit, cost efficient players makes such a statement during the same year General Manager Billy Beane's biographic-esque film Moneyball was released into theaters.

"We wanted to create a team that had a chance to get better from the first day forward," A's general manager Billy Beane said Wednesday morning to ESPN. "That was the expectation set. We just didn't know where we were going to start from, and in fairness, maybe we were a little further ahead when we started than maybe anyone anticipated."

Photo Credit: Getty

By: Thearon W. Henderson
Collection: Getty Images Sport

Josh Helmuth is the editor for CraveOnline Sports. You can follow him on Twitter @JHelmuth or subscribe at Facebook.com/CraveOnlineSports.