Just as quickly as the A's had dispatched the Minnesota Twins in the ALDS, sweeping them in three games, they were easily handled by the World Series-bound Detroit Tigers, who wrapped up their four game sweep of the A's tonight with a bottom of the ninth, two outs, three run home run by Magglio Ordoñez, making the final tally 6-3 in their favor. Comerica Stadium erupted in celebration and shouting, just as McAfee Coliseum had done just a week and a half ago, when the A's had clinched an ALCS birth for the first time in 14 years. But this time, the A's left the field, some hanging their heads, knowing that tonight's game was the last they will play in 2006, having come so close, but left so far from reaching the goal - a World Series title.
In the months to come, as individual players and plays are dissected and examined, there may be much made of Mark Ellis' injury, Eric Chavez's comments that the Tigers were the better team, Frank Thomas' lack of hitting in the series, and as always, the same platitudes regarding Moneyball and how the A's "stuff" just doesn't work in the playoffs. But even in this loss, we are pleased with how the team forged its way into one of the last four to be playing, as 26 teams had long gone home. Despite a payroll that came in at one-fourth the size of the bloated New York Yankees, and tens of millions less than the division rival Angels, the A's were the ones playing deep into October.
2006 was the first time I've ever owned season tickets for the A's, and though driving up and down Highway 880 twice a week for an entire summer got tedious, I can't think of any time I was disappointed I went. The more than 40 contests (and likely 50, including Spring Training and playoffs) we took in this year were a fantastic way to follow the team up close and root them on to the best of our ability. We know they aren't perfect, and today's loss (as with the previous three) is disheartening, but as fans, we just need to take a deep breath, and move on. We will find other obsessions to focus on through the cold, lifeless, winter months, be they other sports, politics, and as always, there's plenty of work to do at the office. And there's always Athletics Nation. That crowd of A's fans is always ready to talk green and gold, regardless of the date, all year round.
Tonight, we'll feel empty, and all next week, we will have to take sympathy and make excuses for the loss to colleagues who see us representing the team, but we'll pull through. I wanted to say thanks to the A's players, management and ownership for putting together such a great season with such likeable players, and we hope to push even further - in 2007.
Listening to ''Love You More (Extended Vocal Mix)'', by Armin van Buuren (Play Count: 4)