OAKLAND Maybe they're too young to know better. Or maybe a lousy ballpark and pathetic atmosphere are irrelevant when you're just trying to hang onto a job. Or maybe they really believe they can do this orchestrate one of those amazing pennant races that has fans sprinting for the entrance and scrambling for the best seats.
Extra-inning spectacles. Walk-off hits. Pies in the face. Victory dances in the dugout.
If this keeps up and Saturday's 3-1, extra-inning loss to the Toronto Blue Jays remains a rare occurrence the A's will make life awfully uncomfortable for a few people. Winners can only be ignored for so long. Imagine what this place would look like if the A's held on to that wild-card spot or somehow swiped the division title from the Texas Rangers or Los Angeles Angels.
O.co Coliseum would still be a dump, but there would be fannies in the seats, revived debates about small vs. large markets, invigorated conversations about A's vs. Giants, and increased national attention on a stadium situation that is embarrassing and contentious and not even close to being resolved.
San Jose? Fremont? Oakland, anyone?
Bud Selig, Lew Wolff/John Fisher, Oakland city officials and even Giants executives who cling to their territorial rights would all be prodded out of hiding. The pressure to do something would be enormous. Forty months after Selig commissioned a study into the viability of a new stadium for the A's, and where it should or should not be located, the parties might finally be forced to find some answers.
But Bob Melvin and his ballclub, quite frankly, are forcing the action. Despite the organization's familiar budgetary restrictions, the usual key injuries and a virtual raiding of the River Cats' roster, the A's are in the midst of their best run since 2006. They are 15-6 since the All-Star break, lead the league in walk-off wins, and thus far have shown a remarkable ability to overcome obvious disadvantages and generate their own energy and enthusiasm.
In a very real sense, their success threatens to undermine ownership's arguments political inertia, lack of corporate opportunities, fan apathy, etc. against remaining in Oakland. Yet if they are still chasing a pennant in late September and the fans start turning out and attendance figures already are inching upward then what?
Right. Important people will start squirming.
"Everybody knows the history of this ballpark and the team, and the tendencies of the fans," said second baseman Jemile Weeks, "but we stay away from all that. And we believe that if we win, (large crowds) will start to happen."
Meantime, here's an idea: Wolff and Fisher should take their eyes off San Jose long enough to give Oakland another look, to re-engage the city and area corporations, to revisit a potential waterfront facility near Jack London Square. In other words, ride the wave and follow the Giants' blueprint. While the Giants seem determined to keep the A's out of the South Bay, they might not be so thrilled by the prospect of a competitor suddenly situated in a spectacular waterfront setting located just over the bridge and a few miles down the freeway.
Imagine this current A's team in a nice ballpark. One where binoculars aren't advised with every ticket purchase. Where there isn't enough room in foul territory to accommodate a few Olympic-size swimming pools.
Exceptional pitching. Yoenis Cespedes. Daring on the basepaths. Even when they lose in extra innings and closer Ryan Cook has squandered saves in consecutive games they are interesting and entertaining.
After starter A.J. Griffin left in the second inning with tightness in his shoulder, the bullpen maintained the 1-0 lead until Toronto tied the score in the ninth. In the 11th, the Blue Jays parlayed a single, double, two steals and a throwing error by catcher George Kottaras into a 3-1 lead.
"We haven't won a championship or anything," said veteran third baseman Brandon Inge, "but we've beaten the best teams out there, and we know that we're a good ballclub. It feels similar to when I was with Detroit in 2006, and we were picked to finish dead last. We wound up going all the way to the World Series. Years like that can sneak up on people."