A's can wait to learn Beane's veteran lesson

October 4, 2012, 12:11 am
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OAKLAND -- Billy Beane grabbed his third baseman, Josh Donaldson, on the far fringe of the Oakland Athletics daily party, made him turn around, cigar between his teeth and bottle of Domaine Chandon in his hand, and said with the seriousness of a thoracic surgeon, Make sure you enjoy this, because they dont come around that often.I will, Donaldson said, and then went back to thinking that this is what major league baseball is. A champagne-and-dry-ice rave-up every day, with nothing but happy endings and Jonny Gomes turning the infield hose on them and love from a nation full of total strangers.At that moment, with the As celebrating a division title, the crushing of history and the unfettered triumph of momentum over conventional logic, Beane would have had better luck trying to help Donaldson study for his law exam. There would be no lessons absorbed this day, except one:How much of a hoot it is to be young, eager and slap the world upside the earhole.The As finished the job that wasnt theirs to dream of Wednesday, throttling the Texas Rangers 12-5 to win the AL West, and to essentially lap the entire American League field in 100 games.INSTANT REPLAY: A's complete epic comeback
They caught everything in their way by winning two out of every three games for 3 months. They cheated so many baseball precedents in that time that they are the latest version of Americas Team. Remade on the fly twice, with only one position player in the place he started the season, a rotation made entirely of middle scholars, a bullpen assembled and reassembled they were in their way an expansion team that expanded beyond life size.And there was Beane, trying to remind Donaldson that this isnt how baseball actually is most of the time. Yeah, good luck winning that debating point.When I first got here, we won all the time, and I got used to it, Beane said while trying to coax his young son Braden that he couldnt take him back into the champagne shower just yet because he had to talk to the mean people with the notebooks. We all got used to it. It was just the way it worked. And then when we started winning again, it felt familiar again, like this was how it was supposed to be.But then you hit bottom, and you realize how much fun this is. Truthfully, Im happier about this team than any of the others because . . . well, all the other celebrations like this I can barely remember. This one Im going to remember because I appreciate it so much more.The game itself was a metaphor for the season. Down 5-1 almost immediately because starter A.J. Griffin couldnt make the baseball obey his commands, the As looked disappointment in the face . . . for exactly one inning.Brandon Moss walked, and Josh Reddick drove him home with a double to center, and the sellout crowd started to think this might not be such a buzzkill after all. Then Donaldson singled, then Seth Smith singled, and the belief came back. Then it dissipated again when Derek Holland replaced Texas starter Ryan Dempster and retired Derek Norris and Cliff Pennington.Then Coco Crisp doubled home Donaldson and Smith. Then Stephen Drew walked. Then Texas center fielder Josh Hamilton whiffed an inning-ending fly ball from Yoenis Cespedes to score Crisp and Drew, and despair turned to hope to jubilation to fait accompli.One-hundred-and-one games from doomed to triumphant, collapsed like a dying star into 10 plate appearances that explained it all.While of course explaining none of it, because this cannot truly be explained. Not well, anyway. You can trace where the roster was at the beginning of the season, you can recap every game, you can turn it into a historical exercise, for this was, and still is, a historic achievement, even if you dont factor in the As more typical role as the new St. Louis Browns.But today was not the day to think about San Jose, or owners selling, or a stadium that has served its tenants far better than its tenants have served it. Today was watching young men playing with the casinos money, partying like the sun never comes up. Today was baseball re-explained for people who dont get it, or want to get it. Today was about expectations and orthodoxy and punditry and mathematical projections taking it right in the nethers, once, twice, 94 times. One for every win.And it was definitely not the time for Billy Beane to explain to Josh Donaldson that this is a feeling like no other, and that it must be savored. This was not a day for savoring. It was for chugging, bottleneck down, the joy running down your shirtfront. Donaldson may learn the backhand of this lesson some day, but today?Not a chance in hell.

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