OAKLAND -- The sellout crowd stood on their feet and roared in applause. This was the scene many A's players expected to see when Game 5 of the American League Division Series was decided in Oakland. They didn't expect to see it happen after they lost the game 6-0, though.
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After the final out was recorded by the Tigers, something special happened. The fans started cheering. As the Tigers celebrated on the field, more and more people rose to their feet and joined in the applause. The A's players took notice and came out of the dugout and tipped their hats to the crowd. Some of the Tigers took a moment to stop what they were doing and salute the A's players as well. One last "Lets go Oakland" chant broke out.
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After everything they had been through they deserved it. This 2012 Oakland Athletics team overcame a 13-game deficit to win the American League West. No team in the history of baseball had bounced back from a five-game deficit with nine games to play to win the division, but the A's did. They fought through the losses of key veterans like Brandon McCarthy, Brandon Inge, Bartolo Colon, and ace pitcher Brett Anderson. They survived the surprising trade of veteran leader Kurt Suzuki. They banded together and supported pitcher Pat Neshek and his wife Stephanee after the tragic and sudden death of their newborn baby son. Any one of those circumstances could have crumbled a lot of teams; it didn't slow down the A's. Oakland ended up popping champagne bottles and celebrating like mad men twice in a span of three days. It seemed every time the team was dealt a crippling blow they would rise up and throw a haymaker back. When third baseman Scott Sizemore was injured early in camp, eventually Brandon Inge was acquired and a week after he joined the team he hit four home runs and 16 RBI in a span of five days. When he went down, Josh Donaldson exploded back onto the scene and never looked back. When Brandon McCarthy hit the DL, A.J. Griffin was ready to take the reigns. He went an Oakland record 6-0 to start his career. When Bartolo Colon was suspended, Travis Blackley and Dan Straily stepped in. When Kurt Suzuki was traded, Derek Norris and George Kottaras took over. At one point the team had 18 rookies on the roster. They carried 12 into the postseason. The A's had a Major League-leading 15 walk-offs and 11 different players were responsible. It was in every sense of the word a total team effort. The A's were outmatched, outspent, and undermanned entering the season. Their 55,372,500 payroll was dwarfed by most teams in baseball and the second lowest in the league. They ended up leading the league with 589,069 spent per regular season win. They even tied an Oakland record by winning 12 consecutive road games. The A's took a risk on a toolsy player from Cuba named Yoenis Cespedes; he ended up looking like a superstar in the making. They traded an All-Star closer for a fourth outfielder named Josh Reddick, and he ended up hitting 32 home runs. They traded their best two starting pitchers in the offseason for two rookies named Jarrod Parker and Tommy Milone, who ended up tied for an Oakland rookie record with 13 wins each. So how did this roster full of guys that were written off forge a run that caught the attention of the baseball world? They didn't care what was said by the so-called experts outside of the clubhouse and they simply had fun. They got along with each other. They played for the love of the game and not the money. As manager Bob Melvin often said, the A's take it one game at a time. It worked for 166 games and then they ran out of tomorrows. The story of the 2012 Oakland Athletics may have ended on Thursday night, but it might just be getting started. The team only has four free agents -- McCarthy, Colon, Inge, and Jonny Gomes. Stephen Drew has a mutual option for 2013 and could elect to test out free agency. General Manager Billy Beane is known to wheel and deal but he hinted strongly that will not be the case with the core of this team. A bulk of the players are cost controlled and on the rise. We've seen our last 2012 A's Bernie Lean, heard the last eighth inning rendition of 'Call Me Maybe,' and tasted the last sweet victory of a walk-off pie. Now we can only imagine what next year's season will bring. The A's may have lost in the ALDS, but they deserved the applause. This season is over, but it won't be soon forgotten by the fans or the players that took part in it. I know I will never forget it.