OAKLAND -- The calendar flips six times during baseball's regular season. When it flips to October everything changes. There are way more media members swarming the A's dugout and clubhouse, scoreboard watching becomes a distraction, and the games have heavy implications. Sounds stressful, but is there anything better than October baseball? "No there's really not," Jonny Gomes said. "It was funny, I remember in 2008 my first go around with it and everyone was loading up with veterans. We were like, 'We don't need any veterans we've got it. We just won the division.'" "First pitch, playoffs I was like, 'Whoa. Totally different game,'" Gomes added. The A's know they are on the verge of doing something special. One win and they are in the postseason for the first time since 2006. Three wins and they are the American League West champions. It may not be the playoffs yet, but it sure feels like it -- and the A's are enjoying every second of it."It's a special team," Brandon Moss said. "We've got a lot of great personalities and a lot of guys who are striving to get there. It's the most fun I've ever had in baseball without a question.""We're in a playoff situation," Chris Carter said. "Making playoffs and doing stuff like that in the minors is one thing, but doing it here is a whole different level." Based on the magnitude of the situation, the importance of each remaining game, veterans like Gomes who have been there have to lead by example. The A's have a roster full of young players that have never been to the postseason. Gomes, Grant Balfour, Brandon Inge, Seth Smith, and Stephen Drew have been there before and are leading by example. "I know I get credit for being the older guy," Gomes said. "But these guys are doing it on their own."Most teams have a veteran presence, but the players on this team believe their leadership group is different. They allow young players like Josh Reddick to be vocal and pie people on the field. They let the young players be themselves and have fun as long as they get their jobs done on the field. "To have guys like that to keep it fresh, keep it humble, keep it fun, is huge," Moss said. "You see guys that have done it but they are having just as much fun as we are. It's not all business we're playing for fun." That doesn't mean the veterans don't have a few tricks up their sleeve if they need to crack the whip."There's certain things you can police with the eye stare, the silent treatment for a while," Gomes said. "Everything is going to happen quick so it's like if you do something wrong there's not really a guarantee there's going to be an opportunity again." As Gomes often explains, playing for fun, not contracts, is why the A's are successful. He says if you take away the good times, the A's might crumble under the pressure. A's manager Bob Melvin clearly agrees. He may shake his head and crack a smile when the team shoots a 'Bernie Lean' music video, or look away while a player dressed as Spider-man runs onto the field brandishing pies, but he knows his players are getting it done when it matters the most, and respecting the game on the field. "I think they have done a really good job of keeping us focused on the task at hand," Sean Doolittle said. "While still keeping the atmosphere pretty light and letting us play loose."Oakland has a chance to pop the champagne on Monday. It is safe to say no one saw it coming, but now everyone seems to be expecting it to happen. Pressure to perform can wear on a young team, but these guys don't seem to mind. They are playing with house money at this point. "Here none of us are expecting anything," Moss said. "We just go out and play."
A's poised amid playoff pressure
October 2, 2012, 2:13 am