One of the more stirring sights in professional sports is the home run. The ball leaving the yard is an emphatic statement: "What else do you got?" The opposite end of the spectrum can be found in a strikeout. The snap of the ball in the catcher's glove without the sound of wood making any sort of contact that says, "Whoops." This season, the Oakland A's managed to do both with alarming frequency. One hundred and ninety-five home runs in the regular season. Couple that with a major league-leading number of strikeouts, and you have a feeling for the roller coaster ride that fans of the green and gold were on from June to mid-October.
Maybe that's why, as the Detroit Tigers met in the middle of the Oakland Coliseum to celebrate moving on to the American League Championship, those green and gold clad fans of the hometown A's stood and cheered for their team one last time. The fifth game wasn't very close. It didn't have any of the drama that had become a trademark of the A's this season. There was no late-inning heroics. No walk-off pie in the face for the guy who came through in the end. They went out with a whimper, not a bang. And a standing ovation. A crowd that couldn't find their way to the ball park back in May, when the Athletics weren't exactly living up to their name, were now applauding and cheering for this scrappy group of incipient stars. It was comforting to see baseball being appreciated, even though there was no trophy being awarded.
The next day, the circus moved on. The Detroit Tigers went back to work, pushing the New York Yankees to extra innings and into the early morning hours in the Bronx. Back in Oakland, General Manager Billy "Brad" Beane promised to try and keep the team together over the winter. I glanced at the Yankees' lineup and noted Nick Swisher and Eric Chavez, both longtime A's. But what is a long time in Major League Baseball? All winter long? Or the time it takes for the ball to reach the seats?