This year, the Oakland Athletics are celebrating the tenth anniversary of the twenty-game win streak. At this moment, the A’s have won thirteen games by walk-offs in 2012. As the 2002 reunion on August 18 quickly approaches, comparisons have been made between the two squads and their accomplishments. The most valid comparison would be made between the A’s twenty consecutive wins of 2002 and the twenty games from July 1 through July 27, 2012. During this period, the A’s went 17-3 with six of the thirteen walk-offs so far.
The first difference between the two teams has to be expectations.
In 2000 the A’s won the Western Division with a record of 91-70, and the 2001 A’s won the Wild Card spot as consolation for an incredible record of 102-60. Even though the team lost Jason Giambi after 2001, A’s fans were getting used to October baseball by 2002.
2004 marked the end of the A’s run of playoff appearances from 2000-’03. The A’s won the West again in 2006. From 2007 to this past offseason, it seemed the team was dismantled and rebuilt each year with low points of finishing last in 2009 and in 2011 posting their worst record since 1998 (74-88 each). There was not much to look forward to on opening day this year.
Before the twenty-game win streak, the A’s were 68-51, in third place, but only 4.5 games behind first place Seattle. Before the A’s great July this year, they were 37-42, in third place again, but a whopping 13 games back, still reeling from a nine-game losing streak at the end of May.
The main difference between these teams’ accomplishments is the opponents they faced.
What we like to forget about is that the twenty-game streak was won against losers. If the names don’t convince you, I’ll include their records coming into each series. The A’s won two against Toronto (52-65), three against Chicago (58-63), four against Cleveland (54-68), three against Detroit (49-78), three against Kansas City (53-78), three against Minnesota (80-55), and two more against Kansas City (coming back at 55-82). The teams came into each series a collective 88 games under .500.
This July, the A’s went 17-3 against much tougher opponents. Oakland won on July 1 against Texas (50-29), swept Boston (42-37), won two of three against Seattle (35-49), swept Minnesota (36-49), split two against Texas (54-35), swept four against New York (57-34), won two of three against Toronto, and won on July 27 against Baltimore (52-47). The teams came into each series a collective 47 games over .500.
This season, Major League Baseball has added a second Wild Card spot for each league. Before the A’s 17-3 run this year, Oakland was 6 games back for a playoff shot behind seven teams. On July 27 they found themselves as the leaders for the second Wild Card spot and just 4.5 games back from division-leading Texas.
Time will tell which team is remembered more fondly.
It seems that history will remember the streak over even a potential new record for walk-off wins. Would the mid-streak 2002 A’s have walked over the A’s of July 2012? Wouldn’t the streak have been cut short by any winning ball team?
It was. Minnesota (81-59) welcomed the A’s into town as Oakland went for their 21st consecutive win and shut them out, six to nothing.
It seems that if the 2012 team makes it to the playoffs, it will be ready for the pressure of low scoring games. A Pennant (or more) would overshadow any other accomplishment and make this discussion irrelevant.
Sources for statistics were mlb.com and baseball-almanac.com