Ken's a lot more optimistic than me heading into what figures to be the last game of the 2006 season. I wouldn't describe the feeling I have right now as "giving up" -- I think it would be more accurate to say that I've reached the Acceptance stage of the grieving process. It's easy to do when your team has led for all of two innings in the past three games.
I spent the most time in the Bargaining phase -- "Just win two games in Detroit, and I won't have to give my ALCS tickets the viking funeral I usually do at this time of year!" -- and relatively little time in Denial and Anger, save for maybe a few uncharitable thoughts about Eric Chavez. (Seriously, Chav -- if you want to play Hamlet, join summer stock.) Again, it's easy not to get too caught up in things when this series has been largely about what Detroit has done right, instead of what the A's have done wrong. Unlike some of our more wrenching losses, there's no one moment I can point to with an air of "If only this had worked out differently." The Tigers pitched, hit, and caught the ball with precision -- the A's less so.
The outcome is disappointing to me, of course, and I'm bugged by the fact that I'm rapidly reacing the point where I can paper my walls with unused A's ALCS tickets, but really, only two things really bother me about this series and how it seems destined to end. The first is that I worry the lingering impression of the 2006 Athletics is going to be the egg they laid against Detroit, rather than all the stuff they did prior to last Tuesday -- Frank Thomas' big comeback year, the redemption of Milton Bradley, staving off a worthy foe for a divisional title, getting that first-round playoff off our back. The unfair thing about the postseason is not necessarily that any team is just as capable of winning a short series as any other but that we can let the outcome of four games affect our perception of the preceding 162-plus. The fact that the A's have been beaten solidly by Detroit during the past week doesn't negate what the team accomplished this year -- it's up to us as fans not to lose sight of that.
And the second thing bugging me today is a fact of life that affects all fans, save for maybe those in the five borroughs or in New England -- that the sound you hear may be the window of opportunity closing for who knows how long.
The A's certainly seem well-stocked headed into next year, particularly if Rich Harden returns to form and wards off the injury bug. Unfortunately, the A's are in a division in which one rival appears to be stocked with promisingyoungplayers and an owner who's not afraid to write out large checks. Meanwhile, another rival has added a bright executive while removing one of the biggest impediments to winning baseball. Winning that division figures to be a tall order for the A's -- both next year and beyond.