Prepare Yourself… The Oakland Athletics are the 2012 American League West Division Champs!

Better get used to seeing the Bernie Lean, or better yet learn how to do it, cuz the A’s are in the playoffs!

Yes that is not a typo, the Oakland A’s completed the improbable yesterday, sweeping the Texas Rangers and claiming the American League West crown. With Grant Balfour getting Michael Young to fly out to Coco Crisp, the improbable run was completed. While the A’s ascension to the top was slow and steady, a little different than that of the Tampa Bay Rays last year who erased a 9 game september deficit, the A’s still shocked the Texas Rangers and the world.

Back on June 30th, the A’s had just lost their 3rd in a row to Texas to fall 13 games behind in the division. Then things changed, the bullpen showed its strength and shut down the Rangers with a 3-1 win and the turnaround had begun. They swept the Red Sox at home and then followed it by taking 2 out of 3 from Seattle before the All-Star break. This was all the momentum this team needed.

Following the break, you could see this was a visibly different team, and we found out immediately after they swept away the Minnesota Twins on the road. But the real test was to follow. The A’s were about to embark on a tough 25 game stretch where they would play every team in the American League that had a winning record/was competing for the Wild Card or their division. After that stretch, which included a 4 game sweep of the New York Yankees (the same team that holds home-field advantage this playoffs), the A’s were legitimate contender.

Well here we are, after game 162 things have developed in a way none of us could have predicted. Before the season, many experts, analysts and magazines predicted the A’s to finish in last place. They gave them a 1.4%  chance at making the playoffs and only a 0.4% chance at winning the division. How could you not agree? They traded their 2 best pitchers in Trevor Cahill and Gio Gonzalez, traded closer Andrew Bailey and utiltyman Ryan Sweeney. To make matters worse, they made some head scratching signings, which included Manny Ramirez and Yoenis Cespedes. While Cespedes turned into one of the best pickups of the offseason, Manny Ramirez didn’t but this team never wavered. They called up rookies, put them in key positions and while the team went through growing pains, they came out stronger than we all couldn’t believe.

But what we all forget, is that the Anaheim Angels (still have a hard time taking them seriously as the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim) added Albert Pujols this offseason, got Kendrys Morales back from injury, and called up the rookie of the year/possible MVP in Mike Trout. Let us not forget they added CJ Wilson to their rotation, so they should have easily taken the Wild Card. Also, the Texas Rangers, who let us not forget are the 2-time defending American League champions, were coming off a heartbreaking defeat in the World Series last year. So the odds were definitely stacked in the favor of these two teams, and I can honestly say 99% or more of the sports world did had those two teams finishing ahead of the A’s.

But something happened, maybe the A’s were just the hungrier team, unfazed by the pressure of the 162 game season. Even  after losing last Monday, they were down 5 games in the division with 9 to play. Most teams would fold under that sort of pressure. Even having to sweep the Rangers the final 3 games of the season, to capture the division crown, and in the last game they were able to fight back from a 5-1 deficit to capture the title. Something about this teams resiliency and fight is too impressive. They might not have many, if any household names on the roster, but this team knows how to win and does not care who they face. Bob Melvin gets my vote (if I had one) for Manager of the Year, and Ryan Cook was the Athletics only All-Star but nobody else on this roster is going to garner much national attention. Well the nation better start paying attention, this team is the real deal and is ready for the postseason. And you know what? SO AM I!

My pick for 2012 Manager of the Year, Bob Melvin!

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