By Jason Wojciechowski on September 19, 2003 at 3:38 PM
How amazing is it that Oakland has pulled off in this second half what they've pulled off every half since time immemorial? It's getting kind of crazy, but it's also how this team is built. Not only does Billy Beane like to wait around for the right time to fix his team, but Eric Chavez and, perhaps, Miguel Tejada, are both late bloomers each year.
This year, they lost Mark Mulder, watched Ted Lilly founder all year, came to depend on Rich Harden (and Justin Duscherer!), saw Jermaine Dye not be right all year, endured Terrence Long's continued suckitude, watched Erubiel Durazo's power disappear and Scott Hatteberg's batting average go away (slightly), yet they've still won over 90 games and are still likely to win the AL West in the next week or so.
Part of the whole picture is that Seattle absolutely tanked in the latter half of the season. There'll be the usual cries about them being an old team, and old teams fade in the second half, but I don't know if that's true. Yes, John Olerud is old and he suffered from nagging injuries, and the same for Edgar Martinez, but they've got massive holes on the left side of the infield, and Jamie Moyer was only going to take them so far in the first place. Combine that with the predictable regression of the Angels (though they regressed further than I (and many others, I think) thought they would) and the continued complete lack of run-stopping ability on the Rangers' parts and you get the A's going to the playoffs once more, though this is, I think, a considerably weaker team than the past two years.
With Jose Guillen now out, Mark Mulder still out, and Keith Foulke (one of the top ten relievers in baseball by value, and maybe the best by ability) now nursing a little back thing, there are some holes to worry about. Then again, given the A's inability to beat teams that many (in 2001) and most (in 2002) thought were inferior in the playoffs, perhaps it's time for the A's to be the underdogs again and see what happens.