Legendary Bay Area rapper Earl Stevens, better known as E-40, recorded a song back in 2006 called “Go Hard or Go Home.”
What that means is to basically invest 100 percent into what you do in life. Whether it’s rapping or banking, mowing grass or babysitting — give maximum effort.
The Oakland Athletics, have been nothing short of amazing since June 16. Going into play Tuesday, their 33-10 record was the best in baseball. The bar coming out of spring training was low, as many pundits and fans hoped that the A’s could be merely watchable — not a playoff contender. There’s no half-stepping anymore for this bunch. The game done changed.
Entering their intriguing two-game series against the Los Angeles Dodgers, the A’s had a two-game lead over the Seattle Mariners for the second Wild Card spot in the American League — four back of the New York Yankees in the loss column — and 4 1/2 games behind the Houston Astros for the AL West lead. Yes, 4 1/2 back of the defending World Series champions.
During their current six-game winning streak, the A’s starting rotation has posted a 0.73 ERA. That’s absurd for a team that has no true ace, and which has started 12 diffrent pitchers — 13 if you include newly-acquired Mike Fiers (more on him soon), who goes on Wednesday.
By the way, the A’s didn’t allow a single earned-run against the hapless Detroit Tigers, something the organization hadn’t done since 1918. That’s insane.
All manager Bob Melvin needs is a solid six innings from his starters, including Fiers — who has a 2.57 ERA in his last 12 starts and is under team control through the 2019 season — and he can turn the ball over to his dominant bullpen, which ranked fourth in baseball in ERA headed into Tuesday.
Like the 2015 Kansas City Royals, the A’s have the formula to do damage in October, and that’s why fans and media members — and more importantly the organization — should be thinking big, pulling out all the stops to shock the world and win a championship.
I’m certain the players and coaches believe they can play with anyone in baseball, and the metrics are proving that to be accurate, but there’s something I don’t like, and it has nothing to do with the on-field product.
Whether it’s members of the media or fans, the thought that if the A’s were to make the playoffs, and come up short — losing in the Wild Card game or the AL Division Series — it would be acceptable, simply because they had already exceeded expectations, is preposterous.
To use one of the corniest cliches (partly because I’m a cornball), opportunities don’t just come knocking on the door. Not like this. Not for a team with the lowest payroll in the league, and the filthiest bullpen in baseball.
Billy Beane and David Forst have positioned the A’s for October, and with a lineup that boasts plenty of thump — Oakland’s 153 homers are fifth in baseball — they’re currently as good as anyone in the American League.
Don’t believe me? Just ask the Boston Red Sox and Cleveland Indians, who are the top teams in their respective divisions. Each of those teams lost four of six against the A’s. The Yankees and Astros are beat up, and after winning three of four against the Astros in early July, the A’s no longer are intimidated by the big boys in the AL.
And to think, they caught the A’s when they still were trying to find their identity. Now, with Jeurys Familia added to the bullpen to set up Lou Trivino and Blake Treinen, you can hit the showers after the sixth inning. Game over.
Oh, and add Shawn Kelley to the ‘pen, who has a 3.34 ERA and 0.96 WHIP. Better believe Mr. Beane is going hard or going home.
With a team that’s mashing the ball all over the park and can turn to a lights-out bullpen, if the A’s bow out of the playoffs empty-handed, I’d be shocked.
“Go hard or go home,” should be the A’s motto down the stretch. They can hang with anyone in baseball, but with the expectations changing, it should be considered a disappointment if they don’t win it all.
This team has proven itself to not be a fluke. Game done changed.
Bonta Hill of 95.7 The Game can be heard from noon to 3 p.m. on the Greg Papa Show. Born and bred in San Francisco, he is a sports junkie who loves to sit in the lab (home), eats breakfast food for dinner, and has a newfound love for tequila. Follow at your own risk on Twitter @BontaHill.
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