It was quite a holiday weekend for the A's. First, owner Lew Wolff and baseball Commissioner Bud Selig ran a bluff to get the Oakland City Council and Alameda County Board of Supervisors to drop their objections to a 10-year lease at O.co Coliseum. Then, general manager Billy Beane traded for two good pitchers from the hapless Chicago Cubs to strengthen an already strong rotation.
Six A's were named to the All-Star Game and, finally, the A's finished off a four-game sweep of the Toronto Blue Jays, who had come into Oakland as the leader of the AL East.
Beane said the trade with the Cubs was not for the postseason, but to hold off the Los Angeles Angels and the Seattle Mariners in the AL West. The Angels have been hanging tough behind the A's and the Mariners are putting Felix Hernandez next start back a day, so he'll face the A's on Friday. Hernandez is tough against everybody but he's been particularly tough for the A's.
But Beane is also aware that, under his stewardship, the A's have been in the postseason seven times but only in 2006 have they advanced past the first round — and that year, they were beaten in the AL Championship Series.
The Detroit Tigers, who knocked them out in the division series last year, have been a particular nemesis. The Tigers' offense is not quite so potent with Prince Fielder gone, but their starting pitching is first-rate. Beane knew he had to upgrade to get past the Tigers.
In this era, more than any other in recent history, the future is now. Building through the farm system gets a team only to the first playoff level, which is where the A's have been stuck. Beane sacrificed the A's top prospect, shortstop Addison Russell, but that was the only way he could make the trade.
The Cubs, not incidentally, are one of those clubs that is building for the future — which somehow never arrives. The Houston Astros are another. Sports Illustrated had a long article about the Astros building a team that would be the best in baseball in three years. That article should have been labeled as fiction.
The A's do not have an easy road ahead. Unlike the Giants, who are certain of a playoff berth because they're playing in the weakest division in baseball, the A's have two serious contenders in the Angels and Mariners.
Still, I like their chances. This is a strange bunch, stars who have changed positions, like third baseman Josh Donaldson and closer Sean Doolittle, once a first baseman. Brandon Moss, another key player, was close to quitting the game before he came to the A's and thrived. Manager Bob Melvin platoons with regularity and the players accept it.
Overall, this is probably the A's best team since 2002, but the only resemblance is their uniforms. The 2002 team was built in classic fashion, around the Big Three starters, Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder and Barry Zito, the last two being first-round picks. Jason Giambi was a power-hitting first baseman, with 43 homers. Miguel Tejada starred in the field and at bat.
Now, this team has a chance to go further. Don't bet against them.
Glenn Dickey has been covering Bay Area sports since 1963 and also writes on www.GlennDickey.com. Email him at email@example.com.