My point of reference is zero when it comes to clubhouse celebrations. The one the A’s staged after Monday’s 4-3 victory over the Rangers was the first they’ve held since I’ve been on the beat. But it had to rank among the wildest that will take place in any major league clubhouse this season. I was trying to find the ideal player who had suffered through the past five seasons of mediocrity and could sum up what clinching the wild card means to the organization. Then it hit me — that player doesn’t exist on the A’s. This roster is made up mostly of rookies, veterans in their first year with the club, or young guys who only recently broke through from the minors. Even Jerry Blevins and Daric Barton, who both debuted with the A’s in 2007, shuttled back and forth from the minors often since then. Cliff Pennington debuted in 2008 but didn’t become a regular until 2010.
Outfielder Coco Crisp has a little perspective on what the past couple years had been like.
“We didn’t have the baggies at the end of the season the last couple of years,” Crisp said, referring to all the bags put up to protect the clubhouse from champagne damage. “This is nice.”
Now comes the interesting part. The A’s still have lots to play for, and after all the champagne puddles are soaked up, they’ll try to set their sights on two more victories that would land them the A.L. West title. Can they re-adjust the focus? Winning a wild card berth is a remarkable achievement, but winning the division would mean so much more. They would advance straight to the Divisional Series, avoid the one-game playoff that would decide their fate with the wild card, and get a chance to rest players a bit.
“We’re gonna celebrate today,” Crisp said Monday night. “We’ve got a couple more games that are important. Tomorrow I think everybody knows we gotta comeback out and win another ballgame.”
The pitching matchup definitely tilts toward Texas on Tuesday night, with the Rangers sending 18-game winner Matt Harrison to oppose struggling A’s lefty Travis Blackley. That’s what made Monday’s wild card-clinching win so important for the A’s. Will they play loose and carefree? Maybe. Will they come out flat and unmotivated? It’s possible. But after Monday night’s festive atmosphere, there’s still plenty of drama remaining …