He darted right, anxious, and raised his glove to catch the ball before thrusting his arms up and running forward.
He walked up to the plate, bat in hand, and looked at the pitcher.
Much like half of the baseball world, it is highly likely that only half of these two people fully understood the significance of their actions on that Wednesday, hardly realizing what a historic and memorable day we all shared.
There’s no doubt Coco Crisp knew what it meant when he caught Michael Young’s fly ball in the top of the ninth inning on Wednesday afternoon. He knew he caught the final out to complete one of the greatest comebacks in Major League Baseball history.
In the span of 95 days, the Oakland Athletics came back from a 13 game deficit to the Texas Rangers. Fighting against the lowest payroll in the majors and two of the best teams in baseball, the Rangers and the Los Angles Angels of Anaheim (and let us not forget that the Seattle Mariners were being a pain in teams’ backsides for a while after the All-Star break!), the A’s somehow managed to go 57-26 in their final 83 games of the regular season to win the American League West.
No, no, no, don’t worry; you didn’t enter a DeLorian. It’s not 2002.
Even without the magic of a 20 game win streak and Michael Lewis chillin in the front office, Billy Beane’s A’s somehow pulled off an absurd turnaround. A season with 14 walk off victories for the A’s involved a lineup that consisted of Stephen Drew, Brandon Moss, Brandon Hicks, Cliff Pennington, Jemile Weeks, Derek Norris, Coco Crisp, Josh Reddick, Yoenis Céspedes – is this a little league game? Okay, maybe it was a little mean considering there are a few stars there, but the fact remains that their bats weren’t like the Rangers’ Josh Hamilton, Adrian Beltre, Elvis Andrus, Ian Kinsler, Michael Young, Mike Napoli – get the idea? Their young pitching staff – which is missing Brandon McCarthy, by the way – is made up of pitchers who were mostly no names before this season. Yet, somehow this team posted the third-best run differential in the American League.
It wasn’t supposed to happen. After Gio Gonzalez and Andrew Bailey both left the Bay Area to go East, the A’s were discussed as the poor second team in the Coliseum that couldn’t leave for San Jose and rack in some cash. The race for reliable stats had ended and Billy Beane’s advantage with it (as far as we knew). Everyone knew what the A’s knew, so the divider in baseball had become capital again. The game was supposed to be unfair again, was supposed to crush the Athletics’ spirit.
But somehow they became part of one of the greatest nights of baseball in our memory. Only two other teams have ever comeback from a bigger deficit to win a division (or pennant) – and neither of those two teams had a payroll that was so dead low in comparison to the rest of MLB. The A’s needed to sweep the Rangers in the final series of the regular season in order to win the West, after all – while also trying to hold off the Angels and Rays in the Wild Card. The situation was maddening, but they did it again. The A’s fended off the Rangers in a wild last series after coming within games of the Rangers time and time again over the previous few weeks. They roared all the way back and beat the club predicted by many to be the best in baseball before 2012 started. Most people knew that night that it was a comeback simply because of the number in the standings, but not a whole lot knew or know now what the reality of the number meant – that baseball is still not completely unfair, that the magic in the game can apply to anyone, and that the A’s, yes the A’s, were a part of one of the greatest nights in Major League history.
When Melky Mesa came on to pinch hit for Curtis Granderson, he probably didn’t realize that he just sealed the first Triple Crown in Major League Baseball in 45 years.
The Triple Crown was a major point of discussion that Wednesday night. Miguel Cabrera was already in the lead in all the categories. He had already put RBIs away, as he had a double digit lead over Josh Hamilton; he would have had to go something like 0-6 and Mike Trout go 6-6 for him to lose the batting title. But it was home runs that made it still worth to watch. His homer league was a single bomb over Hamilton, with Edwin Encarnacion, Adam Dunn, and Curtis Granderson all within striking distance if they had monster nights.
And then Granderson stomped two jacks on Wednesday night. 44 to 43. The Yankees would have had to run around a Boston little league team for Granderson to get a fifth at-bat, but it actually wasn’t that impossible. The Yankees were already destroying the Red Sox at that point, so how tough would it have been for Granderson to have gotten two more plate appearances to hit home runs? They were in Yankee Stadium, after all.
But with Cabrera taken out of the game in Minnesota, and Granderson’s fourth at-bat coming up, my second narrative came to fruition; Granderson was pinch hit for by Mesa. It happened. Where McCovey, Allen, Rice, Schmidt, Sheffield, and Pujols all failed, Cabrera succeeded. He became only the 10th player ever to win the Triple Crown, joining the hall of the hall.
Yet, hardly anyone seemed to take in the full impact of the Triple Crown. There were a few stories thrown here and there, but more analysts were talking about the postseason bracket being completed (I know it was difficult for these baseball guys since it used to be dully complicated, but come on). Hardly anyone seemed to realize that in an age of baseball in which players are more specialized than they used to be, when power is weak and pitching is dominant, Miguel Cabrera won the greatest hitting accomplishment – and with sole possession of all three stats, something not even Carl Yastrzemski did in 1967 when he won the Triple Crown.
Hardly anyone talked about it after a little while. Hardly anyone discussed about how the greatest hitter in baseball and one of the best of his generation, finally won what he always threatened. The talk in the world instead shifted to the Yankees, the weather, and the Presidential Debates (hey, I watched them too, and they’re important, but we can talk a little bit about the historic Wednesday). The chat was a little better concerning the A’s comeback, but most people didn’t absorb the full impact of the night itself. There wasn’t the same buzz or constant lines of, “You’ll be able to tell your grandchildren you remember what happened when the Rays and Cardinals won in 2011.” This night was not as good as September 28, 2011, but one of the greatest comebacks ever and the first Triple Crown winner for the first time in nearly half a century occurring on the same night of mad postseason races had to have meant something, right?
But even if Coco Crisp, Melky Mesa, and even the majority of the baseball world doesn’t ever fully appreciate what they witnessed (or took part in, in Crisp and Mesa’s case) Wednesday night, it probably doesn’t matter. For those of us who told ourselves to remember that day, we all knew what it meant. We knew that we had seen on year 2012, month 10, day 3, a raging day of baseball that we would never ever forget.