Simply amazing…

Ok, I’m not retracting the statement I made about the A’s back on May 25th.

Nope. Prior to May 30th the A’s stank like a full porta-potty on a swealtering August day in Crawford, Texas.

But as of today they are if not the best team in the American League they’re at least the luckiest. And you know what they say, if you can’t be good, be lucky. If you’re good and lucky then what can possibly stop you?

The play that ended yesterday’s game against the Angels was nothing short of miraculous. I’ve watched baseball games at all levels and I’ve never seen a pitcher drop a throw back from his catcher like that past the 12 year olds in little league, let alone do it with an alert and agressive runner at third. Francisco Rodriguez is probably going to be kicking himself for days over that one.

A lot of ink has flowed about the resurgence of the A’s pitching staff that’s led this charge from worst to first in 72 days. Much has also been made of the corelation between Bobby Crosby’s return from the DL and the way the A’s have picked up their game. Here’s what hasn’t been said (or at least said enough):

Mark Kotsay – Kotsay, whether he likes it or not, is the team leader. Eric Chavez may be making more money and sell more t-shirts but Kotsay is the man. He’s a brilliant center fielder whose defensive skills would be all over ESPN, Sports Illustrated and probably earn him a Gold Glove if he played on the east coast or in the midwest where the reporters could see him play before their bedtimes more often. Kotsay is also a dilligent hitter who is capable of getting on base in every at bat. Pitchers hate this guy, and that’s a good thing if you’re an A’s fan. But beyond these tangibles Mark Kotsay is a fiery personality in the clubhouse who whips the team into shape every day. When they play badly they hear about it from Mark.

Jason Kendall – When I heard that Billy Beane had traded a handful of prospects to the the Pirates for Kendall my initial response was, “Damn, I wonder if he even bothered using lube.” Kendall is a great player. Twice this season he’s been involved in key plays that dozens of other big leaguers would never have made. Yesterday’s sprint to home while K-Rod was huffing and puffing about a call he didn’t like was just one of example of the kind of value Jason Kendall brings to the table.

Dan Johnson – This guy is the second coming of Jason Giambi. And by that I mean Giambi when he was with the A’s – a guy who came to the plate in every at bat thinking “what needs to happen right now” and who seemed able to will that very thing to happen.

Bobby Kielty – Kielty was terrible in 2004. I blame his shaved head. Now that he’s sporting the most ridiculous hairdo in baseball (which is saying a lot) he’s creaming the ball, playing well above expectations defensively and probably most importantly he’s keeping spirits up in the dugout and the clubhouse. Word has it he came to the field the other day dressed in a fully authentic Ronald McDonald outfit. Nice.

Mark Ellis / Marco Scutaro – Usually when big leaguers are put into a platoon they bitch and moan like first graders who’ve had their afternoon snack withheld. These guys are rolling with it and making life rough on opposing pitchers. If you’re a pitcher for the other team you never know which one of these guys is going to be in the lineup on a given day and they can both hurt you bad. Defensively I have to give the edge to Ellis, but Marco is nothing to sneeze at either. But just the absence of complaints from either guy about playing time speaks volumes about both of them.

The Bullpen – Eric Brynes? Who’s that? Trading Byrnes for Joe Kennedy and Jay Witasick was a stroke of genius. Byrnes was fun to watch but he struck out too much and always looked like playing the outfield was just a little bit too much work. By trading Byrnes to beef up the pen Billy Beane improved his club immeasureably. Turning around and trading Chad Bradford to the Red Sox for Jay Payton to fill the hole Byrnes left was another work of genius in action. Since Kennedy and Witasick arrived the pen is as solid as any in the bigs.

Jay Payton – Jay’s gotta be the happiest man in the big leagues right now. He was designated bench warmer in Boston and now he’s playing for another contender and playing a lot. And man does this guy’s bat like the Coliseum.

I tip my hat to you, A’s. Long may you ride.

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