HIGHER EXPECTATIONS HELP KEEP EYE ON THE PRIZE
High standards and expectations are a good thing, right? When you zoom to back-to-back seasons of 94 and 96 victories, respectively, and are on pace to win 98 games this season, new and higher expectations simply come with the territory. It also made our just-completed series in Detroit truly maddening. All three games against our AL Central nemesis were tense, hard-fought affairs, and while the A’s came up empty handed, each game resembled the type of playoff competition we’ve grown accustomed to when these two teams have squared off the past two years.
That said, Bob Melvin and his club know full well that they must still go through Motown if they hope to realize their goal of winning a World Series. So it would be easy to say it matters whether you beat Justin Verlander or win a series at Comerica Park. On some level, that’s certainly true. However, our late August dismantling of the Tigers in Detroit last season—we scored 34 runs in claiming three of four games—didn’t seem to have much impact when we returned to Michigan as the leaves began to fall in autumn.
A linear thinker would probably conclude the A’s returned home content last night after a 4-4 road trip in which two of the three teams they faced are postseason contenders, and five of the games were played without a designated hitter—a distinct disadvantage to any American League team. Yet, the old adage that championship teams win at home and play .500 ball on the road doesn’t seem to have that acceptable ring anymore. I know what you’re thinking: We’re better than that!
Well, when you’re flying high in Miami, then shot down in Detroit, it’s understandable that you are left feeling a little wanting. No question, there are higher expectations this year. It’s the price you pay for success. And most importantly, there are higher expectations in the A’s clubhouse. These remarkable players that have bonded together to post the best record in Major League Baseball continue to keep their eyes on the ultimate prize.
And to lend a little perspective, let me remind you that this A’s team has grinded out baseball’s best record despite a first half that featured five straight three-city road trips—an almost unheard of gauntlet—against mostly upper-division opponents. After the All-Star Break, Oakland will not take even one road trip of more than two cities and seven games. And only nine of the 21 series that they will play after the Break will be against teams which currently have winning records. Of course, any manager will tell you it’s dangerous to play that game. After all, it is baseball, where nothing is guaranteed. What is guaranteed, however, are high expectations. And that’s a good thing. It tends to lead to even higher accomplishments.