Grant Balfour, quite possibly the best closer you've never heard of, took the groundskeeper's water hose Wednesday, pointed it toward the Coliseum stands and released the latch. Out came the spray with the kind of force police use to control unruly crowds. For maybe the first time in recorded history, people ran toward a high-powered burst of water that would knock them down. They took the hint from the players. A's fans didn't run away. They didn't run for cover. They didn't cower.
"Hell, no, there's no reason to be scared (in a baseball game)," Balfour said. "There is no fear out there for us."
There you have it, the core of it all, where the 2012 A's get their energy, their compass, their confidence. The A's became the American League West champions Wednesday because, frankly, the sound of it didn't scare them. They weren't scared when they trailed Texas by 13 games. They weren't scared because none of them had championship pedigree. They weren't scared when they were told this thing couldn't be done. They kept it simple while everyone else was making it complicated for them. Can't do this, you know. Nuts to think you can.
"I can't explain this without using clich?," said Petaluma's Jonny Gomes, their outfielder/designated hitter.
And this is the clich? "We can do anything as long as we do it together."
That's what Balfour said. Sounds so dull, doesn't it? Play together? Isn't that the oldest line in the world? It is, and this era in which sports fans are stuck on star attraction — big names bring big headlines and big crowds — people lose interest when a team says the best thing it has is unity. Yuck. Come on. The Rangers have Josh Hamilton and Adrian Beltre. You build franchises around that kind of talent. Unity can beat that.
The A's heard it was impossible to beat the team that has represented the American League in the last two World Series.
Impossible? The way the A's saw it, that means it just hasn't been done it yet. That's all. And with a fury they did it Wednesday. You should have been here. The A's left the Rangers talking to themselves.
Texas manager Ron Washington gave Hamilton a good butt-chewing in the dugout in the top of the fifth after his center fielder dropped a fly ball in the bottom of the fourth, a momentum-changer that one was. Hamilton disappeared in this series, striking out six times. The Rangers left the field outmatched, dispirited and a bit confused about where to go from here.
Remember, the Rangers had been in first place since the fourth game of the season. They felt unchallenged. They claimed ownership of first place and with good reason. What's to worry? The A's? Huh? With five rookies in the starting rotation? With 15 on the team? With their best pitcher, Gio Gonzalez, and their ace closer, Andrew Bailey, traded away in the offseason?
Their third baseman (Josh Donaldson) came to spring training as a catcher. Their first baseman (Brandon Moss) was an outfielder in the spring. Their second baseman (Cliff Pennington) was supposed to play shortstop. And their best left-handed reliever (Sean Doolittle) was a first baseman as recently as a year ago.
Oh, and the A's sent a American League record for strikeouts.