Now that people are watching the Oakland Athletics (and no, this is not yet another attendance story so you can stop choking the cat) with greater intent, one would imagine that the scrutiny might start to wear on the employees a bit. The A's have been untouched by the glares of the outside world for so long that this newfound attraction to the rest of the baseball world would start to get a bit claustrophobic.
Well, they're 38-12 after Tuesday's nightly Treinen-O-Rama, and since people started paying attention with regularity. Since being swept by Colorado, they are 11-2, and have gone from this:
To sum up that mess, Tuesday's 3-2 win over Seattle (an altogether tidier affair than Monday's 7-6 piefight) puts Oakland only one game out of the West Division lead and therefore second place in the American League, 3½ games out of the first wild card spot and 3½ games ahead of the cutoff line.
They are, in other words, in three races at once, and now people in Houston and New York and Seattle and Cleveland are watching them as well. They are officially the new item on the national menu.
And with that level of intrusion, they are about to find out how much of this attention they have craved so long is going to be to their liking.
Attention, after all, comes in many ways – demands on their time from the media, increased scrutiny on all developments from managerial moves to bat flips, and a torrent of occasionally helpful suggestions from on high.
In other words, people are talking A's, and the A's, being young and new to the froth and effervescence of multiple pennant races, are bound to listen. I mean, their phones are always charged, if you get the drift.
"But that's why I tell them in the meeting before every series that we have to pay attention to what's in front of us today," manager Bob Melvin said. "We can't get caught up in the trap -- answering all the other questions about the other teams and where we are in relation to them, and the playoff races and all that. I emphasize it every chance I get, and after that I just have to trust that everyone in the room gets it."
That's a lot of trust for a manager, which is why he relies on veterans like catcher Jonathan Lucroy and second baseman Jed Lowrie, and the quietly influential left fielder Chad Pinder to reinforce the walls that keep the barking dogs at a healthy distance.
"I don't know for sure how we'll handle everything going forward, but I'm confident that we'll handle it the right way," Melvin said. "We have good guys in that room, and even though this is all pretty new to them, them getting distracted and ahead of themselves really isn't a concern of ours. We've had to stay pretty focused to get to this point; I mean, it wasn't that long ago that we were 12 back (well, 11½ as recently as June 17, if you must be pedantic about it), so there are going to more people trying to get them to talk about this team and that situation now. I just think it won't be a problem."
Well, there are 42 opportunities still ahead for the A's to prove Melvin right or wrong; for the now, though, there is only the now. They win their game each day and watch objects once beyond the horizon heave
into view. Part of the fun of the next six weeks is finding out whether they absorb the view and make just part of their daily routine, or end up overwhelmed by the hugeness of the vista and end up with vertigo.