- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 7, 2002

"It's just so surreal," Scott Hatteberg of the Oakland A's told reporters Wednesday night, moments after his bottom of the ninth-inning home run gave his ballclub a 12-11 victory over the Kansas City Royals, the A's 20th straight win — an American League record. "It's a fairy tail that keeps getting longer," Hatteberg said after his pinch hit home run won the game for Oakland. "Teams just don't do this."

Nobody told this to the A's. Going into last night's road game at Minnesota, this embattled "small market" team had the 2nd-best record in baseball (the Atlanta Braves are still a half-game better) and the best record in the American League — 88 wins and 51 losses, one full game better than George Steinbrenner's super-rich New York Yankees, who defeated the A's in the playoffs the last two years. Then, after last season, the Yankees added insult to injury by signing slugging first baseman Jason Giambi, arguably Oakland's best player, to a generous multiyear contract.

In an era when the Baseball's Whiner-in-Chief (a.k.a. Commissioner Bud Selig) comes across like Rep. Richard Gephardt and his lameduck colleague, Rep. David Bonior, talking ceaselessly about "disparities" between rich and poor teams, the conventional wisdom had it that the A's were doomed to mediocrity or worse. When the A's stumbled in the early part of the season and lagged behind the Seattle Mariners and California Angels most of the year, it appeared that the conventional wisdom may have been right. All of that has been shattered by the streak that began on Aug. 13. It looked like it would end at 17 wins on Sunday afternoon, when the A's took a 4-2 lead into the 9th inning against Minnesota, only to give up three home runs to put the Twins up 5-4. Then, in the last of the ninth, shortstop Miguel Tejada blasted a three-run homer to win another for Oakland. The following day, Tejada got the game-winning hit in the last of the ninth once again to beat the Royals. But that didn't prepare anyone for Wednesday, when the A's took an 11-0 lead against Kansas City (a woeful small-market team), only to allow the Royals to even the score in the ninth, before Hatteberg's home run.

For our money, the Oakland A's are the most exciting story in professional sports this year.

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