A's, Rangers strong at the top

The Billy Beane-led A's and the Buck Showalter-led Rangers are both in good shape for the stretch run.

Originally Published: July 30, 2004
By Rob Neyer | ESPN Insider
Say whatever else you want about them, but realize this ... in their fight for first place in the American League West, both the Oakland Athletics and the Texas Rangers have history on their side (assuming, of course, that history actually picks a side).

Most obviously, the Athletics have their performance down the stretch in each of the last four seasons. It's been an amazing run, and it's hard to explain. Yes, we all know (because we've all read Moneyball) that Billy Beane is a master of working the phones and putting together those trades that often involve three teams and half a dozen players. But those trades cannot, in themselves, explain that .700 winning percentage. Even if Beane made a great trade or trades every late July, it wouldn't explain that .700 winning percentage.

And they weren't all great. In 2000, the big prize was Jim Mecir. Then again, in 2000 the Athletics didn't play all that well after July 31; their post-July winning percentage was .589, just a few ticks better than their .552 pre-August percentage. If we leave aside 2000 and just look at 2001 through 2003, the difference is even starker: a .559 winning percentage before the trade deadline, a .738 winning percentage after. The wins and losses are even more impressive. Over the last three seasons, from August 1 through the end of the season the Athletics have won 121 games and lost 43.