|Coco Crisp had one of many big hits for the A's on Wednesday. (US Presswire)|
The Oakland Athletics have completed one of the more improbable seasons in recent memory as they won 12-5 Wednesday afternoon to clinch the American League West title. The layers of what this team accomplished are many, but one nugget sticks out more than anything else: The A's were never alone in first place during the entire 2012 season until they beat the Rangers on Wednesday.
The A's were tied for first place with the Mariners in late March, when both teams were 1-1 after splitting a pair of games in Japan. Otherwise, the A's were always looking up at someone in the standings until winning Tuesday night to pull into a tie with the Rangers.
This marks the third time in Major League Baseball history that the only day a team sat in first place alone was the end of the regular season. The previous two were the 1951 New York Giants -- winners in the game with the famed "Shot Heard 'Round the World" -- and the 2006 Minnesota Twins.
The '51 Giants have a bit of an asterisk, too, because in those days there weren't divisions, only leagues. When a tie happened, teams went to a playoff round. The Giants won Game 1 of the three-game series, so technically they had the lead at some point before it was over.
Also, the Twins had won the AL Central in three of the four previous seasons heading into 2006, so it wasn't so shocking they hung around and eventually won. On the flip side, the 2012 A's entered the season in what appeared to be rebuilding mode. They hadn't had a winning record since 2006.
Not only that, via MLB.com's Jane Lee, the A's are just the fifth team in baseball history to come back from a 13-game deficit to win the division. Also, Elias Sports Bureau has reported that the A's are the first team in history to overcome a five-game deficit with no more than nine games remaining and win the division outright.
Under the circumstances outlined above, it's possible to call these A's the most improbable regular-season team story in baseball history -- if so inclined. Even if you choose not to, the least you must call them is what they are: The 2012 AL West champions.