OK, so let's recap the past year for the Oakland A's.

One more year has passed without Major League Baseball deciding on a home for the team.

A Brad Pitt movie hits the theaters that fondly reminisces about the team's magical and highly improbable 2002 season in which it won a spot in the playoffs with a bunch of low-cost no-names, retreads and misfits.

General Manager Billy Beane, the guy whom Pitt plays in the movie, gets a big, real-life contract extension through 2019. Many fans mutter about that since Beane's teams have not been in the postseason in five years. Those muted grumbles turn to shouts when Beane trades two of his young, front-line starting pitchers and his young closer for a bunch of no-name players who are even younger.

Same old story, they say, economics have made the A's a player-development farm team for organizations with the big money.

Then, out of the blue, the A's sign a sought-after Cuban defector whom few have ever seen play as well as one of baseball's aging bad boys, Manny Ramirez.

They enter the season with a starting rotation anchored by two guys who have displayed a recent propensity for injury and a bunch of untested rookies.

In a sport where conventional wisdom is sacred practice, this is a recipe for disaster. The offseason deals sent a loud message to the fans that the 2012 team motto would be, "Wait 'til next year, or, maybe the year after that, or, maybe ..."

In fact, at the beginning of the season, the team was derided by some of its own fans who referred to it as the Oakland Triple A's, an assertion that it was a team that is not quite of major league caliber.

And, on paper, that was true. But, as anyone who has ever played any sport knows, they don't play the games on paper.

The A's had a slow start to the year, but kicked it into gear in the summer and since July 1 this "little engine that could" has the best record in baseball.

Of course, the history of baseball is replete with winning teams that on paper had little or no chance.

One need only look across the bay to the 2010 San Francisco Giants. That was a team that, on paper, didn't seem to match up well with other teams, yet it won the world championship.

Last year's World Series championship by the St. Louis Cardinals was equally improbable on paper. Remarkable late-season heroics as well as collapses by others allowed the Cardinals to sneak into the playoffs and, then, win it all.

We are not predicting that a team dotted with rookies -- including five starting pitchers and a critical bullpen setup guy -- is going to march all the way to the World Series title, but the first step in doing so is making the playoffs and that they have done.

We congratulate the A's players and management for, once again, showing all fans why they play the games on the field and not on paper.