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Athletics designated hitter Frank Thomas (right) is congratulated by teammate Milton Bradley after hitting a three-run home run in the third inning against the Angels on Sunday in Anaheim.
ANAHEIM — Always a proud contrarian, A's general manager Billy Beane was at his best in knocking down theories Sunday afternoon as he looked ahead to the playoffs and looked back on a division title he considered just as satisfying as his first in 2000.

Beane insisted he doesn't need to win a playoff series to validate himself or his team, and reiterated his belief that the playoffs are a crapshoot. He does have a new gambling analogy, though.

"It becomes five hands of blackjack," Beane said of the best-of-5 division series, just before the A's learned their opponent will be the Twins, starting Tuesday in Minnesota.

"There's no sense counting cards. You're at the mercy (of the cards). A great blackjack player wants to play a lot of hands. If you only play five, you won't find out who is the best player."

Beane understands the A's four straight first-round exits is a natural storyline, simply because he's been the GM the whole time.

"I truly have a sense of calm," Beane said. "I don't feel the need to validate anything. Not only is it a completely different team, each year it's been completely different. We have just as good a chance this year as we had the other four years."

The theories Beane shot down: Power pitching works in the playoffs; home runs work in the playoffs; the best teams win one-run games; and the A's are suddenly "built" for the playoff.

- "Power pitching works all the time. Home runs work all the time."

- "Really good teams blow out everybody.


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And when they lose, they barely lose."

- "I'm not sure there's a template for the postseason, other than having good pitching, which you need to get to this point anyhow."

There wasn't much good pitching Sunday in the A's regular season finale. They blew leads of 7-3 and 10-9, but defeated the Angels 11-10 in 10 innings to finish with a 93-69 record.

Their expected record, based on a formula of runs scored and runs allowed, was 85-77.

Beane considered it the ultimate compliment when he heard on ESPN, "How are these guys winning?"

His answer?

"We pitch well, and we play good defense," Beane said. "Not only do we play good defense, but we play good defense when we really need to play good defense."

The A's defense wasn't very good in the 2002 division series against the Twins, something that must change if the A's are going to advance past the first round.

"Loud" is what Eric Chavez remembered most about those playoff games in the Metrodome. "Hopefully, we catch the ball," Chavez said. "Hopefully, they don't hit too many balls off the plate and get cheap hits. God knows, we don't get any cheap hits."

Any hits will be tough against Twins ace Johan Santana, the Cy Young lock who is starting Game 1.

"No one was in a hurry to face Santana; he's the best pitcher in the game," designated hitter Frank Thomas said. "But he can mistakes, just like any other pitcher. We have to be patient with him. I'm just glad we don't have to face him and (Francisco) Liriano. That would be extra tough. Santana is a dominant pitcher. We'll have to be at our best to beat him."

Beane thought the high number of injuries in 2005 prepared the A's to weather the injury storm this year.

"The 2000 (division title) was really special because it was the first after a number of years of not being a good club," Beane said. "This one is right there with it. I wasn't jumping up and down. Maybe it's because I've gotten over it, but it was a real sense of accomplishment because of what the players have done."

Beane credited the players and staff for not panicking in May. Beane even planned his trip to Germany, along with managing partner Lewis Wolff, and departed when the A's were at their rock-bottom point.

"We won the division, and we got to go to Germany," Beane said. "I don't even know if I raised my voice this year. Now if this was my first year as GM, when I wasn't Gandhi, it would be different. Now that I'm Gandhi, I just fast."

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