To commemorate Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier, the Oakland Aâ€™s chose on Friday night to honor five of the greatest African-American to don the yellow-and-green.
Among those in attendance at the pre-game ceremonies Friday were Vida Blue, John â€œBlue Moonâ€ Odom, Ricky Henderson and Dave Stewart. They received a warm reception even though the stadium was barely half-full.
But one of the greatest African-Americans to wear an Aâ€™s uniform, Reggie Jackson, the so-called Mr. October who was part of three championship-winning Aâ€™s teams, was not in attendance.
His absence was looked down upon by the jeering fans sitting behind me near the left-field foul pole, who said it was rude to be honored and not show up.
The leftover nostalgia tied to the Aâ€™s glory days soon evaporated when the team found itself trailing the Royals 2-0 after the first inning. A solo-homer from Aâ€™s catcher Stephen Vogt in the second awakened the crowd, but the enthusiasm all but faded completely when Aâ€™s closer Sean Doolittle surrendered a ninth-inning homer to Royals first-baseman Eric Hosmer, which gave Kansas City a 4-2 lead.
The Aâ€™s loss gave them a home record of 1-7, dropping the teamâ€™s overall record to 4-7. The teamâ€™s weaknesses crept up again: inefficient starting pitching, unimpressive offense and a struggling Doolittle.
Letâ€™s focus on Doolittle first. Through Friday, Doolittle is 1-2 with an ERA of 6.75. Still worse, he has given up three home-runs in 5 1/3 innings, per Baseball Reference. For comparing, Doolittle surrendered only five homers in 2014 when he pitched 62 2/3 innings.
For the Aâ€™s to be successful, Doolittle has got to improve and be the anchor of the bullpen alongside veteran Ryan Madson. Itâ€™s too early to think about lifting Doolittle out of his role as closer, but the time for him to improve is decreasing as the Aâ€™s continue plummeting down the American League West standings.
Another cause for concern is Aâ€™s starting pitcher Rich Hill. Per Baseball Reference, Hill is 1-2 with an ERA of 4.15. Heâ€™s already hit four batters in 13 innings, and his WHIPÂ Â Â Â is at an astronomical 1.69.
In Fridayâ€™s loss, Hill left early in the fifth after throwing 106 pitches, 64 of which were strikes. It doesnâ€™t take an expert to realize the Aâ€™s need more innings from their starters. The bullpen, which is above average in most statistics league-wide, cannot bolster the team for four or five innings every night.
But the team turned it around over the weekend. Propelled by a three-run homer by Josh Reddick in the first, the Aâ€™s won 5-3 on Saturday. Sonny Gray, who threw six innings and struck out six, earned his second win of the season.
Sunday saw the team win 3-2, and Ryan Madson, who filled in for a fluky Doolittle, notched his fourth save of the season.
And then thereâ€™s the teamâ€™s attendance rate.
As mentioned in last weekâ€™s column, Major League Baseball measures attendance by the number of tickets sold, not the number of fans who show up to the ballpark.
The Aâ€™s have played in 10 home games through Sunday. Hereâ€™s the attendance broken down by each game, per Baseball Reference and ESPN.
Granted, most of these games were playing during the week when it is common knowledge that fewer fans show up. Regardless, the low attendance rates cannot be encouraging to an organization and fan-base that has not seen continued playoff success in years. For the record, a sell-out attracts about 35,000 fans.
Though the attendance surge against the Royals was encouraging, weâ€™ll wait to see if attendance remains steady throughout the season.
A familiar foe returns
Entering Sunday nightâ€™s matchup, the Dodgers were 3-2 after five games with the Arizona Diamondbacks and San Francisco Giants.
The week started on a sour note when the Dodgers bullpen gave up four runs in three innings, spoiling Kenta Maedaâ€™s fantastic start.
But the boo-birds fell silent on Wednesday night. Kenley Jansen earned his second save after completing the rare five-out save, walking none and striking out two, per Baseball Reference.
Thursdayâ€™s bullpen looked fantastic after tossing three innings and giving up only a hit.
Friday saw an impressive win over Madison Bumgarner, who gave up seven runs over five innings, which included two homers to KikÃ© Hernandez.
A Saturday loss set up a rubber match on Sunday, where Kenta Maeda sought his third consecutive win against a 1-0 Jeff Samardzija.
Just remember that the team is 7-5 with Brandon McCarthy, Frankie Montas, Brett Anderson, Hyun-jin Ryu, Josh Ravin, Mike Bolsinger, Alex Guerrero, Carl Crawford, Andre Ethier and Scott Van Slyke. Imagine when everyoneâ€™s healthy.
Numbers never lie:
My favorite stat of the week is about Ryan Madson, the Aâ€™s ace reliever who did not play in the majors between 2012 and 2014.
Since returning to the major leagues after Tommy John surgery, Madson has thrown 70 1/3 innings while giving up 17 earned runs, giving him an approximate ERA of 2.18.
The closer role belongs to Sean Doolittle, but the time may be coming when Madson gets the call. Itâ€™s incredible that a 35-year-old reliever is among the most dominant relievers in the majors.