To commemorate Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier, the Oakland A’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 “Blue Moon” 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 A’s uniform, Reggie Jackson, the so-called Mr. October who was part of three championship-winning A’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 A’s glory days soon evaporated when the team found itself trailing the Royals 2-0 after the first inning. A solo-homer from A’s catcher Stephen Vogt in the second awakened the crowd, but the enthusiasm all but faded completely when A’s closer Sean Doolittle surrendered a ninth-inning homer to Royals first-baseman Eric Hosmer, which gave Kansas City a 4-2 lead.

The A’s loss gave them a home record of 1-7, dropping the team’s overall record to 4-7. The team’s weaknesses crept up again: inefficient starting pitching, unimpressive offense and a struggling Doolittle.

Let’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 A’s to be successful, Doolittle has got to improve and be the anchor of the bullpen alongside veteran Ryan Madson. It’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 A’s continue plummeting down the American League West standings.

Another cause for concern is A’s starting pitcher Rich Hill. Per Baseball Reference, Hill is 1-2 with an ERA of 4.15. He’s already hit four batters in 13 innings, and his WHIP     is at an astronomical 1.69.

In Friday’s loss, Hill left early in the fifth after throwing 106 pitches, 64 of which were strikes. It doesn’t take an expert to realize the A’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 A’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 there’s the team’s attendance rate.

As mentioned in last week’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 A’s have played in 10 home games through Sunday. Here’s the attendance broken down by each game, per Baseball Reference and ESPN.

Oakland Athletics warm ups - Leslie Plaza Johnson/Icon Sportswire
Oakland Athletics warm ups – Leslie Plaza Johnson/Icon Sportswire

Gm#1: 35,067

Gm#2: 10,478

Gm#3: 16,468

Gm#4: 12,577

Gm#5: 13,371

Gm#6: 13,492

Gm#7: 11,216

Gm#8: 19,451

Gm#9: 25,564

Gm#10: 29,668

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, we’ll wait to see if attendance remains steady throughout the season.

A familiar foe returns

Entering Sunday night’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 Maeda’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.

Thursday’s bullpen looked fantastic after tossing three innings and giving up only a hit.

Kike Hernandez - Adam Davis/Icon Sportswire
Kike Hernandez – Adam Davis/Icon Sportswire

Friday saw an impressive win over Madison Bumgarner, who gave up seven runs over five innings, which included two homers to Kiké 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 everyone’s healthy.

Numbers never lie:

My favorite stat of the week is about Ryan Madson, the A’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. It’s incredible that a 35-year-old reliever is among the most dominant relievers in the majors.

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Shane Newell
Shane Newell is pursuing his M.A. degree in data journalism at Stanford University. A lifelong Dodgers fan, Shane grew up in Southern California and graduated from Long Beach State with a B.A. in journalism in 2015. As an undergraduate, Shane worked at The Daily 49er and interned for two summers at the Orange County Register, where he specialized in local news and features. He wants to be a data journalist who tell stories through numbers and graphics. He hopes to use his data and multimedia skills to work on investigative projects across the world.