Athletics

Chris Bassitt feels empty stadiums shows players took fans for granted

Chris Bassitt feels empty stadiums shows players took fans for granted

It’s weird, different, awkward -- so many things, but it’s the norm these days.

The A’s, and every team across the league are playing in front of cardboard cutouts which were placed there to simulate true fans attending games. That, in addition to piped-in crowd noise, should be able to make it feel more normal, right? Chris Bassitt begs to differ.

“I think we as athletes kind of took fans for granted before all of this, and now, as the first two games kind of got played out, I’ve kind of realized I think the majority of us have realized the true value of a fan -- especially at a game,” Bassitt told reporters on Sunday. “Just because -- I’m not saying going through the emotions by any means, but it’s definitely a different game.”

“The energy that every game has is just drastically different,” Bassitt added. “It’s very awkward, it really is.”

Especially for him as a pitcher.

“Sitting in the stands as a starter, I absolutely hate it, I despise it,” Bassitt said. “I think this kind of has shown us how truly important fans are. I’ve talked to a couple position players about it and it’s a drastically different environment to play a game and, like I said, you just got to push through and understand what the main goal is.”

Both the lack of fans and the nature of where he is sitting play into some of the things Bassitt and others, are having to adjust to.

That group has to sit now right above the dugout in a shaded area. An area that isn’t giving him a leg up from what he’s used to. If anything, it makes it more difficult from his normal views. 

“The whole thing is strange, just talking about me personally I hate it, but that’s how we’re playing the game,” Bassitt said.

[BALK TALK: Listen to the latest episode]
 

For Bassitt, and his outgoing personality, he likes to talk to other starters in the dugout prior to his start -- a characteristic opposite of Sean Manaea who prefers to be left alone. Now, the starters need to sit in that designated area, four rows away. Not in as close of contact with one another as they’re used to with the ability to bounce tips and ideas off of one another.

“That aspect of it is going to be tough,” Bassitt said. “I think we all have the opportunity to watch each other and say ‘Hey, what’s going on?’ but unfortunately with the circumstances, we have, we don’t really have the opportunity to talk with each other during the game so it’s more so ‘This is what we saw’ after the game.”

Bassitt said the rules and guidelines eliminate them from communicating as they’re used to, but credited the majority of the veteran staff, minus Jesus Luzardo, of course, that this might not be a huge issue in the long run. 

[RELATED: Why Luzardo might join starting rotation soon]

Now it’s not as strict as you might think, however, Bassitt said. Pitchers can still relay messages if need be, but he admits he is still trying to figure it all out in this trial period of sorts. But he appreciated previous words from Brett Anderson and Sonny Gray, who would be able to quickly pull him aside and give him some advice. 

“The whole environment is just very awkward,”  Bassitt said.

A's coach Ryan Christenson says apparent Nazi salute was unintentional

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A's coach Ryan Christenson says apparent Nazi salute was unintentional

A's bench coach Ryan Christenson said he "unintentionally" gave a Nazi salute during Oakland's celebratory handshake line after Thursday's win over the Texas Rangers.

"I made a mistake and will not deny it," Christenson said in a statement released by the team. "Today in the dugout I greeted players with a gesture that was offensive. In the world today of [COVID-19] I adapted our elbow bump, which we do after wins, to create some distance with the players. My gesture unintentionally resulted in a racist and horrible salute that I do not believe in. What I did is unacceptable, and I deeply apologize."

The NBC Sports California broadcast showed Christenson raising his right arm with his palm facing down while A's closer Liam Hendriks approached.  Hendriks quickly grabbed Christenson's arm, bending it at the elbow for the coach's "elbow bump" celebration, which he said is done due to MLB's coronavirus safety protocols. Christenson then turned around and repeated the initial gesture.

"No, no straight arm, you have to bend your elbow," Christenson said Hendriks told him in an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle's Susan Slusser, referring to the coach's usual celebration.

"Oh, I see what you mean, oh no, it's like 'Heil Hitler,' " Christenson said after he turned, in his and Hendriks' recounting to Slusser.

The salute, typically followed by exclamations of "Heil Hitler" or "Sieg Heil," was a compulsory tribute to Adolf Hitler within the Nazi Party and, later, all of Germany under the Nazis' rule from 1933 through 1945. Still used by neo-Nazis and white supremacists long after the end of World War II, the Anti-Defamation League says the salute is "the most common white supremacist hand sign in the world."

The A's said in a statement that they were "deeply sorry this happened on our playing field."

"We do not support or condone this gesture, or the racist sentiment behind it," the A's said in a statement. "This is incredibly offensive, especially in these times when we as a [club] and many others are working to expose and address racial inequities in our country."

Before the A's released the pair of statements, Christenson told Slusser that he "wasn't doing that intentionally" and that "I just blacked out, my mind wasn't there and I spaced out."

"I'm cringing inside picturing myself," Christenson told Slusser. "Of course I'm sorry for it -- it's like standing there with my middle finger up. Anyone should know better."

A's Khris Davis reveals adjustment that led to production at plate

A's Khris Davis reveals adjustment that led to production at plate

Whatever he’s doing appears to be working.

Khris Davis proved his recent adjustment at the plate is paying dividends, as he tallied his second multi-hit game of the season during the A’s 6-4 sweep over the Texas Rangers on Thursday.

Davis said the coaching staff and teammates are to thank for the recent surge -- particularly hitting coach Darren Bush, who first suggested an alteration with Davis' hands.

“Yeah, I just put my hands back and further up a little and it’s been helping me be more accurate to the ball,” Davis said after the game. “I’m finding less swings and misses and a little better contact.”

“It’s all pretty comfortable right away, usually when you have to make an adjustment and you feel it click, you just run with that and don’t look back so it’s brought some comfort in the box so I’m going to keep working with it,” Davis said.

Davis went 2-for-3 on Thursday, driving in two runs in the 4th inning to break the game open.

“I think it’s a positioning thing, just having them further back -- less room to go,” he added. “They’re just already ready to fire and it’s been working.”

[BALK TALK: Listen to the latest episode]

Davis wants to be the everyday designated hitter, but that hasn’t necessarily been the case with his lack of production. Mark Canha has been taking over the DH spot in some of the outings, but it’s something Davis is ready to earn back.

“It is what it is,” Davis said. “And, I just have to capitalize on my opportunities that I do get. It’s s--tty, but I’ve been here before, I’ve lost my job before a couple times and I’ve had to battle back and this is nothing new to me.”

It turns out the oblique injury Davis suffered last season when he ran into the wall in May ended up leaving a bigger mark than just on his skin. 

"I think when I got hurt, I had been getting set up in a different way,” Davis said. “My body just wasn’t adjusting to that injury and just when I put my hands further back it just freed things up.”

[RELATED: Luzardo's outing shows A's have something special]

Oh, and his teammates are helping him a lot too.  

“A lot of good teammates, they know what it’s like to go through a struggle and they just kept reminding me that I could hit all around, I don’t have to hit a home run or whatever, but they constantly say that I’m a good hitter, I’m [not just] a power hitter.”