OAKLAND -- The A’s played a baseball game Monday that didn’t count for anything, but it still was better than no baseball at all. We’ve gone more than four months of MLB's normal season without a pitch thrown against true opposition, a streak snapped locally when the A’s and Giants squared off in one of two exhibition games leading up to a shortened 60-game season that starts for Oakland on Friday against the L.A. Angels.
The final score was 6-2 with the Giants winning, by the way. Not that you really care.
You shouldn’t, anyway. You shouldn’t try to mine absolute truths or trends from any performance exhibited in a rare intrasquad game in this abbreviated training camp.
This was a trial run for everybody in baseball’s hopefully isolated new world order, created to facilitate baseball during an ongoing coronavirus pandemic that continues to rage across the country.
The players have to get used to another team in the building, to auxiliary dugouts and social distancing. Game presenters worked out kinks in their home game delivery, with one practice run before Opening Day on Friday.
There was a ton to take in during this unique affair as the A’s prepare for a regular season unlike any other.
Here are three takeaways from the Bay Area’s first professional baseball game in a long, long time:
A’s trying to re-create authentic game atmosphere
The A’s have put significant effort into creating as normal a game environment as possible while missing the one element that truly makes it special.
They worked on finding proper volume for pumped-in crowd noise that clearly was taken from an A’s game. And yes, that included the drums normally beaten all game long by loyalists out in the right-field bleachers. It was oddly quiet in the early going, but the crowd noise increased as the game went along.
They showed off new fan cutouts and homemade signs lining the outfield wall. They even show a green/white dot race on the video board that entertains between innings, apparently even without fans in the audience.
It still feels off, despite great efforts, without the buzz only an alternately silencing and erupting crowd can bring. That just can’t be replicated, especially with only game officials and impartial media in the stands.
A’s reserves tried to make up for lost fans early, cheering wildly for their teammates from the auxiliary dugout in section 122.
Watching a game like this, after seeing several in a professional capacity and many more as a young fan, certainly was unique. It wasn’t bad considering the circumstances, but nowhere close to what it was and will be again after this public health crisis ends.
A’s feel for A.J.
Left-handed starter A.J. Puk wasn’t at Oakland Coliseum on Monday evening. He was in Los Angeles getting a shoulder strain checked out by a renowned orthopedist Dr. Neal ElAttrache, an ailment that landed him on the injured list.
That’s bad news for the A’s and a pitcher they were counting on heavily for the 2020 regular season. The 25-year old dealt with a similar shoulder strain in the spring but recovered after baseball hit the pause button in March. Having another bout of shoulder problems isn’t a great sign, though the A’s certainly are keeping fingers crossed Puk can come back fast after dealing with injury issues since having Tommy John surgery in April 2018.
“I hope’s going to be alright, and that it’s not too serious,” Mike Fiers said in a video conference with reporters. “We could definitely use him this year. We would love to have him. I’m sure it’s hard on him to be set back again. He has been dealing with this for a while, so I hope he can recover and get back to pitching without having to worry about injury.”
Celebrities in the “crowd”
The A’s have done an admirable job filling the sections closest to the field with fan cutouts on sale to the general public. Most of them are of diehards clad in green and gold, showing the loyalty of their relatively small, yet rabid fan base.
If you look carefully, however, there are some celebrities in their midst. Jose Canseco and Dennis Eckersley showed up. So did Vida Blue and Dave Stewart and a number of other A’s legends. Some MLB Network personalities in the crowd as well, and finding those they know could be a fun scavenger hunt/drinking game for fans watching at home wishing they could be here.
This cardboard cutout was made from a juice box. pic.twitter.com/OqKKrLCKxv— Daniel Brown (@BrownieAthletic) July 21, 2020