Athletics

Three observations from A's first three games of 2020 MLB season

Three observations from A's first three games of 2020 MLB season

The sheer satisfaction of baseball’s return might have overshadowed what actually transpired in the A's first three games of the 2020 MLB season.

While the A’s will go for their first series win Monday at the Coliseum, we already have some early observations about how the team is shaping up.

The A’s have yet to out-hit the Angels, but have still won two of three games

Outfielder Ramon Laureano has hit safely in all three games for the A's, but most of his teammates are on the opposite side of that success, so far.

It’s no surprise arms are generally ahead of bats here early in this jump-started MLB season, but consistent run production is something the A’s got away from last year down the stretch, when the games mattered most. 

“It’s not how many hits you get, it’s when you get the hits,” analyst Dave Stewart said Sunday on A's Postgame Live. “To score runs, you have to hit with runners in scoring position. And it takes multiple hits to score runs.”

[BALK TALK: Listen to the latest episode]

Sean Murphy’s contributions this season will be critical

Murphy’s 455-foot moon-shot on Sunday caught everyone’s attention, and gave the A's a timely insurance run. Much as his bat is highly touted, his work with the pitchers may be less visible but even more valuable to the A's.

After Sunday’s win, Murphy explained that he was versed in all the scouting reports on Los Angeles, but still prioritized the veteran instincts of his starter Mike Fiers. 

“At this point, I’ll defer to Mike,” Murphy said. “Just because he has seen these guys so much, and he knows how his [stuff] plays to them.”

“They feel confident that one - he has the ability to work this staff. And two - to offensively get this job done,” Stewart said. “This guy, at his position is going to be an All-Star at some point, and I think it’s going to happen really soon.”

The constant reminder that none of this is normal

Manager Bob Melvin admits he keeps coming out of the A’s clubhouse expecting to see fans, and still isn’t totally adjusted to the exclusive presence of cardboard cutouts in seats.

The level of abnormality is even greater for players, who are already making huge changes to their preparation and routines. And now, their execution in heat-of-the-moment situations is only commemorated with pre-recorded crowd noise.

It’s difficult to be too critical of anyone’s individual performance, knowing these are uncharted times - personally and professionally for A's players.

[RELATED: A's diverse bullpen could be key to season]

“You’ve got guys on the team that are in all sorts of spots right now,” outfielder Mark Canha said after Sunday’s win. “It feels like were trying to all figure it out, and get our bearings, and get our legs under us.”

Fortunately for the A's, travel is convenient during the first month: 23 of their first 29 games will take place in the state of California.

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.”