Athletics

A's Tony Kemp to join MLB players standing up against systemic racism

A's Tony Kemp to join MLB players standing up against systemic racism

Professional athletes have at times been outspoken against racism and police brutality against Black Americans.

That’s especially true in the NBA and at times in the NFL.

Baseball players have been far quieter in terms of pre-game displays of protest in the past, outside of former A’s catcher Bruce Maxwell kneeling during the national anthem late in the 2017 season.

Oakland second baseman Tony Kemp says that’s about to change.

“It’s definitely going to look a bit different,” he said Monday in a video conference with A’s reporters.

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That’s being discussed by the Players Alliance, a group of current and former Black players devoted to using their platforms to enact positive change.

Kemp is part of a group led by Curtis Granderson, C.C. Sabathia and Edwin Jackson that wants to act and speak out against racial injustice, especially after recent acts of police brutality against Black Americans and the ensuing protests that have brought greater attention to the systemic racism that has existed in the United States since its inception.

[RELATED: Jesus Luzardo 'itching to get back' to camp after coronavirus test]

Black players across MLB plan to make a statement on Opening Day of this shortened 60-game season protesting racial inequality and police brutality against Black Americans.

“Right now, for Opening Day, most guys are going to have a different avenue,” Kemp said. “Some guys are going to have a piece of black cloth to show unity. Some guys might kneel. Some guys might have a black hat to hold over their heart. There will be something that will be shown on Opening Day and I plan on being a part of it. I feel like it’s one thing to talk about what you’re going to do but, if you don’t have any actions to go along with it, I don’t think it really means anything.

“I think that Black players will be participating in doing something on Opening Day, and it’s going to be unified. I’m excited to see it. “

The A’s have been supportive of Kemp’s +-1 Effect, a movement focused on changing minds about racism through conversation, one person at a time.

Kemp expects the same support from A’s teammates with whatever he chooses to do on Opening Day.

“I know that a lot of teammates will be supportive and have our backs with it,” Kemp said. “That’s important.”

Marcus Semien's hard work paying off as he builds A's culture, tone

Marcus Semien's hard work paying off as he builds A's culture, tone

Austin Allen’s single to score Matt Chapman in the bottom of the 13th set the things up for Marcus Semien in the A’s 3-2 win over the Houston Astros on Friday night.

Semien sealed the deal with a walk-off single to center field. Semien smiled celebrated with an ice bath from Tony Kemp. It was a much-need victory over the Astros for both Semien and the A's.

For Semien, the big hit was a long time coming. 

“For me, it’s trying to be on time,” Semien told reporters following the 13-inning game. “I’ve been struggling with my timing a little bit, so just being on time, and same thing with Austin. Like I said, that guy was getting guys to chase up, so anything that is hard and a little lower, just attack it. I put a lot of work in earlier in the day just trying to hit line drives to the opposite field and it’s a good feeling when it clicks because for a while it hadn’t been clicking.”

Semien wasn’t hitting the ball hard, he explained. And when that happens, there’s a reason for it.  

“My stroke feels good, but sometimes it’s approach, sometimes it’s timing -- body position, a lot of things that could be,” Semien added. “That’s what early work is for, cage work. Once you get in the game, you just have to compete.”

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Semien said he has to create habits that work.

“It’s tough because you think you have to tinker with everything,” Semien added.

Semien wasn’t sure what that tinkering would consist of: Would he need to work on his swing? Not necessarily. The timing was definitely a factor, but Semien also believes opposing teams were attacking him differently.

That seems to be the case when he leaves a third-place AL MVP season behind him in 2019.

“They’re being more careful, you saw that with Texas,” Semien said. “I’m trying to take the low pitches, sometimes they’re calling them, and you just find yourself in 0-for-3 like that. I think today was a good day to build off.”

“They know last year I put up some good numbers and you’re not getting as much to hit. You think that you’re just going to get the same pitches that they threw last year and that’s part of it, kind of created some bad habits early on. Even since spring and Summer Camp, just hadn’t really been driving the ball well.” 

Semien said he’s working on that every day. It hasn't gone unnoticed.

“Marcus, I think has set the tone and built the culture here,” A’s starter Chris Bassitt told reporters during his postgame availability. “Obviously I think [Matt] Chapman and [Matt] Olson and those guys have caught on to just the work ethic that Semien brings every single day.”

[RELATED: A's fan creates GoFundMe to troll Astros with 'Asterisks' aerial banner]

Bassitt himself had a good outing, allowing just three hits and one earned run in seven innings. That brings his total to just two earned runs allowed in 16 2/3 innings this season. But this wasn’t about him at the moment despite his solid outing in the 13-inning game. He wanted to give Semien his moment.

“It’s not a matter of when [Semien] walks up to the plate, but whenever he does, you know you are getting the best effort from him every single night,” Bassitt said. “Doesn’t matter what at-bat, what inning. Anytime he walks up with the game on the line, I’m extremely confident in him.”

A's takeaways: What you might have missed in walk-off win over Astros

A's takeaways: What you might have missed in walk-off win over Astros

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It’s a series the A’s and their fans have been looking forward to since November, and the first game lived up to the hype.

The A's hosted the Houston Astros on Friday for the first time since a sign-stealing scandal was revealed, and Oakland won 3-2 on a walk-off single Marcus Semien in the 13th inning.

Austin Allen’s single to left field tied the game ahead of Semien’s game-winning hit. 

Despite no fans being in attendance, the A’s faithful made their presence known. 

An A's fan created a GoFundMe account to have a plane flyover the Coliseum with a "Houston Asterisk" sign being towed behind it to troll the Astros.

Astros starter Zack Greinke made himself comfortable in the stands among the cardboard cutouts in between innings, something you’re only allowed to get away with in 2020.

Here’s what you might have missed on Friday night: 

Typical Laureano

In the bottom of the sixth inning, Laureano hit a ball to center fielder Myles Straw, who fell onto his back which caused the ball to roll all the way to the wall. Laureano ended up with a triple, but would stay there as Matt Olson and Matt Chapman struck out, and Mark Canha flew out.

Laureano has been on a roll all season long. 

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Bassitt’s back

Facing Jose Altuve in the fifth inning, Bassitt unleashed his long, slow curve ball on the fifth pitch of the at-bat to get the Astros second baseman to fly out to right field.

It’s a pitch manager Bob Melvin has discussed before and it’s perfect to throw to keep batters off balance, which is exactly what Altuve did landing on his knee after he swung at it. That pitch averaged around 71.4 mph on the night. The velocity, of course, doesn’t matter, but it made its presence known.

Bassitt went seven innings and allowed three hits, one earned run while walking three and striking out three.

[RELATED: Don't expect A's to retaliate against Astros]

Grossman’s adjustment pays off

Robbie Grossman hit a solo shot, his first homer of the season. in the bottom of the seventh inning. He had been working on an adjustment since spring training and while he wasn’t specific as to what it was, it’s been working.

It was a game-changing home run, so whatever it was, it’s paying off. 

Still, once again, the A’s continue to depend on the home runs. This ended up being the reason why the game went into extras.