June 20, 2024
Oakland Athletics swept by Baltimore Orioles, eliminated from AL West

OAKLAND — The fan experience has been stripped to its bare bones at the Oakland Coliseum, but having a kid announce one inning over the PA system is one of a few traditions that remains. In the fifth inning of the Oakland A’s 12-1 loss to the Baltimore Orioles, the lucky kid at the microphone added a little flair to one of his announcements.

“Up next, my favorite player,” the kid said over the Coliseum’s sound system. “Tony Kemp.”

Kemp looked up toward the announcer’s booth on his way to the batter’s box, tipped his helmet and waved at the kid. Cameras caught the kid waving back, a huge grin on his face. During the dog days of a season destined to fail from its start, veterans such as Kemp can syphon purpose through interactions like that one.

The big picture is far too bleak.

With the loss, the A’s were officially eliminated from American League West contention. On Aug. 20, it’s the earliest in the season in franchise history this team has been eliminated from the division, beating out last year’s Aug. 28 elimination. It’s almost a funny footnote on an epically disastrous season; the A’s are losing so much that everyone involved appears numb to the burns of failure.

Of course they would be eliminated from playoff contention. Given the minuscule budget baseball operations had to work with this offseason, it’s clear ownership had no desire to put a winning team on the field.

That numbness comes into play during games, too. Orioles’ starter Kyle Bradish hadn’t allowed a base runner until Zack Geloff’s fifth inning single to left field. And by then the Orioles were up by seven runs. It was clear by the fourth inning the A’s would be swept by the AL East’s best team. By the game’s end, the Orioles had 17 hits and 12 runs, the A’s had four hits and one run, courtesy of Brent Rooker’s solo homer in the seventh.

Kemp, one of the longest-tenured Athletics despite joining the team just five seasons ago, can find meaning to a meaningless season by giving loyal fans the show they want. That motivation gave him that extra oomph back in St. Louis when he made a sliding catch in shallow left field and doubled off the runner at third with a tough throw on the move.

Perhaps that motivation gave Seth Brown — considered a veteran despite entering his first year of arbitration next year — a little oomph as he made an unassisted double play at first wrangling a line drive and tagging first base all in one fall.

The veterans, for as few as there are in Oakland, have different motivations than the rookies and young guns trying to get their footing. The A’s front office has roster churn down to a science and — shortly after shedding their Matt Chapman, Matt Olson, Marcus Semien core — have thrust their newest prospects into the fire.

Some have thrived. Gelof had two of the A’s four hits on Sunday to plump up a special month of August in which he’s batting .385 with 12 extra-base hits and a 1.190 OPS in 17 games.

Esteury Ruiz has struggled since coming off the injured list on Aug. 5, but established himself as one of the most feared base stealing threats in MLB and his 43 stolen bases led the league at the time of his injury. Sunday’s starter JP Sears’ seven earned runs allowed on Sunday were the most he’s allowed all season, but he makes up a crop of promising players who are adjusting to MLB standards the hard way.

Everyone that suits up for the A’s can find reason to invest in this losing season. But you can imagine the mental toll it takes when players and coaches are investing more than the people signing their checks.