After a really good start where we played a lot of good baseball, our club hit a skid. It started right before the All-Star break, and we haven't played good baseball since then. It's been tough. It's been a long year, but there are bright days ahead for this franchise.

The season started with a trip to Japan to play the Red Sox. We played well over there. When we came back, we continued that. I think we surprised a lot of people in the beginning. With all of the young guys on our roster, I don't think many people expected too much from us this year.

When things were going well, we were throwing the ball well. We backed up the good pitching with good defense. We were swinging the bats better then than we are now, and back then we were getting the big hit when we needed it. Back then, when we were winning, it seemed like we were playing that typical Oakland A's type of baseball. Now it seems like we can't get that big hit.

We try not to use injuries as an excuse. We didn't use injuries as an excuse last year when we were devastated. Injuries are part of the game and something you have to play through. But you can't overlook that injuries have definitely been a factor again this season.

We've missed key guys -- a guy like third baseman Eric Chavez alone can give you 25 home runs and 80-100 RBIs along with Gold Glove defense -- and it's been tough not having him in the lineup. But the injuries have also given opportunities to guys like Jack Hannahan, who has played tremendous defense at third and has swung the bat well.

Watching our club everyday now, you do see some of the young guys getting better -- the youth on our pitching staff in particular. We have good arms, and that's exciting. Right now, they aren't all throwing strikes, though, and it seems like everyone we walk is scoring.

That's probably the biggest difference between having veterans go out and pitch compared with young guys. They aren't throwing enough strikes and it comes back to bite them sometimes.

But the young guys are going to make this organization good for a long time. I look at guys like Carlos Gonzalez and Gio Gonzalez. There will be a time when they are good, when we are good as a team. But we're going through some growing pains right now.

Mark Ellis is one of the A's veteran leaders, having played with Oakland since 2002. Ellis, who recently became the Oakland A's all-time leader in games played at second base, has 12 home runs, 41 RBIs and 51 runs scored this season.