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Oakland Athletics designated hitter Hideki Matsui (55) and coach Tye Waller (46) watch from the dugout in the third inning of their Major League Baseball game against the New York Yankees, at the Overstock.com Coliseum, in Oakland, Calif., on Wednesday, June 1, 2011.The Yankees would go onto beat the Athletics 4-2. (Anda Chu/Staff)

The aging slugger, the globally famous star acquired to put some thump into the heart of the order, is flailing and failing.

The universally praised pitching staff, the foundation of this runs-challenged club, is cracking and crumbling into a heap of broken parts.

The lineup, woefully short on distinction but projected as average, is as hollow as it is homely.

The defense, presumed solid if not spectacular, is shockingly sloppy, submitting some of the most unsightly glove work in baseball.

Though 101 games remain on the A's schedule, more than enough time to alter the standings, rational assessment insinuates this season of promise is irreparably broken.

And that's before peering into the dugout and finding the manager, whose baseball knowledge is neutralized by his inability to galvanize, much less energize, is twisting and turning and spinning in hopes of containing such comprehensive damage.

Expected to contend in the AL West, Oakland sits seven games behind first-place Texas. More alarming, the A's are mired in last place, behind the Angels and Mariners, the consensus pick as the worst team in the division.

Year after year, since promoting Bob Geren from bench coach to manager after the 2006 season, general manager Billy Beane has insisted Oakland's roster lacked the necessities of a contender, making it difficult to evaluate Geren strictly on the basis of results. With stellar pitching, reliable defense and the addition of three competent bats, including proven DH Hideki Matsui, the Great Godzilla, that was supposed to change in 2011.

It has not. As the A's this week engage Baltimore for a three-game series at Camden Yards, their roster is a lot like those trotted out in the years since 2007. It's ineffective and injured, fractured and futile.

The A's have their third head trainer in five years, hiring Nick Paparesta to replace Steve Sayles, who was promoted in 2008 to replace Larry Davis.

The aches and surgeries and rehab assignments keep coming.

Left-hander Brett Anderson, after two wretched starts, returned to California to get his elbow examined Monday. He's the fifth projected starter to miss time this season, following Rich Harden (diagnosed with a muscle strain in March, yet to throw a pitch), Dallas Braden (underwent surgery in May, out for the season), Tyson Ross (replaced Braden in the rotation, has missed three weeks with an oblique strain) and Brandon McCarthy (sustained a stress reaction in scapula, just starting to throw again).

Four of the five are, or have been, on the disabled list. The fifth is Anderson, who seems destined for the DL.

The DL, by the way, is where closer Andrew Bailey began the season. He's back, though the A's are using him carefully.

Slowing and surely and constantly, the strength of the team has become a weakness. The vaunted rotation is frayed beyond recognition, the bullpen a constant work in progress and flexibility.

Meanwhile, Oakland's offense is pure figment. Say what you want about Beane and Geren, and they have made themselves easy and deserving targets, they're not so much writing out a lineup these days as trying to assemble one from shoestrings and dryer lint.

How bad is it? Kevin Kouzmanoff, the team's most productive offensive player last season, leading the A's in homers and tying for the lead in RBIs, was sent down to the minors Monday -- yet his absence won't be felt. He was caught in his own little web of despair, which has become epidemic in the clubhouse.

This season wasn't supposed to go down like this. With Matsui, the proud veteran, the former Yankees masher, hitting three homers in 174 at-bats, average barely above .200 as his 37th birthday looms Saturday. With Daric Barton, homerless after 61 games, awful in the No. 2 hole and solid in the 6 hole, only to be put back in the 2 hole. With Coco Crisp hovering around the .260s and every other Oakland regular striving to reach such "lofty" heights.

With Josh Willingham's numbers (10 homers, 39 RBIs, batting around .250) making him a relative Henry Aaron among his teammates.

The 2011 A's were supposed to blend superior pitching and strong defense with decent offense. In today's game, without the inflated offensive numbers of a few years ago, that's a reasonable approach. It worked for the Giants last season and maybe it would be enough for the A's to win 85, 90 games.

That would be, at the least, enough to contend for the postseason.

But the reality is Oakland's little green baseball boat is springing too many leaks, at too fast a rate, to be plugged. The staff is a mess, the lineup a hoax and Godzilla scares no one. There is no quick fix.

And, at this rate, no slow and deliberate fix either.

Contact Monte Poole at mpoole@bayareanewsgroup.com.