I've been gone on vacation for awhile. Usually while I'm away, I keep up with the latest A's news and scores. This time though, I was in the Middle East, which meant no reliable internet access, no phone, and no Sportscenter. Let's just say I have had a lot to sift through upon my return.

There's nothing like immersing yourself in baseball, but the A's made it slightly overwhelming. A lot has changed in the month I've been absent. Let's take a look at the last month or so, and analyze the biggest changes with and within the organization. Then, we'll take a look at where it leaves the team going forward.

Divisional race- When I left, the A's were only a few games out of first, trailing the Rangers and more or less even with the Angels. Even though it was mainly false optimism, there was some sort of hope for a run at the postseason. Now, the A's sit 8.5 games back, with all postseason hope evaporated.

Most baseball fans knowledgeable with the game the past few years knew that the A's we're too young, with much too many question marks to maintain pace at the top of the division. That said, there was a great deal of hope among A's fans that this young team could get hot at the right time and ride the youth to the finish. Obviously, that hasn't happened and we're resigned to yet another disappointing year.

Remade lineup- Wow, a lot has changed here. For starters, Ryan Sweeney is on the disabled list, arguably leaving the A's without their best hitter. Along with Dallas Braden and Brett Anderson making trips to the dl as well, the A's traded for outfielder Conor Jackson and watched him gravitate towards Braden and Anderson with hamstring problems.

Gone are Eric Patterson and Jake Fox. In at the big league level are Ross Wolf, Steven Tolleson, and Matt Watson.

Interleague trouble- The tumble from contention took place during interleague play. Aside from the woeful Pirates, the NL Central was not kind to the A's. Ignoring the sweep of the Pirates, the A's only won two of 12 during the middle chunk of June against the national leage. A sweep at the hands of the Yankees right before the All-Star break and a hot Rangers team did the A's and their season a ten count.

Where do the A's go from here? That's a tough question. As we approach the end of July, the season is another lost one. There's been plenty of positives to come from the season thus far. We have had a wonderful All-Star year from young Trevor Cahill. A repeat All-Star campaign from Andrew Bailey. And, we can't forget the perfect game from Dallas Braden. Hey A-Rod, get off my mound!

We now look to end the season on a high note. This means getting players healthy and letting young players receive reps at the major league level. Two of the most anticipated arrivals are from Michael Taylor and Chris Carter from Sacramento. The pair of highly touted prospects will no undoubtedly be called up in September when rosters expand. Valuable experience will be gained that can hopefully be used next year to bolster the A's somewhat lackluster lineup.

On another positive note, the A's sit at and can still finish above .500 for the first time in a few years. It's been a slightly rude welcoming from the A's, but not entirely unexpected. I had higher hopes for this years team- and they've produced some entertaining baseball- but this past month has sealed their place in this season's AL West race.