So there we were on Tuesday, moderately excited that the A’s Cactus League game against the Chicago Cubs was being broadcast by their TV network, so was one of a small number of A’s games we could watch this Spring.
Not only was it available via MLB.TV, it was chosen as a game shown live on the UK TV home of MLB, BT Sport. Convenient UK evening start time, TV coverage: what more could you want?
It was about five innings into it that the annual moment of realisation hit us on our Zoom watch-along. Pre-season exhibition games are not the most captivating of spectacles, especially when the coverage is being provided from the opposing team’s perspective.
Long in-game chat with Joc Pederson about his sneaker collection? Check!
Telling us the name of the A’s Minor Leaguer currently at the plate? Coin-toss at best!
That’s no great criticism of the Marquee Network coverage from the game as it works the same for every announcing team at this time of year. Their main audience is fans of their own team and knowing much about an unheralded Double-A prospect from another club doesn’t figure highly on their priority list.
The issue really is that, after the first few days, Spring Training gets old pretty quickly for fans and players alike. There are bright moments along the way – another Buddy Reed highlight, for example – yet by and large the games are easily ignorable other than catching up on the key points from the beat writers afterwards.
Which brings us back to the A’s game on Tuesday. As it was a very rare A’s Spring Training game on British TV we committed ourselves to watching it all the way through. This only amounted to seven innings, but that was long enough when there was little of note happening.
The one highlight was in discussing the current Spring Training practice of ‘rolling the inning’.
This means that if a pitcher has thrown 20+ pitches then the manager has the ability to bring the inning to an end. The logic is that you don’t want to overwork pitchers early in Spring and that this is all the more important this year when you want to limit the number of players at the ballpark each day as part of Covid social-distancing measures. Rolling the inning prevents burnout whilst also preventing a team from running out of pitching and then needing the game to be called ahead of the agreed duration, as doing this would impact on the other team’s plans on getting work in for all of their allotted pitchers that day.
It’s meant to be a unique measure for the first half of this strange Spring Training that is fair for both teams; however, as with most things, the fairness does require teams to utilise the power responsibly so that it doesn’t descend into what can only be described as “shit-housing”.
The A’s have been on the wrong end of this twice this Spring, with both the Seattle Mariners and Texas Rangers ‘rolling the inning’ when we had the bases loaded, denying Minor Leaguers the chance to face that pressure situation of trying to come through in the clutch (pressure still there in that moment for the hitter trying to impress the Big League coaching staff irrespective of the game being an exhibition).
With the A’s leading in the bottom of the seventh inning and Nik Turley struggling on the mound, the discussion on Zoom turned to whether we should roll the inning and the (to us, hilarious) reaction from the Cubs fans in attendance? Bob Melvin being the epitome of class and proper conduct as a manager didn’t consider such a thing.
“It’s only Spring Training” is the lesson we quickly re-learn every year, but that doesn’t stop the involuntary swearing when your team loses a game on a walk-off grand slam.
None of the above thoughts change the fact that watching any A’s baseball on a Sunday evening in the UK (lunch/early-afternoon in California) is always a treat not to be taken for granted.
Our A’s are taking on the Chicago White Sox today and the NBC Sports California crew will be on hand to cover the action. Frankie Montas is scheduled to make his 2021 Cactus League debut, with first pitch set for 20:05 UK time, 1.05pm in California. For those of us outside of the Bay Area, coverage is available to watch online via an MLB.TV subscription.
The Coming Week
Mon: Cleveland (1.05pm PDT, 20.05 UK)
Tues: Arizona (1.10pm PDT, 20.10 UK)
Weds: Kansas City (1.05pm PDT, 20.05 UK)
Thurs: San Diego (1.10pm PDT, 20.10 UK) *
Fri: Chicago Cubs (1.05pm PDT, 20.05 UK)
Sat: LA Angels (1.10pm PDT, 20.10 UK) *
(*) Available to watch on MLB.TV. “Radio” commentary is available for the other games, also via MLB.TV/MLB At Bat.