Even though 2022 was as difficult on the field as we expected for the Oakland A’s, it still brought a full season of baseball to watch with friends and loved ones.
After the disruption caused by the Covid pandemic in 2020 and 2021, both in baseball and beyond, that was something none of us could take for granted.
More than anything, it allowed us to finally travel to the States once more to watch the A’s in person and to catch up with friends in New York and in Oakland.
We’ll be travelling to the States again in 2023 and also holding several meet-ups in the UK, with details to be finalised in the next few months.
Here are some other things to keep in mind for 2023.
Key A’s Dates
The A’s regular season schedule begins with a home-stand against the LA Angels and the Cleveland Guardians. The opener is on Thursday March 30th, with a (weird) off-day on Friday before the series against the Halos concludes on the Saturday and Sunday.
The A’s finish up the season with a 6-game road-trip taking in Minnesota and Anaheim, with the final game against the Angels coming on Sunday October 1st. So if any wise guy jokes about the A’s not playing in October you can throw that back at them.
The Cactus League action begins on Saturday February 25th, although Spring Training will be disrupted this year because of the World Baseball Classic.
UK/Great Britain stuff
The WBC is always a fun event, but it has an additional level of excitement for us this year because the Great Britain national team managed to qualify for the full event for the first time.
Team GB are in a 5-team pool with the U.S., Canada, Colombia and Mexico. The games from this pool are being held in Phoenix between March 11-15.
We also have the long-awaited return of the MLB London Series. The Cubs and Cardinals were due to play at the London Stadium in 2020 before the Covid pandemic got in the way, but the two teams are making the trip across the pond in 2023 with the games being played on June 24-25.
We’ll be staging an A’s UK meet-up of some sort that weekend close to the Stadium, so keep an eye on the blog for details nearer to the time.
MLB Schedule Changes
2023 will also mark the first year of the new schedule format that will see every team play each other every season. Traditionalists may not be so keen, but for those of us who like travelling to different cities to watch the A’s it does make it much easier to tick off new places.
The new format works as follows:
- Division Rivals: 13 games against each of the other four teams, down from 19 in the previous format.
- The rest of the AL: 6 or 7 games against each of the other 10 teams.
- Interleague rival: 4 games against the Giants, split into two series of two. That’s down from 6 games in the previous format.
- The rest of the NL: 3 games against each of the other 14 teams in the NL, with home/road series alternating year-to-year.
The full NL split for the A’s looks like this:
|Team||Odd Years (2023 etc)||Even Years (2024 etc)|
MLB Rule Changes
We’ve got a few new rules to get used to in 2023.
The extreme defensive shifts that have become all the rage in recent seasons are being curtailed. The fielding team must now have at least four players on the infield (prohibiting four-man outfields), with at least two infielders completely on either side of second base (prohibiting the common shift where teams have put three infielders on to the pull-side of the hitter).
A pitch timer is being introduced to try to quicken the pace of play, something that has increasingly crept up over the past 10 years or so. The pitcher will have 15 seconds to make their pitch when the bases are empty, increased to 20 seconds when there are runners on base.
There are also going to be limits placed on the amount of times a pitcher can throw over to bases to keep the runner from getting too big of a lead. The pitcher can only throw over twice per plate appearance, unless the runner advances in which case that gets re-set.
Base stealing is also being encouraged by increasing the size of the basepads, from 15 inches square to 18 inches square. This slightly reduces the distance between the bases and also gives the base stealer a better chance of staying on the base when they slide into it.
As an A’s aside: outfielder Esteury Ruiz, one of the players the A’s received in the Sean Murphy trade, stole 85 bases in 114 Minor League games last season. The average for an entire MLB team in 2022 was 83. He’s going to be a lot of fun to watch this season.
The most important deadline
This actually spills over into 2024; however it will be hugely important this year too.
The MLB Collective Bargaining Agreement gives the A’s a deadline of January 15th, 2024, to get a “binding deal” for a new ballpark.
If the A’s fail to get a ballpark deal, whether in Oakland or Las Vegas, by that date they will be removed from the ‘small market’ revenue-sharing group. If they meet that deadline the A’s will be guaranteed to remain as recipients of that money until the new ballpark opens.
When the A’s were previously kicked out of this bracket in 2016 it was reported by then A’s beat writer Jane Lee that it had been worth $30M to the A’s in the 2016 season. With all MLB revenues increasing since that point, it’s fair to assume that a full share will be worth even more than that now (note that the A’s got a 25% share in 2022 and will get a 50% share in 2023).
You don’t need me to tell you that A’s owner John Fisher will be very keen to avoid missing out on $30M+ in additional revenue every year during the period before a new ballpark opens. That means, after nearly two decades of uncertainty, 2023 is very likely to be the year in which the A’s finally secure a deal to move from the current Coliseum site.
We all have our fingers firmly crossed that this will mean coming to an agreement with new Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao and the rest of the Oakland City Councillors to develop the Howard Terminal site and to secure the team’s future in Oakland for decades to come.
And if that happens, 2023 will prove to be an historic and successful year for the A’s irrespective of what happens on the field.