Oakland A’s baseball is almost upon us for another season.
The Cactus League action in Arizona gets underway on Saturday with the A’s hosting the Diamondbacks at Hohokam Stadium. It’s a convenient evening start time for us in the UK, as are most games during Spring Training, and the NBC Sports California crew will be on hand to cover the contest.
Plenty to play for
In the majority of MLB camps, the Spring Training period will be a case of the established players slowly building up for the season whilst the coaching staff runs the rule over a few players who may claim the last bullpen spot or a place on the bench.
It’s quite different for our A’s.
There are a bunch of new players to get to know, with current projections suggesting as many as 10 or 11 players on the Opening Day roster could be new recruits, as well as some of the exciting young players we’ve got coming through.
Spring Training stats should always be treated with caution, but with so many spots up for grabs it promises to be a very competitive camp. Players know that a strong Cactus League showing could be the difference between getting the first opportunity on the Big League roster or starting the season in Triple-A.
Following the games
As always, only a small selection of Spring Training games are being broadcast on TV Stateside, either by NBC Sports California or the opposing team’s crew; however these will be supplemented by a decent number of games covered by a basic camera set-up and radio commentary.
The 2023 MLB.TV subscription details were announced recently and, whilst there was an always-unwelcome small price rise, there are some nice new features. The main one is that the Minor League TV subscription has now been bundled into the main MLB.TV deal.
In previous seasons you could buy MiLB.TV at a discounted rate if you were an MLB.TV subscriber; however the MiLB “First Pitch” app was quite basic and buggy (I ended up uninstalling it from my iPad early last season in frustration and watched games from my laptop instead).
The new approach will allow you to use the MLB.TV app for MiLB affiliate games of your chosen Favourite Team, whilst improvements for the “First Pitch” app are in the works too.
A few things to note
The weekend of the 4th and 5th of March will involve the A’s using a split-squad, with half the camp playing in Arizona and the other half travelling to Las Vegas to play a two-game series against the Cincinnati Reds.
The A’s did this back in 2020, prior to the Covid-19 shut-down, and it’s a nice way to reward our Triple-A affiliate; however this time it has a different feel to it given the ongoing threat of relocation. It will put Mark Kotsay and the players in a difficult position when they are bombarded with the inevitable questions and creates a distraction I’m sure they could all do without.
The A’s will also diverge from the usual Cactus League schedule on Wednesday 8th with a game against the Colombia national team, who will be warming up for the World Baseball Classic.
Don’t forget the World Baseball Classic!
This spring will also be complemented by the return of the WBC for the first time since 2017 after the 2021 edition was postponed due to Covid-19 and the MLB lock-out.
As an ‘international’ fan, the WBC is particularly important to me as I know how much of a difference it can make in promoting the game outside of North America. That has a special resonance this year as Great Britain has qualified for the tournament for the first time.
It’s inevitable that the event does cause some disruption to the preparation of MLB teams; however I strongly feel that it’s a small price worth paying given the uniqueness of the tournament in the baseball calendar and how marketable the WBC is to an international audience.
The A’s WBC contingent predominantly are Minor Leaguers, with Jordan Díaz (Colombia) and Adrián Martínez (Mexico) being the only ones who have played in the Majors. Take that as a small silver lining to the cloud of not having many established Big Leaguers that WBC teams are desperate to call on.