Some teams can merrily ignore it, smug in the knowledge that they’ve still got plenty to focus on this year.
For others, it’s yet another reminder that ‘next year’ is already on the mind.
And, yes, the Oakland A’s are in the latter camp.
We’ve known for a long time that 2017 wasn’t going to be our year, to the point that I didn’t even notice when our division Elimination Number on the MLB.com standings changed from a number to a letter (it happened on 4 September, courtesy of the A’s losing to Angels and the Astros beating Seattle).
The provisional MLB schedules for 2018 were published on Tuesday and whilst I feel a bit guilty to look ahead that far, a quick glance is surely okay.
The A’s are not starting against Seattle
It’s four years since we started against the Mariners, but the four-year run from 2010 to 2013 when we did host them every time (albeit in 2012 the first two were played in Japan) has it stuck in my mind that we always start against Seattle. Not so, once again, in 2018.
2017 Opening Series repeat
We start at home against the Angels instead. It’s a repeat of the 2017 opening series and the ninth consecutive season in which the A’s have started at home.
No need to wait for April
The season begins on 29 March as the new Collective Bargaining Agreement has stretched out the season slightly to increase the number of off-days. Baseball beginning earlier is always a good thing and everyone will start on the same day as opposed to the staggered start we’ve had for many years.
Starting right at the end of March may also work nicely for some if your annual leave pattern at your work goes from April to March and you can plan to use two days at the end, rather than dipping into your 2018/19 allocation straight away.
The biggest news of all: the first game of the season is a day-game! You don’t need me to tell you how great that is for us in the UK. Getting up for a 3.05 am Opening ‘Night’ start has become something of a tradition, but one I’ll gladly forsake in favour of a 21.05 UK first pitch.
The headline on the 2018 schedule announcement for the A’s is that their home game against the Chicago White Sox on 17 April will be free to attend. The date marks the 50th anniversary of the A’s first game in Oakland and will be part of many festivities over the course of the year to honour this half-century.
(Comments from fans of opposing teams about the A’s needing to give away tickets to a game against the White Sox are uncalled for, thank you!).
Other News: Laney College here we come?
Tuesday was a day of even more important news for the A’s future plans in the form of the San Francisco Chronicle reporting that the team has chosen its preferred site on which to build a new ballpark in Oakland.
Excitement is tempered by the many obstacles that need to be navigated before permission is granted and work can begin. Even with things going smoothly, it would be 2023 before the A’s home opener took place somewhere other than the Coliseum, so it’s a bit early to booking hotels for a visit just yet.
However, after so many years of uncertainty about the team’s future in Oakland, it does feel that this is an important step and one that is hugely encouraging.
The appointment of Dave Kaval as the A’s President in November last year has led to a sea-change both in terms of how the A’s have approached the search for a new site in Oakland and, just as importantly, relations between the club and the fans. There’s a long way to go as yet, but the early signs are good.
A new ballpark will be great news for fans in the East Bay and another great excuse for fans based elsewhere in the world to pay a visit.
Nearer to now
There are still games to be played in 2017 and even in a losing season it’s easy to enjoy a four-game sweep over a division rival, as we dished out to the Astros over the past weekend. Last night’s shellacking by the Red Sox wasn’t so much fun, but if there’s one (sort of) good thing about a losing season it’s that another one on the pile really doesn’t matter all that much.
The seven runs Sean Manaea gave up on Tuesday were another point of concern about whether the young arms (Kendall Graveman, Jharel Cotton et al) will ever come around in the end or not, but there’s definitely the makings of a good line-up taking shape and also turning around what has been a pretty dismal showing in the field for much of this season.
In fact, thinking about the future doesn’t have to mean writing off the present. If anything it’s what makes it worthwhile following the action the rest of the way.