What to Watch For: 5 Reasons to Go to an Oakland Athletics Game in 2012
The past five seasons have been unkind to the Oakland Athletics. The team has been stuck in no man’s land as getting just 80 wins has proven to be a difficult task. Oakland has missed the playoffs for five straight years. Their best season in that stretch came in 2010 when the team finished at .500 with 81 wins.
It has been even tougher during this stretch for the team to get fans into the seats of the O.co Coliseum. The A’s have an old, unappealing stadium. Management seems to shuffle a mix of young, no-name players with old, washed up players to make up a team that the fans know will not make the playoffs.
Many of those players, due to budget constraints, are in-and-out of the door before the fans can even know their names.
In spite of the A’s going through a rough patch, there are still reasons to watch baseball on that side of the bay. Here’s why a ticket to the A’s game will provide some decent value this year.
Cuban Sensation Yoenis Cespedes
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The A’s made headlines when they made a rare splurge, signing top Cuban prospect Yoenis Cespedes to a four-year, $36 million deal. The 26-year-old outfielder is primed to become a key cog in the A’s lineup.
In 2010-11, Cespedes hit for average (.333 BA) and for power (33 HR). His highlight videos show that he has power to all fields. Some of Cespedes’ most impressive swings of the bat result in powerful opposite field blasts. He also hit well when it mattered most, by knocking in 99 runs. What’s more impressive is that he did this all in just 90 games.
Cespedes reportedly ran a 60-yard dash in 6.3 seconds, meaning he can cover a lot of outfield grass at the Coliseum. If a ball gets hit anywhere in his vicinity, he has a good shot at running it down.
The opportunity is there for Cespedes to be the leader of Oakland’s offense for years to come.
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General Manager Billy Beane pulled one of his patented bargain basement deals when he signed controversial power hitter Manny Ramirez for about $500,000. Ramirez will start the season by serving a 50-game suspension for violating baseball’s drug policy.
After that, Ramirez may play the key role on the A’s roster of the veteran player who can still contribute a little bit with the bat, in the twilight of his career. Like Frank Thomas, Nomar Garciaparra, Mike Sweeney and Hideki Matsui, Manny Ramirez will be the guy that boosts ticket sales and hits the occasional home run to jump start the A’s offense.
Manny Ramirez is going to be a risk, not just because of his outspoken personality, but also because the A’s don’t know exactly what they’ll get out of him. Ramirez hasn’t contributed much at the plate for a few years now. The last time he had double-digit home runs was in 2009 when he hit 19 big flies with the Dodgers. And he hasn’t had a season where he’s played in at least 100 games since then.
The A’s will see if they can catch lightning in a bottle with Ramirez, who was basically acquired through a calculated roll of the dice. As for the fans, this could be the last chance that they will get to see the 39-year-old slugger.
Young Players Proving Themselves
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Throughout the A’s roster, young players will be trying to make their mark in the upcoming season.
The A’s gave top prospect Jemile Weeks a shot when they called him up in June of last year. The 25-year-old second baseman didn’t disappoint. Weeks will be looking to build on an eye-opening rookie campaign in which he stole the hearts of A’s fans to the tune of 22 stolen bases and eight triples. Weeks, who batted .303 in 2011, will need to be the catalyst at the top of the lineup in order for the A’s to be competitive.
Outfielder Josh Reddick, newly acquired from the Boston Red Sox, will be an interesting player to watch as the season goes on. Reddick (.280 BA, 7 HR, 28 RBI) showed potential last year, as it was the first season where he was given significant playing time.
Reddick provided the Red Sox with a spark and some energy midseason. It’s quite possible that he could showcase some pop in his bat and flash the leather on occasion with the A’s. Reddick has potential to be a solid option for Oakland going forward. Reddick may be another one of Billy Beane’s diamonds in the rough.
On the pitching side, it’s time for guys like Jarrod Parker and Tyson Ross to step up.
Jarrod Parker was the 9th overall pick by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the 2007 amateur draft. Parker was traded to the A's in December along with Ryan Cook and Collin Cowgill for Trevor Cahill and Craig Breslow.
Parker can throw some heat, with his fastball in the mid to high 90s. He doesn't have the best arsenal of pitches, but he is a strike thrower. The league hasn't seen much of Parker, as he has thrown limited innings in the majors. But he'll be looking to take advantage of his shot with the A's.
He's looked good in a 9-2 Cactus League victory over the Seattle Mariners on Saturday. Parker earned the win after he threw two shutout innings while striking out four batters. He also exhibited good control as he didn't allow a walk.
Tyson Ross has shown promise in very limited action. An injury put him on the shelf for this past season, when he went 3-3 with a 2.75 ERA in just nine games. If Ross can stay healthy, he will be an asset to the A’s pitching staff. When Ross has his best stuff on the mound, he’s a tough at-bat for any hitter.
Ross struggled in Saturday's Spring Training game, giving up a hit and a run in just one inning of work.
The A’s are filled with young players trying to break through, including pitcher Brad Peacock, first baseman Chris Carter, catcher Derek Norris, and former Arizona Diamondback Collin Cowgill among others.
The A's are hoping to stay in contention long enough for stud pitcher Brett Anderson to make an impact. Anderson is recovering from Tommy John surgery, and is not expected to be back until August.
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This is a reason for any A’s fan to go to the game. With the low team budget and a below average stadium, the A’s have had to show appreciation for the fans somehow. The organization does a great job putting together a wide array of promotional events.
The Oakland A’s have a variety of fun promotions that include free hot dogs, root beer floats, fireworks nights, A’s Beerfest, and great fan giveaways. The A’s have BART $2 Wednesdays where fans can buy tickets for $2 each in the plaza reserved and plaza outfield sections. They even have a day where fans can meet the players before the game starts.
Pick a Seat, Any Seat
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It’s no secret that the A’s have had a hard time selling out for years. Oakland was last in attendance last year with an average of 18,232 fans buying tickets for each game. Ask any A’s fan who’s been to the Coliseum recently, he or she will probably say that there were definitely less than 18,000 people there.
With that said, there are plenty of seats to go around. For about $12, a fan can have one of the most enjoyable seats in the stadium, sitting with the rowdy diehards in the general admission bleacher section. If a fan desires an upgrade, a mid-level seat with an overhead view of home plate costs about $35 at the A’s game.
Overall, there are reasons to look forward to the 2011-12 season as an Oakland Athletics fan. Grab a cheap seat, maybe go on a promotional day. The A’s might even treat you to a well-earned victory. After all, the A’s went 43-38 at home last year. That’s nothing to scoff at.