Athletics

Free A's game on April 17, 2018 could reveal some scary knowledge

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AP

Free A's game on April 17, 2018 could reveal some scary knowledge

The Oakland Athletics are opening their 2018 season with an interesting test of their importance.

They are playing a free game on the anniversary of their first home opener -- April 17, 1968.

Yeah, free, as in no cost to you. And the pressure comes when they finally learn how many people would watch them for nothing, and how many people would pay.

That’s a lot of knowledge for one game. A lot of potentially scary knowledge.

The A’s are celebrating the 50th anniversary of their relocation from Kansas City, even though the current season is their 50th in Oakland; go take it up with the marketing department if you have an issue. It is open from 3 a.m. to 2:45 a.m. every day.

But the free game is their most novel mode of celebrating. They will do this by getting tickets to their season ticket holder . . . err, holders, and then to people who register online in January. Presumably, they will have no difficulty moving all 50,000-some-odd seats, because presumably they won’t need to tarp the upper deck for free admittance.

I mean, who doesn’t want free? Free is swell. Free is swell even when what you’re being given is something you don’t want.

But what if they don’t fill the place? What if they find out that the number of people who watch them for free is less than capacity – or worse, less than the capacity of the as-yet-mythical new ballpark? What if the brand has been damaged so much by so many close calls, busy signals and no service in your area prompts that it can’t give away major league baseball? What if free has its limits?

The disturbingly cheery team prezbo, Dave Kaval, obviously wouldn’t conceive of such a thing publicly, but maybe he’s having night terrors about it. After, no team has ever put its popularity to the test so brazenly – not even the Los Angeles Chargers.

But I applaud the boldness, even if it is unintended and potentially frightening, as the answer "They couldn't give it away" obviously would scare the hell out of anyone.

I would also remind folks that the first game attendance in Oakland was 50,164, and the following night drew 5,304, so this free game idea is not the only way to show Kaval how much must still be done to get the A’s to throws some elbows and make room in the area for themselves.

And I eagerly await the announcement of their other big promotion of the 2018 season – the commemoration of the 2002 20-game winning streak. If it helps, they sold lots of tickets then.

A by-the-numbers look at Matt Olson's home run tear

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USATI

A by-the-numbers look at Matt Olson's home run tear

When it comes to power hitting, rookie first baseman Matt Olson has enjoyed one of the most impressive career-opening stretches in A’s history.

He went deep again in Monday night’s 8-3 victory over Detroit. Although he’s only played in roughly one-third of Oakland’s games this year, Olson has vaulted into a tie for fourth on the team with 22 homers this season.

Here’s a glance inside some of the numbers behind the rookie’s home run tear:

22 — Olson’s 2017 —and career — home run total. Those 22 homers tie Mark McGwire for most in franchise history over a player’s first 65 games.

18: The number of times Olson has gone deep since Aug. 11, which leads the American League.

19 — The number of major league games Olson appeared in before connecting for his first homer. That came June 24. Since then, he hasn’t gone more than eight games in the majors without clearing the fence.

47 — Olson was the 47th overall pick of the 2012 draft, a compensation choice between the first and second rounds. He was one of a trio of high school infielders Oakland took with its first three picks that year. The others were two shortstops — Addison Russell (11th overall) and Daniel Robertson (34th).

At the time the A’s said perhaps they had drafted three-fourths of their future infield. But Russell and Robertson eventually got dealt. Now, Olson is part of a different young infield core that could include third baseman Matt Chapman and second baseman Franklin Barreto along with veteran shortstop Marcus Semien.

2: The number of players in the past 30 years to hit 20 homers in both the minors and majors in the same season. Olson has done it this year. Miami’s Giancarlo Stanton, who’s generating his share of headlines with his own power hitting, did it back in 2010.

103 The number of homers Olson hit over five minor league seasons leading into this year. That included a whopping 37 for Single-A Stockton in the homer-happy California League in 2014. In comparison, the 17 homers he hit each of the next two seasons at Double-A Midland and Triple-A Nashville looked paltry. Olson says he struggled for a while to trust his natural power stroke and not try to alter his approach too much to boost those power numbers.

4: The total number of major leaguers produced by Olson’s alma mater of Parkview High School in Lilburn, Ga. The others were outfielder Jeff Francoeur, infielder Jeff Keppinger and catcher Clint Sammons.

4 (Part II): Number of consecutive games Olson has homered in. That ties the Oakland rookie record for most games in a row with a homer. Dan Johnson also homered in four straight from Aug. 3-6, 2005. Extend it out farther, and Olson has gone deep 14 times over his past 20 games. And speaking of that …

14: Olson is tied with a couple of legends when it comes to most homers in a 20-game span in Oakland history. McGwire (1987) and Reggie Jackson (1969) also had 14 over their own 20-game stretches, and Jackson did it twice that season. (Hat tip to A’s P.R. stats guru Mike Selleck for several of these factoids, by the way).

23: Remember that Olson is just 23 years old. His 22 homers are the most in a single season by an Athletic 23 or younger since Eric Chavez swatted 32 back in 2001. Chavez also was 23 at the time.

Jharel Cotton suffers injury during pregame warmups, scratched vs Tigers

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NBCSportsBayArea.com

Jharel Cotton suffers injury during pregame warmups, scratched vs Tigers

A’s rookie Jharel Cotton was a late scratch from Monday’s start in Detroit after suffering a strained right groin.

Cotton began his typical pregame throwing routine at Comerica Park. Then cameras caught him grabbing at his leg. Shortly after, he walked off the field and long reliever Raul Alcantara went out to warm up. Alcantara made the start in the opener of a three-game series against the Tigers.

Though there was no indication from the A’s about the severity of the strain, with less than two weeks left in the regular season, it brings up the possibility of Cotton simply being shut down for the season. More detail likely will be given to reporters by manager Bob Melvin after the game.

Cotton is 8-10 with a 5.81 ERA in 23 starts this season.