Remember the last time the A's were featured on ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball? No worries if you don't — it was eight years ago.
The A's have been in the news a lot lately, thanks to headline-snatching blockbuster deals that netted Oakland Jeff Samardzija and Jon Lester. The fact that the A's will be play to a national, prime-time audience twice in eight days slipped through the cracks, but we're now approaching consecutive Sundays with Oakland in the spotlight.
The first game on Sunday Night Baseball is this coming Sunday, the finale of a three-game visit to Atlanta. First pitch is at 5pm Pacific, and assuming Oakland's rotation goes unchanged between now and Sunday, Jon Lester will get the start. It's only fitting that a network that seems to broadcast every Yankees-Red Sox game is showing what will be Lester's fourth start since being moved west. He'll oppose Atlanta's Mike Minor, so the A's will have a decidedly advantageous matchup. Should Lester win, Oakland would improve to 4-0 in his starts since the trade.
The second game is even more important in terms of exposure, as it's a home game for the A's, and it's between arguably the two best teams in baseball. The Angels visit Oakland a week from this coming Sunday, August 24, in another prime-time, 5pm start. The game was originally scheduled for 1pm, as almost every Sunday home game is in Oakland, but was moved to the Sunday Night Baseball time slot to accommodate ESPN.
By the way, if Oakland's rotation holds, guess who would start for the green and gold on the 24th? It would be Lester's turn in the rotation, though if there's any week that Bob Melvin would decide to skip a starter, it would be the one following the upcoming three-game set at Atlanta. The A's are off on Monday as they travel back to the Bay Area, and then off again on Thursday following a two-game set against the Mets. Jason Hammel could get skipped, though he has pitched well as of late. So could Sonny Gray, who has struggled a bit in August — it's anybody's guess, but if the current rotation holds, Lester could see the spotlight twice in eight days.
Of course, the timing is imperfect at best. Save for one unfortunate incident with a tarp, some rain, and an infield that turned into quicksand overnight, the A's have played on a pristine Coliseum field all year long. But tonight, the Oakland Raiders host the Detroit Lions in their second preseason game, the first in Oakland, meaning that there will be a healthy-sized patch of dead-ish grass in center field, a faint gridiron visible in person and on the broadcast, and generally poor field conditions that result from 60 minutes of NFL players in cleats doing their thing.
Beggars can't be choosers, though. If the narrative is true that the A's don't get nearly enough credit, exposure, time in the spotlight, what-have-you, then ESPN's decision to broadcast two games featuring Oakland should be welcome news no matter what.
The first step to looking good, finally given the exposure that fans have clamored for over years of relative anonymity, is selling out Sunday Night's game. It helps that this might be the biggest home series of the year, and that the A's have a quirky promotion — a version the bullpen unicorn backpack that Sean Doolittle was famous for wearing in 2012 — already lined up. Bleacher seats are already sold out, and pairs of seats are difficult to come by in most of the lower bowl already.
The bottom line is that many wanted national exposure, and now they have it. It's time to show up as a fanbase and draw over 100,000 for a three-game weekend series. A few wins would be nice, too.