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.