USA TODAY Sports
A bad stadium and scheduling quirks and issues are at the center of this preview involving a team the Cubs have rarely played.
Even after 16 seasons of interleague play, there are some teams that have yet to play in an opponent's ballpark, even though all the teams have played each other at least once.
* indicates a matchup that occurred while the Brewers were in the American League, but not since their move to the National League, and ** indicates occurred in a World Series:
And, Cubs at Athletics. The Cubs and A's have played twice, in 2004 and 2010, both at Wrigley Field (the Cubs won two of three both times). But this summer will bring their first-ever visit to (Whatever They're Calling It Now) Coliseum in Oakland. I'm planning on traveling to this series. Yes, I've been to the Oakland Mausoleum before (and that nickname ought to tell you, I know well what I'm going to see there).
In fact, every single one of the above matchups above will occur this year -- except one, Padres at Blue Jays (and those two teams will play in 2013 in San Diego). So if you're a diehard Padres fan living in Toronto -- there have to be two or three, right? -- you'll still have to wait for your favorite ("favourite", if you're Canadian) team to play in your city. After 2013, that will be the only interleague matchup that has happened in only one city (the Nats/Expos franchise has had all the matchups, except the Nats have yet to play the Twins in Washington, and the Athletics in Oakland).
Got all that? OK, here's a look at the Oakland team the Cubs will face in the Bay Area for the first time. The A's were one of two surprise playoff teams (the Orioles, of course, the other) in 2012, after they had a pretty bad year in 2011. They did it mostly on the strength of pitching; the 2012 A's finished second in the league in fewest runs allowed (614), and did that missing two of their better starters down the stretch, Bartolo Colon on PED suspension, and Brandon McCarthy after a concussion following a frightening incident where he was hit in the head by a line drive.
Colon is back; McCarthy is gone, to the Diamondbacks as a free agent, but the A's still have a strong starting staff. A.J. Griffin pitched very well in 15 late-season starts and while the A's might not have a true "ace", they've got five guys who would all be No. 2 or No. 3 on most teams. Their bullpen posted 47 saves in 2012, led by solid years from Grant Balfour, Ryan Cook and former Cubs prospect Jerry Blevins (didn't know that? Jim Hendry gave him away in 2007 in the Jason Kendall deal).
Yoenis Cespedes had a fine first year in American baseball after his defection from Cuba, hitting .292/.356/.505 with 23 home runs. Josh Reddick hit 32 homers after coming over in a lopsided deal from the Red Sox. The A's depth chart doesn't list a DH, but somehow, you know Billy Beane will find them one.
The City of Chicago night-game ordinance comes into play as a result of this series, which will be on July 2 (night game), July 3 (night game), and July 4 (day game, 3:05 CDT). That means the game will end around 6 p.m. Central; give the Cubs 90 minutes to two hours to dress and get to the airport, and they're probably landing at O'Hare about midnight -- if the game doesn't go into extra innings.
Then they have to face the Pirates at Wrigley at 1:20 p.m. July 5, although that's currently one of five summer Fridays where the time is listed as "TBD"; it could wind up changed to 3:05, which would at least be somewhat better. But there's absolutely no reason why the Cubs shouldn't be allowed two or three Friday night games a year, coming off road trips exactly like this one.
The Cubs have played this franchise twice in World Series play, 1910 and 1929, losing four games to one both times, though that was not only decades ago, but two cities ago, while the A's were in Philadelphia. Perhaps someday these teams will meet again in the postseason -- in the A's fourth city, which should be San Jose. Just as soon as Bud Selig's committee gets around to figuring that thing out.
Tomorrow, we'll look at the Seattle Mariners.