MLB Today: Opening Day Observations
So? How was your Opening Day? It’s baseball fans’ version of Christmas morning, the day everyone wakes up in the morning tied for first place in our respective fantasy leagues, dreaming of a season worth of possibilities.
I read a fantastic take on Opening Day on Monday evening in The New York Times, which posted a wonderful guest column by former big leaguer Doug Glanville. This Ivy Leaguer (he attended U of Pennsylvania) was always known as being one of the more intellectual players that ever donned a uniform. His column appears occasionally in the Times, and he’s working on a book written in a similar style.
Anyways, here are some of the highlights from Opening Day 2009:
- Chances are, if you were wearing socks Monday, they got wet. Both the Red Sox and the White Sox had home dates rained out. That made for an inauspicious start for the BoSox, a team many expert to reclaim the World Series title this season.
- That’s one game, one successfully converted save chance for the revamped New York Mets bullpen, headed by Francisco Rodriguez. The pen combined for 3 1/3 hitless innings, flashing the exact kind of shut-down ability that New York so desperately needed in 2008 as it tried in vain to hang on to the NL East lead.
- How solid did Kevin Millwood look in his season debut? If he can stay healthy and keep inducing ground balls and (gasp, dare I say) reduce his hits against, maybe he’s got one more useful season in that 34-year-old arm. Expect Millwood to be a popular waiver wire pickup this week after that gem. For now, I’d leave him on the wire in a mixed league, but he does make for a good speculative pick in a deep AL-only league.
- The Diamondbacks had not one, but two switch hitters go yard from both sides of the plate, pounding five dingers in all to squeak past the Rox. Tony Clark – only playing because normal first baseman Chad Tracy was getting the start at third base over Mark Reynolds – was one of the pair, smacking a two-run shot and a solo blast. Clark isn’t even expected to get more than a handful of starts all season, but the veteran backup (who is already two-thirds of the way to matching his 2008 home run total) made a statement – for at least one day, anyways – that he still has some juice left in his bat.
- Talk about becoming an instant star – did you see what Emilio Bonifacio did in his first game as a Marlin? Try 4-for-5 with four runs, three steals and two ribbies. Oh, and he managed to hit the first Opening Day inside the park dinger since 1968. Bonifacio has already gained tons of fantasy traction since winning the third base job late in camp. This is going to make him a waiver wire star. Of course, we already featured him as a wire recommendation way back in August.
- Is this why the Yankees gave C.C. Sabathia $161 million? So he could get bitch slapped by the Orioles on Opening Day to the tune of eight hits, six runs and five walks in 4 1/3 IP without a strikeout? Yes, obviously this was a disastrous debut, but before his owners panic, they should remember his 1-4, 7.76 April last season.
- Okay, I have consistently bad-mouthed Jack Wilson for years, so let’s give him his moment in the sun. With the Pirates down to their final strike in the top of the ninth Monday night in St. Louis, Wilson came through with a three-run double to cap a four-run rally as Pittsburgh down the Cards 6-4. Don’t look for Wilson to play the hero again anytime soon, but hey, that 1-for-5 performance of his last night is right in line with our expectations. Meanwhile, Jason Motte, given the first crack at saves in a Cardinal bullpen that led the majors with 31 blown saves last season, was the victim of the barrage. Hmm….I wonder how popular a waiver wire selection Ryan Franklin will be after that implosion by Motte?
- When did Toronto Blue Jays fans get so unruly? Apparently, Opening Day will bring out the crazy in the most sedate (or, boring, if you ask Chipper Jones for his opinion, which is unnecessary, by the way, as he’ll gladly offer it up unsolicited) of fans. Left fielder Josh Anderson was almost clipped by not one, but two balls thrown onto the field, resulting in a delay of the game as the umpire chief waved both teams off the field while things were tidied up and fans were warned that if they didn’t chill out, the Jays could forfeit the game. And that would have sucked, because Toronto actually won the game, 12-5, to gain a share of first place in the AL East. Now, if the Jays can just figure out a way to get through those pesky 161 other games.
- Carlos Zambrano finally earned his first Opening Day win in five chances. Hell, he even took a goose egg into the seventh inning before getting pulled and then saw the bullpen give up the only run charged to him. Most promising sign for the Big Z: he averaged a K per inning, after managing just 6.2 K/9 last season. The key for Zambrano is figuring out a way to keep last season’s first half pitcher (10-3, 2.84) strong enough down the stretch to improve upon last season’s second half pitcher (4-3, 5.80).
- Oh great. Ken Griffey Jr. went yard in his first game back with the Mariners. Keeping promising slugger Jeff Clement in the minors for this 39-year-old is such an awful move. Please make a trade, Seattle. Clement owners are otherwise stuck sticking pins in our Griffey Voodoo dolls (or something like that).