Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Opening Day Thoughts

Little else beats the beauty of baseball's opening day

Yeah, I know, Opening Night was Sunday and Opening Day was technically yesterday. I know how time works. But since the Giants did not play on Monday and opened up Tuesday, I wanted to wait until today to recap my favorite moments from Opening Night until tonight. Either way, whether it is too late or not late enough, what a great couple of days of baseball. Furthermore, the addition of playing fantasy baseball for the first time has made this baseball season even more intriguing for me.

So here it is, a semi-recap of my baseball experience from Opening night until the end of Opening Day.

Opening Night:

I really was mad about this game in retrospect for a variety of reasons. First of all, my sister, who goes to college in Philadelphia and plays softball for Villanova, has suddenly adapted herself as a newly-born Philadelphia Phillies fan. She loves Chase Utley because she thinks he is hot, went downtown for the clinching game (which eventually got postponed so she missed out) and for Christmas, she bought me a World Series champion T-shirt. I wear the shirt, but it's kind of weird because I have no like for the Phillies (even though I love that Dick's Sporting Goods commercial with Jimmy Rollins taking balls in the chest "Happy Gilmore" style) or no connection to the team whatsoever. I just wear it because a.) it's a good looking shirt and b.) nobody in the state of Washington has a Philadelphia anything shirt.

Yet while my sister's relation to the Phillies does make me steam a little bit, nothing made more angry when I found out two of my main players in Fantasy (Ryan Howard and Chipper Jones) were ineligible for scoring because games for Fantasy started the 6th, and didn't included the 5th game. Granted, it wasn't all that bad for Howard because he went 0-4 with a strikeout. But I had Chipper Jones who went 2-4 and those points would have helped my matchup on Monday when I had absolutely no offense from anybody and a couple of rainouts to boot.

So...basically, I watched the game for fantasy reasons mainly and they contributed absolutely nothing fantasy-wise because they were ineligible due to the asinine move of ESPN scheduling games before "Official" Opening Day. And to make matters the worse, it wasn't all that great of a game. The thing about watching a Derek Lowe start is that while it is fast, it is boring. You don't see any big hits because all he throws are sinkers and when its on, all you get is ground balls. That's all the Phillies did. Ground ball to second, ground ball to third, ground ball to second again. Thankfully, the Braves provided some fireworks with some big home runs from Brian McCann and the immortal Jeff Franceour, but unfortunately, I started the game late and it was already a 4-0 game the time I turned on the TV. The only real exciting part in my time watching the game was the bottom of the ninth where Mike Gonzalez nearly choked away the game, only to redeem himself by getting Howard out looking and Ibanez out to end the game. I have never been a big Gonzalez guy, for even in his days in Pittsbrugh I thought he was fringe-major league player at best. Nonetheless, he got the job done and my friend who has him on his fantasy team was lucky enough to get the save.

Opening Day:

The Red Sox-Rays game has been postponed so I get a chance to watch this one in between classes. Not much offense in this game. Johan Santana is mowing them down, and even Aaron Harang doesn't seem to be having an imploding day like he usually has. While I don't like the Mets very much (even though I do like them more than the Phillies), I'm paying attention to this game because of Carlos Beltran, who is on my fantasy team. I know it's not a great pick, especially since his reputation has somewhat deteriorated since coming to New York. He's known for putting up stats but he doesn't seem to do anything more than get his nice little stat line each and every night. From a Mets fan's perspective, that sucks, but from a fantasy owner's perspective, I have no problem with that. As long as Beltran gets 30 and 100, I don't care if he causes the New York locker room to mutiny against him.

Beltran has a decent game. Goes 1-4 with a walk, not bad but not great. Daniel Murphy hits a big home run in the 5th inning off of Harang which is the main highlight of the game. Who is Daniel Murphy? Isn't he a Nascar driver? Yeah, I know, I was asking those questions too, which just goes to show you how much I care about this game. Will say this though, Mets bullpen looks good, much better than it ever did last season. Sean Green, JJ Putz and Francisco Rodriguez combine for 3.1 innings of hitless ball. I don't think their bullpen could go .1 innings last year without giving up a hit. While this is nice to Mets fans, I'm not so sure if their bullpen will be worth as much as they paid in the off-season. I think K-Rod is great, but closers like him who come off big season usually have a down season the following year, especially if they've just gotten big money. I don't like Putz either. I think Putz is a one-year wonder, and I was never impressed with him any time in his career before he had that big season two years ago. On an optimistic note, an overrated Putz and a K-Rod on the decline is heck of a lot better than an DL-prone Billy Wagner and Scott Schoenweis coming into the ninth.

Side note: Does anyone enjoy K-Rod's post-save celebrations anymore? I hate them. It's like he won the World Series each and every save. Hey K-Rod, we know you're thankful, but god, don't act like you single-handedly won the biggest game in your career each and every time. This and Roger Federer's on his knees celebration after winning each tournament are probably the most overexposed and overexcited celebrations in sports.

I have no liking for either team, but after listening to Bill Simmons American League preview podcast, I am intrigued by the Rangers this year, especially since I don't think much of the Angels or A's in the AL West. I love the Rangers batters. Ian Kinsler is a beast, Josh Hamilton is a pure masher and I think Michael Young has been one of the most under-appreciated middle infielders in the past five years. Furthermore, I have been intrigued by their young guys like Nelson Cruz and Jarrod Saltalamacchia (trying spelling that one blindfolded) who have good pop in their bats. The only problem with the Rangers and has been the case ever since they acquired A-Rod is that they have no pitching. Kevin Millwood was good maybe four years ago, and even then he was fringe-good at the best. Vicente Padilla is about as dependable as a cheap cab ride to the airport, and that's pretty much it. Who else can pitch on the Rangers? Adam Eaton? I don't know why the Rangers don't dish guys like Hank Blalock while they can. They have so much depth in their offensive farm system that they don't really need guys like him. The worst part too is that even when they do get some good young arms, they trade them away. The Rangers could have Edison Volquez, but they traded him for Josh Hamilton. Hamilton is a very good bat, but the Rangers have plenty of bats. They need at least one above-average pitcher.

Cliff Lee really has a bad game, much to the dismay of my Cleveland Indians friend. Young gets two hits, Kinsler gets three hits, and Blalock and Saltalamacchia both hit home runs. I had a feeling this would happen. Granted, it's only one game, but Lee has always been an up and down pitcher. One year he's great, the next he's awful. I don't think he's going to have as awful year this year as he did two years ago, but anybody who has him on their fantasy team would best be served if they dish him while his value is hot.

Wow...9-1 Rangers and Millwood actually looks all right. Maybe this could be a dark horse year for the Rangers.

C.C. Sabathia is making his Yankees debut and I like C.C. because I have this weird connection to him like everyone has that connection to Kevin Bacon. One of my cousins went to high school with him and actually knows him a little bit from a class. Furthermore, my high school baseball coach and Global Studies teacher my freshman year, was a scout for the Rays that actually coached him on a competitive team during the summers. So because of all those weird connections, I have this strange gravitation toward Sabathia.

Only he gets absolutely shelled this game. I mean, shelled. 4.1 innings, 8 hits, 6 earned runs, 5 walks and no strikeouts. Anybody who picked him as their top pitcher pick is pulling out their hair and the city of New York has just declared a state of emergency after Sabathia's dud and Mark Teixeira's 0-4 performance that included him leaving 5 men left on base. Granted, I think Yankees fans are being a little too rash, but then again, when you do pay over 300 million for two players combined and they have terrible first outings, well...let's just say you don't exactly have a good night's sleep that night.

I hate the term "second-favorite team." It compromises fans everywhere because it makes people question how genuine fans of teams really are. However, in order to describe my relationship to the Mariners, I probably would have to say that they are my "second-favorite" team. I used to live in Spokane for six years and my family used to go to Mariners games quite a bit. In fact, we lived during the 1995 "Refuse to Lose" season which was probably the most entertaining baseball season of my life, just as if not even more entertaining than the 2002 Giants run to the World Series. So I have a soft spot for the Mariners and as their organization and city sport-wise are on their last legs, I feel even more inclination to support them.

The Mariners look great against the Twins. Felix Rodriguez looks great like he usually does in the beginning of the season and the M's get great performances from Franklin Gutierrez, whom I think really could be a sleeper this year for the M's (I like him the most out of all their young guys including Matt Clement and Wladimir Balentin). But the best part of the game? Seeing Junior again in a Mariners uniform. God, it's great. I thought I was 10 years old and watching the movie "Little Big League" again after he hit that home run. I really think that this will be a good year for Junior now that he's back in Seattle. You can just tell he really like being back as a Mariner. There's a pep in his step that you didn't see last year in Cincinnati or his disastrous short-run in Chicago with the White Sox. His stats still may not be awesome, but I think they'll be better than most people think.

I loathe both these teams. I hate the A's because A's fans are a condescending bunch that they think they know everything because they have Billy Beane as GM and have read Moneyball. They don't take into consideration that they have one of the worst ballparks in the league, that their owner is a jerk and that the young guys that apparently Beane is all about have actually been worse than advertised. I mean, really, what has Bobby Crosby, Eric Chavez or Mark Ellis done lately?

I also dislike the Angels strongly as well. I'm still bitter about losing that World Series loss to them and that stupid monkey. Heck, one of the reasons I think me and my girlfriend broke up this semester was because she was an Angels fan and I think that was bad karma from the start. But every year, I always hear how good the Angels are going to be and how they're going to win it all. Yet every year they don't. They lose to the Red Sox every year be it in the first round or ALCS. The thing is, while the Angels have mashers, they're clutch-less. How many times has Vlad or Juan Rivera came through when it really counted?

The game is an absolute Angels-fest. Dallas Braden shows how flawed the A's really are. He would barely be a three starter on a good team, but he's the No. 1 guy for the A's. That's how overrated the A's staff is. Granted, he wouldn't be the opening day starter had Justin Duscherer been healthy, but nonetheless, I just don't see much talent at all in these pitchers that Beane keeps ballyhooeing and I don't see the A's winning the division despite all the hoopla about them getting Matt Holliday, Jason Giambi, Nomar Garciaparra and Orlando Cabrera (even though I LOVE Cabrera. He's a free-swinging care-free shortsop. The game needs more guys like him). Those guys' numbers will shrink in the A's football stadium and the pitching isn't nearly good enough to make up for the decrease in offense.

That's it for now...look out for my next post, which will be solely dedicate to the Giants opening day game against the Brewers.

No comments:

Post a Comment