This week's mailbag discusses pitchers gobbling up vulture wins, organizational depth as an indicator of spring training performance, and the worst Opening Day lineups ever.
Last week’s discussion of the worst pitchers started by defending World Series champions on Opening Day inspired me to look into the worst Opening Day starters period, regardless of where his team had finished the previous season. Claude Osteen, whom the Dodgers trotted out in Game One of their World Series title defense on April 12, 1966, doesn’t even sniff the title of “worst Opening Day starter ever”:
Worst Opening Day Starters Since 1951
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What was Kevin excited about six Opening Days ago?
While looking toward the future with our comprehensive slate of current content, we'd also like to recognize our rich past by drawing upon our extensive (and mostly free) online archive of work dating back to 1997. In an effort to highlight the best of what's gone before, we'll be bringing you a weekly blast from BP's past, introducing or re-introducing you to some of the most informative and entertaining authors who have passed through our virtual halls. If you have fond recollections of a BP piece that you'd like to nominate for re-exposure to a wider audience, send us your suggestion.
Several Opening Days ago, Kevin gave us his thoughts about some players who went on to be stars and others who became busts in the following piece, which originally ran as a "Future Shock" column on April 7, 2006
Opening Day is now Opening Days, but Bug Selig's efforts to attract more casual fans by spacing out the openers haven't spoiled the return of regular-season baseball.
There’s one video highlight for Tuffy Rhodes on MLB.com, and you already know what it is. A sequence of three at-bats. In the first, Dwight Gooden throws a curveball in the middle of the plate, and Rhodes drives it out to left-center field. “Long drive, a way back, it might be, it could be,” says Harry Caray. In the second at-bat, Dwight Gooden throws a fastball low in the zone, and Rhodes drives it out to left-center field. “Long drive, a way back, it might be, it could be.” And in the third, Rhodes once again drives a home run out to left-center field, and Dwight Gooden is really never good again, and this guy in this hat holds up this sign:
Rewinding the tape to the results of last year's Opening Day reveals equal parts prophecy and unintentional humor.
Nothing says Opening Day quite like a forecast for 40-degree drizzle, but that's what most of us who aren't smart enough to be Padres fans can look forward to as we head to the park (or the office*) today. (The same goes for a few other scattered souls—like Massachusetts native Marc Normandin—who are smart enough to root for the Padres but not smart enough to live within 3000 miles of San Diego.) Even though Opening Day bunting doesn't inspire the same emotions when viewed through a curtain of freezing rain, a new season's arrival is something to celebrate no matter what the weather (which could always be worse).
We know that today's events have little bearing on the rest of the season. Still, after been deprived of meaningful baseball for so long, it's only natural to be tempted to ascribe undue importance to every early outcome, treating each first game as a microcosm of the upcoming season for the teams and players involved. To help us resist that forward-looking impulse, let's look back at last year's Opening Day activities with an eye toward whether they could have told us anything about what lay in store. In hindsight, Opening Day results can appear either strangely prophetic or unintentionally humorous. Let's look back at the events of April 5th, 2010—the first day on the 2010 schedule with something approaching a full slate of games—and retroactively assess some observations that could have been made at the time, alternating between the spot-on and the off-base.
Cracking the Opening Day lineup even once is an honor, but what can we learn from players who repeat in the same roles?
What makes Opening Day different from all other days? Every team is undefeated, and every crowd is a sellout. The sun is out (sometimes) and the grass is green. It’s a national holiday in the same vein as Columbus Day, but without all the messy genocide.
Winning a starting assignment on Opening Day is the goal of every major leaguer. On Opening Day, managers start players they feel give their teams the best chances to win not only on that day, but for the rest of the year. Those who play on Opening Day are not only healthy, but often in the best shape of their lives. They also don’t have arbitration clocks that can be manipulated by forcing exile to the minors until May or June.
Taking a spin through the divisional matchups on Opening Day.
By this time next week, we'll be busy poring over the first real box scores of the year and arguing over whether the Giants can repeat based on the outcomes of one night's worth of games. After a long spring of "the best shape of his life" stories, a multitude of injuries, drunk driving arrests, and T.J. Simers' and Murray Chass's ongoing efforts to pen the most despicable story of the year, it feels wonderful to be so close to meaningful baseball.
Baseball fans really have only have two modes: waiting for Opening Day and waiting for the playoffs. With Opening Day just around the corner, let's examine the season's first prospective matchups to see what kind of first impression 2011 might make on National League Central fans.
How often do teams' Opening Day starters live up to their top billing?
“He deserves it. He earned it. He should have made the All-Star team last year. Right now, I think Mike Pelfrey should be the No. 1 guy on this staff.”—Terry Collins
The quote above is a variation on a theme repeated exactly thirty times per preseason. At some point before 25-man rosters are finalized and the games start to mean something, each manager makes a show of anointing his team’s Opening Day starter. The names change—in most cases, they’re more impressive than Pelfrey’s—but the platitudes stay the same.
Better than a 7-Eleven, the Twins' outfield runneth over, Kastens sings "Come On Over to My House Baby," plus news and views from around the game.
Every season without fail, there are names on Opening Day rosters that only the most avid of baseball fans would recognize, guys who have never been in the major leagues, who aren't considered prospects, and who have maybe had a lineout in BP's annual. Some, like Chris Jakubauskas, may have even taken an off-season job as a sales clerk.