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Author: Matt Martell
Thursday was supposed to mark the start of a new baseball season. Instead we’re left to dwell on what we’re missing.
There will be no baseball played today, though the calendars hung on refrigerators and bulletin boards tell us otherwise. There wasn’t any baseball played yesterday or last week. There will be no baseball played for the next month. Really, we don’t know when professional baseball will begin again.
The absence of baseball has left fans in a state of longing. The game’s purpose for us is all-encompassing, and its stead has only added to the uncertainty enveloping society. We’ve already provided lists of books, movies and rewatchable games to keep fans entertained without baseball. But today—non-Opening Day, Opening Day—there is no worthy substitute for experiencing the start of a new baseball season. Instead, for our collective catharsis, let’s run through what we’ll miss most about Opening Day.
There are few things better than the Opening Day schedule, with games being played consecutively beginning at 1 p.m. ET. Multiple games grace the tabs of work computers, the 2020 version of channel surfing.
Playing more day games is ideal for getting national exposure to as many teams as possible because fewer games are played simultaneously. That’s the beauty of Opening Day. Want to watch the Nationals defend their title against the Mets? They were scheduled to play 1:10. How about Gerrit Cole in a Yankees uniform? 3:05 first pitch in Baltimore. Mookie Betts with Dodgers? 4:10.
How great would this year’s Opening Day schedule have been? Angels stars Mike Trout and Anthony Rendon would have played the lone prime time game against the Astros, in Houston’s first game since the sign-stealing scandal.
I’m a sucker for a good baseball cliché on Opening Day. Inject talk of the sweet smells of spring into my coffee-fueled veins. Sure, odes to the democratic nature of America’s Pastime and the best fans in baseball get really old, really fast, but on Opening Day, all of these are refreshing after a winter of emptiness.
First Games for Players on New Teams
This is always fun, unless your favorite team’s franchise player is now donning another uniform. In addition to Betts and Cole, we also would have seen Rendon batting behind Trout with the Angels, Josh Donaldson at the hot corner for the Twins and Madison Bumgarner in a Diamondbacks uniform—the last definitely would have been the most jarring.
Ace Pitching Matchups
Opening Day always features some elite pitching matchups, with every rotation’s No. 1 starter taking the ball. This year’s best matchups? Max Scherzer vs. Jacob deGrom; Luis Castillo vs. Jack Flaherty; Mike Soroka vs. Madison Bumgarner.
Javier Báez and Mike Trout
Of all the players who would have taken the field today, none of them will I miss more than Javy and Trout. Baez is the most exciting player in baseball, and he is the living example of the cliché that we never know what’s going to happen when we watch a baseball game. For Trout, it’s the sheer thrill of knowing we’re watching one of the best players of all-time. In the meantime, I guess we’ll just have to watch him chip golf balls into solo cups.
You wouldn’t know anything was wrong with baseball by looking at the Opening Day attendance figures. Last season, all but four games failed to draw close to capacity crowds.
Mets’ Opening Day Success
The Mets would have entered play today with a 38-20 (.655) record on Opening Day, by far the best record for any of the 30 franchises. There is no valid reason for why this is the case, but as far as inexplicable Metsian things go, this is among the most positive—after all, this is the same team that had to deal with Yoenis Cespedes getting injured in an altercation with a wild boar.
Perhaps the most amazin’ thing about this is that the Mets actually lost their first eight Opening Day games. Since their first first game win, they have a .760 winning percentage on Opening Day.
Also, for those wondering, the Mariners (26-17, .605) are the second best team on Opening Day and are the only other franchise with an Opening Day winning percentage above .600.
Opening Day marks the start of enjoyable (read: tolerable) baseball twitter. Where highlight videos and gifs again flood my feed and drown out the persistent madness of the virtual world around us. Now more than ever we need fresh Ji-Man Choi dancing content.
1.000 Batting Averages
Yes, I still like reading box scores. And I love reading Opening Day box scores for players with 1.000 batting averages. Of course, they won’t last, but a 1.000 batting average epitomizes gaudy stat lines that surface with the start of every season. Strong starts are reasons for hope, while a few rough outings are easily written off as nothing more than rust.
Optimistic Bad Teams
While the excitement of contending teams at this time of year is expected, it’s the misguided optimism of bad teams on Opening Day that I will miss about the start of the season. Bottom feeders cling to shreds of silver linings before the actual whooping begins, and the ways these truly awful teams rationalize their hope is simultaneously admirable and disheartening.
“I hate to predict a number of wins, but the Tigers are going to improve on last year. I think they’ll easily win 10 more games this season. If they get 70 wins or more, it’ll be a good year.”
This quote, from Tigers play-by-play broadcaster Dan Dickerson, is from a 2003 Q&A he did with the Detroit Free Press, which ran on Opening Day. One of the worst teams in MLB history, the 2003 Tigers finished 43-119 (.265)—more than 10 games worse than the 2002 team.
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Author: Matt Martell