Wednesday

4-8-09: Thoughts 2 Games into the Season

Hello again everybody...

We've reached the middle of the week and it's all downhill from here right? That's probably true, but just as Monday wasn't just any Monday, today's not just any Wednesday. While it doesn't have a special designation like Monday's "Opening Day", it's still the opening week of the baseball season and it just feels special.

With that in mind, today's column is going to be a series of thoughts I've had over the first couple (or three if you insist on counting Sunday night) days of the season. Lots to talk about, so I'll try to keep each thought rather brief so you're not sitting here all afternoon. After all, Kazmir v. Lester kicks off at 6pm central time!

Off we go!

"There is nothing so absurd but some philosopher has said it."
- Cicero (106 BC - 43 BC), Roman philosopher and statesman


Nice to see a philosopher be able to admit to the innate absurdity of his own profession. Now if certain sports media members could do the same thing, we'd really have something!

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And in that vein, let me begin my thoughts on the first couple of days of the MLB season:

- Yankee haters, settle down... Yes, the Yanks spent a ton of money on CC Sabathia and Mark Teixeira. Yes Sabathia went 4.1 innings, gave up 6 runs, walked 5 without striking out a batter for the first time since 2005. Yes, Teixeira went 0-for-4 with a walk and stranded 5 base runners. But it's only one game.

A lot of starters got lit on opening day (see thought below), so CC wasn't really an aberration. Plus, he's not traditionally very good in April, so while Bomber fans would've liked to see him start strong, they shouldn't be shocked that he didn't.

And Teixeira wasn't the only big bat to press a little bit on Opening Day (see: Morneau, Justin). He'll be just fine folks.

But none of that has stopped the spastic sports media from flipping out and over-analyzing the bejeezus out of that one game. I feel more sorry for CC, since he'll have to spend 4 days or so reliving a forgettable afternoon until he gets his next chance to wipe it from the collective New York sports consciousness. At least Tex gets to get back after it tonight against Baltimore.

Anybody got an Ace? Anybody?... Not a good couple of days if you're an Ace pitcher. As mentioned above CC Sabathia got lit. But he was far from the only one. Cleveland's Cliff Lee went only 5 innings giving up 7 earned runs. Arizona's Brandon Webb survived only 4 innings, surrendering 6 earned runs, yet managed to eek out a no-decision. Even Toronto's Roy Halladay gave up 5 earned runs, though he managed to last at least 7 innings and got the win.

It got slightly better for teams debuting on Tuesday. Boston's (whom I hate) Josh Beckett pitched 7 solid innings of two-hit baseball surrendering only one run to Tampa. Though on the West coast, San Francisco's Tim Lincecum (this year's Sports Take jersey winner) lasted only 3 innings, taking 78 pitches to get through them while giving up 3 earned runs. The weather was a little cool out there, but Lincecum just flat didn't have it.

So is this some sort of fluke or aberration? Or are we seeing some sort of scary trend? I guess I lean towards the former. These guys are just to talented to pitch that badly on a regular basis. We'll see if that holds water in just a few days!

- The Twins are the greatest comeback team ever... Okay, that might be an exaggeration. And somewhere a Denver Bronco fan is twitching without really knowing why. But the Twins pulled the "cardiac kids" routine again last night, coming back from a 5-3 deficit with 2 outs in the 9th inning to beat the Mariners 6-5.

I did several Google searches trying to determine how many "come-from-behind" wins the Twins had last year, to no avail. (If anyone can point me in the right direction, I'd be much obliged.) But suffice it to say, it wasn't an irregular occurrence last year. And it seems like the boys are picking up right where they left off last year. When Carlos "swing from the heels" Gomez is working the first of 3 straight walks to set up the comeback, you know there's something about this team that causes it to never give up the ghost and to always believe that victory can be snatched from the jaws of defeat.

Sub-point: I've taken to calling people who leave baseball games early "communists". I figure that's not terribly offensive since there aren't really any communist countries anymore. Sure there's China, but their economy is becoming more free-market by the day. And Cuba? Come on. Cuba's the Fredo Corleone of communist countries. Technically they are Marxists, but nobody's going to consider them truly dangerous - at least not until they sell out one of their brother-countries to the U.S. and then the brother country will have to have them whacked.

Too much with the analogy? Right. Back to my original point: DON'T EVER LEAVE A BASEBALL GAME EARLY.

It should just be a rule. You paid for the full game, so stay for the full game! Like any rule there are exceptions. If you've got a young child who's getting fussy, sure, you can go (trust me, the folks around you will be grateful). If someone catches a bat-shard in the neck and is bleeding profusely, sure, they can leave (contusions and sprains don't count, broken bones only count if the fracture is compound). But outside of those two exceptions, you shouldn't be leaving the game. I promise you there are several thousand Twins fans kicking themselves today because they bailed after the 7th or 8th and missed an amazing comeback win.

That's the brilliance of baseball. There's no clock. Until a team gets 27 outs, they haven't won anything. And sometimes your favorite team faces Brandon Morrow and they can score 3 runs with 2 outs in the 9th. Trust me people, the 20 stinkers you wait out for 9 innings will be more than balanced out by that one improbable comeback.

- Ken Macha knows more than we do... Or at least that's what Brewer fans had better be hoping.

Ask anyone who follows the Brewers on a regular basis, "Who's Milwaukee's best pitcher?" I promise the answer will be Yovani Gallardo 99% of the time. But who started the team's opener? Jeff Suppan.

What?! Jeff freaking Suppan?!

Maybe Macha thought Gallardo matched up better against Randy Johnson (his opposite number tonight). Maybe he was jiggering his rotation so Gallardo starts the home opener. Maybe he went to a palm reader who said, "Psst... Suppan... your lifeline is long and says Suppan."

I don't know.

I do know that he was the only manager I saw in Spring Training that made a mid-inning pitching change. And he did it twice... in the same inning! That just doesn't happen. Spring Training is about players getting in a certain amount of work to prepare themselves for the regular season. You don't lift guys in the middle of the inning unless they just can't get out of it.

It smacks of over-managing. The field manager of a baseball team is important, but occasionally you see guys trying to make themselves look more important than they actually are. If they do that and win (Tony LaRussa), they're legends. If they do that and lose (Jimy Williams), they're fired and forgotten.

I hope that's not what's ahead of you Brewer fans!

- Fun stuff happens on Opening Day... every year, something unexpected and different happens on Opening Day. Sometimes you get a couple of those things.

Florida's Emilio Bonifacio (a solid contender for this year's Sports Take All-Name Team) hit the first inside-the-park home run on Opening Day since 1968. Granted it came against the Nationals, but that still takes some talent. And if you think that speed was a fluke, Bonifacio also stole 3 bases... off of left-handers. That means that each time, the pitcher was looking right at Emilio as he took his lead, and each time the pitcher failed to get the pitch home in time for his catcher to throw Bonifacio out.

In Arizona, Filipe Lopez and Tony Clark became the first pair of switch-hitters to each hit home runs from both sides of the plate in the same game since the Yankees Jorge Posada and Bernie Williams did it in April of 2000. Not only was the 9-year gap significant, but if you can find a less likely combo than Lopez and Clark, I'd love to hear it. Last year Lopez hit a total of 6 home runs between his time in Washington and St. Louis. Clark hit a total of 3. Now Clark's total is something of a misnomer, since over his career he's been much more of a power-hitter than Lopez has been. But still. That's pretty odd!

All of these things are parts of the wonder that is baseball, and a big reason why I'm such a fan. So make sure you catch a game sometime this week. You never know what you might see!

That's all I've got for today folks. I wanted to get in a bit about the MLB Extra Innings package, but that'll have to wait til Friday. All I'll say today is that it's free preview week, so search it out on your cable or dish and enjoy all the baseball goodness through the 12th!

Until Friday, thanks for reading!

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