Opening Day Firsts and Thoughts
Welcome back, baseball.
Welcome back, your dreams were your ticket out.
Welcome back, to that same old place that you laughed about.
Well the names have all changed since you hung around.
But those dreams have remained and they’ve turned around.
If you don’t get that reference, it’s from a tv show called Welcome Back, Kotter. If I can get one person to check out this work of 1970s comedic genius, then my job is done. As you can see from the lyrics above, it also has the second-best tv theme song of all time. The best is the theme from The Greatest American Hero. Everyone knows that. But I digress.
Baseball is back, everybody! And that means Fantasy Baseball is back as well. After all of the prep work and all of the drafts, shit has gotten real. The stats count, the waiver wire is open, and everyone gets to set a lineup for the first time in six months. That’s right; Opening Day is here.
As a Cubs fan, Opening Day used to be the best day of the year. Why? It was the one day you knew the Cubs weren’t completely out of the running. If you’re relatively new to things, the Cubs used to be really bad. There is also a Cubs Opening Day Legend. It’s the legend of Karl “Tuffy” Rhodes.
If you’ve never heard of Tuffy Rhodes, I’m not surprised. This is one of those stories Cubs fans used to have instead of stories about winning. In 1994, the Cubs (as usual in those days) were going nowhere. Tuffy Rhodes was an OF they picked up in a trade the prior season. On Opening Day of the 1994 season, Tuffy Rhodes hit three HR (all off Dwight Gooden) and became the first player in MLB history with an HR in the first three ABs of a season. Since Cubs fans really had nothing else to root for, Tuffy-mania became a literal overnight sensation.
Guess how many total HRs Tuffy Rhodes had for the rest of that season? If you guessed 5, you’d be correct. Yup, just 5. Of course, Cubs fans probably shouldn’t have expected much from a player who never had more than 3 HRs in a season before that. Tuffy Rhodes, however, did go on to hit 464 HRs in Japan.
I think the lesson there is to beware the small sample size. Because we’re all so excited by Opening Day, we tend to magnify events. We’re basically projecting an entire off-season’s worth of speculation on one slate of games. If you have a dominant Opening Day, don’t presume you have a championship wrapped up. On the other hand, don’t start deconstructing your team just because you had a lousy Opening Day. Like the Dude, just abide for a few days.
That being said, it’s Opening Day! Even though you know you have a long season ahead, when you see that first HR or SB from the sleeper you draft you still react like game seven of the World Series is happening. It’s ok; this is supposed to be fun.
Opening Day is also a day of firsts. For Opening Day 2019, I decided to chronicle what I thought were the notable firsts of the season. In the interest of the most thorough research to prepare the best possible column, I decided to spend Opening Day watching the games with friends. This included eating ribs and drinking beer in the afternoon. I know this seems like a lot of work for one column, but I’m willing to make those sacrifices for the readers.
For purposes of this column, I’m going to pretend the two games in Japan didn’t happen. Kind of like most of the odd-numbered Star Trek movies. With that being said, let’s check out the firsts from MLB Opening Day:
First HR of the year – Robinson Cano. He may be 36, but he was good for 20+ HRs even in Seattle until his PED time out last year. Maybe he’s still got something in the tank.
First SB of the year – Trea Turner. Dave Martinez says he wants Trea Turner to attempt at least 75 SBs in 2019. Trea Turner owners are nodding and mumbling “he better.”
First K of the year – Brandon Nimmo. Congratulations! Considering there were more Ks than hits in MLB for the first time in 2018, maybe there should be an award for this.
First player described as a “gamer” by a broadcaster – Jacob deGrom. What does that even mean anyway?
First rundown – Victor Robles. Nothing exciting during the rundown, but we’ll give him a break because he’s a rookie. He should’ve done something, however. Maybe get the umpires involved Naked Gun style.
First bizarre digression by broadcasters – New York Mets/Washington Nationals. They were talking about the Marvin Hagler vs. Thomas Hearns fight, and then quoted Jamie Moyer. How did we get there?
First team that has already conceded the season – Baltimore Orioles. Quick, name anyone in the Orioles’ Opening Day lineup. If you have to look it up, my point is made. I’m not saying the Orioles’ roster is full of unknowns, but I wonder if it was put together by Rachel Phelps. I did notice, however, that Dwight Smith, Jr. was in the lineup. The name rang a bell, and it turns out he is the son of a former Cub, who I remember finishing second in the 1989 NL Rookie of the Year voting. I love random baseball facts.
First call to the bullpen – Mike Wright, replacing Andrew Cashner for the Orioles. Anyone remember when the Cubs traded Andrew Cashner for Anthony Rizzo? Theo Epstein should’ve worn a mask with that theft. Mike Wright also just became first reliever who throws gas on the fire before putting it out. Have I mentioned the Orioles are going to be bad this year?
First players causing a rush to the waiver wire to see if they’re still available – Luke Voit/Greg Bird. If Greg Bird gets hot, do you think the Yankees have a “Bird is the word” promotion ready to go? Cue the Family Guy Reference. If you streamed Andrew Cashner just because he was starting Opening Day, that’s on you for streaming just for the sake of doing it.
First demonstration of faux outrage by a Yankees fan (actual quote) – “Fuck Greg Bird” (after he strikes out without runners on base even though Yankees are already up 6-1). Okay unnamed Yankees fan, did he redeem himself with the HR later? Wait; why do I care? Seriously, being a Yankees fan is like going to a casino and rooting for the house.
First application of the “100 pitch limit” or “3 times through the lineup” rationale of SP management – Jacob deGrom. He was pulled after 6.0 IP despite no ER allowed, 10 Ks, and only giving up 5 hits and 1 BB. Why? He was at 93 pitches. You can almost sense deGrom owners reaching for the pitchforks and torches.
First “holy shit, could this actually happen?” Fantasy Baseball moment – Trea Turner. If you drafted Trea Turner in the top ten, you’re probably feeling vindicated right now. 3 SBs on opening day! Maybe Dave Martinez really meant it about those SB opportunities. Holy shit.
First sleeper where you get to do the Nelson Muntz and say “ha ha” to people who gave you shit for drafting him – Andrew McCutchen. Someone in my auction league said he was too old. The leadoff HR for the Phillies begs to differ. Ha ha.
First time Fantasy owners who don’t care about the outcome of a game root for the closer because they want the SV and/or the starter to get the W – Edwin Diaz/Jacob deGrom. How many non-Met fans were cheering on Diaz to nail down that game? It’s amazing how Fantasy Baseball makes you emotionally invested in games that would otherwise mean nothing to you.
First “player who Fantasy owners gave up on years ago but suddenly looks relevant on opening day” – Kolten Wong. 2 HRs on Opening Day; never had more than 12 in a season. We’re talking definite Tuffy Rhodes potential. Here’s some advice – wait a few days before rushing to the waiver wire on this one.
First “hey this guy might actually be good” guy of the season – Austin Meadows. Former Pirates prospect with 5-category potential. The leadoff HR off Justin Verlander says you might want to keep track of him if he’s available in your league.
First rain delay – White Sox/Royals. It’s baseball. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, sometimes it rains. Think about that for a while.
First “the universe and by extension Fantasy Baseball are sometimes insane” moment – Jordan Zimmerman and Marcus Stroman. Dueling no-hitters into the sixth inning where the over/under on the game was 9.0. Anyone who called that either has legitimate precognitive abilities or is locked away in an asylum somewhere.
First dose of reality moment – Javier Baez. Yes, he’s good; but it’s Mike Minor we’re talking about here.
First “I called him as a breakout guy, bow before my superior knowledge!” moment – Jose Berrios. If you drafted him, take a bow. Keep in mind that same caveat with Javier Baez. Yes, he’s good; but I’m guessing the Indians thought it was still spring training and didn’t start their MLB lineup. That is their MLB lineup? Uh oh.
First “the wheels may be falling off” moment – Zack Greinke. 7 ER in 3.2 IP. At least he’s got a solid offense to support him going forward. Oh, wait. Not so much. And it’s not going to get much better for the Diamondbacks this season.
First reminder that the HR is the undisputed king of baseball – Los Angeles Dodgers. If you missed it, the Dodgers hit an MLB record 8 HRs on Opening Day. Forget about paying players for the Home Run Derby. It’s already happening.
First top 20 pick owners are suddenly concerned about – Chris Sale. 7 ER in 3.0 IP. Chris Sale owners are hopefully telling themselves it’s only one game, and thinking happy thoughts.
First “water is wet, sky is blue” moment – Khris Davis. 2 HRs on Opening Day. Draft Khris Davis, get 40 HRs. Easy as that.
I hope everyone enjoyed Opening Day as much as I did. Opening Day will always be the time when hope springs eternal. Or infernal, depending on your state of mind. Just remember no matter how your teams did on Opening Day – it’s a marathon, not a sprint. There’s six glorious months of Fantasy Baseball ahead.
If you enjoy my particular brand of Fantasy Baseball analysis/offbeat shenanigans, I’ll be back with my weekly Fantasy Baseball Persons of Interest column. Have a great season everybody.
Until next time, it’s all in the reflexes.