Ah, Opening Day. For baseball fans, it’s like Christmas in April. Well… Christmas Part Two: Santa’s Revenge. I mean honestly, do you know a lot of Muslim baseball fans? I can only count like, six or seven, certainly no more than eight, so it goes without saying that most baseball fans also celebrate Christmas. But I digress.
It signals the end of a long, harsh winter (well, except for this freakishly warm previous one), a time to cast aside prior failure and set shoot for the stars (unless you’re in the AL Central, and then it’s pretty much a foregone conclusion that the Detroit Tigers will be taking it all, and with frightful ease).
Alright, alright… so for most Kansas City baseball fans, it’s “same shit, different day.” But it’s all about watching the team grow and flourish in incremental, yet important ways. Starters going a bit deeper under the tutelage of new pitching coach Dave Eiland. The maturation of principal parties like Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Alcides Escobar and Lorenzo Cain. The solidification of last year’s mostly-impressive bullpen.
And while nothing too significant can be taken from one single loss—it’s a marathon, not a sprint, nobody wins them all, blah blah blah—most sportswriters worth their weight in advertisers gift-certificates know that it’s crucial to make broad leaps and unjust predictions based off of a mere 1/162nd of a season.
So what did I learn from tonight’s game that will affect everything that happens between now and late September?
Yost’s in game decisions will cost the Royals some games:
Royals starter Bruce Chen was pulled way too early. I get it—it’s early in the season—SUPER early, in fact. But Bruce Chen is 58 years old. He has pitched on every major league team in the league, including some teams no longer in existence (the 1934 Cleveland Spiders, the 1953 Montana Potatoes). He had thrown 75 pitches and was ABSOLUTELY CRUISING. They’re not trying to preserve his arm for a title defense in 2016. They’re trying to win games now. Taking him out made no sense. You ride this little Panamanian pony until his arm flies off and strikes a befuddled fan in the first row.
Yost also either pulled relief pitcher Aaron Crow too late, or pulled him too early. I think you either let him work through his bases-loaded shit-storm, or you don’t put him in that position to begin with. You bring Greg Holland out to start the 8th.
These two decisions compounded into a loss that falls squarely on the lap of the Skip. It’s too early to call for his head—OR IS IT?!? (yes, it is)—but it IS something worth keeping an eye on.
Speaking of Chensanity:
I love the guy. He’s a fantastic presence in the clubhouse, a great mentor for all of the young pitchers and a hero to all of those of either Panamanian and/or Chinese descent. If you’re depending on Chen as your opening day starter, however, you’re far, far away from serious contention. Sorry, but it’s true. He makes a fine 5th—MAYBE 4th—starter on a contender, but he wouldn’t sniff opening day for any real baseball team. Until “little things” like this get fixed, the Royals will continue to be a joke.
Jared Weaver looks like he smells of old nacho cheese and Kool cigarettes:
GodDAMN that guy is greasy… really, really good, but SOOO gross looking. He looks like he’d play an extra in the big-screen adaptation of an unpublished SE Hinton novel. He was cosmically designed to be shooting pool in a smoky billiards hall in Tulsa, Oklahoma instead of being one of the preeminent pitchers in all of baseball. Obviously, I’m just jealous.
The Royals issued only one walk, and it was intentional:
If there’s one thing that has consistently killed the Royals year after year, it’s the free-fucking-pass. Good teams don’t walk batters; they make their opponents put it in play or take one off the noodle. Last night, the Royals pitchers attacked. And while the results obviously weren’t what the team had hoped for—a 5-0 loss—they made the Angels hitters earn it. Kudos.
The graphics department got some new tools, haven’t quite figured them out yet:
It feels like FSN upgrades their production software each year, but it doesn’t really make much of a difference. I like how the on-screen stat-board that shows the score, the runners, the inning and the pitch count no longer has three circles for “outs,” though. To me, that third circle was a wasted one. If both circles are filled, we can guess that the next out will be the third one. THiS IS PROGRESS, PEOPLE
The Ghost of Andy Rooney
Speaking of the Broadcast (New Faces Dept.)
Rex Hudler made his debut as color commentator last night, as well as some early, indelible impressions.
1) He talks a LOT. If Frank White was the embodiment of brevity, who took a “less is more” approach, then Hudler is the Old Country Buffet of verbal diarrhea. My wife said, “man, this guy acts like he knows a lot, huh?” Hopefully, this is new-job jitters and it’ll all be ironed out within a few weeks.
2) He also sounds like a Mexican guy selling me a car at a used car lot where I can buy there, pay there, my bad credit or no credit is no problem, and if I only speak Spanish, it’s not a problem because they do as well.
3) He sounds like commentary on a baseball video game (which makes sense, as he has apparently been featured on several versions of MLB: The Show for various incarnations of the Playstation).
4) He sounds like Chong (which makes sense because he was busted for weed possession at MCI in 2003).
5) Sometimes, he sounds Canadian (which makes sense because he had a brain aneurysm in 2001).
Welcome aboard, Rex. I’m kind of an asshole.
Looks can be deceiving:
At one point, I saw Danny Duffy in the dugout, thought it was Jimmy Gobble, and got really frightened. Oh, Heemy Hobble, why must you continue to haunt my dreams?!
This Offense Will be Streaky:
We know this. It’s no surprise. When you’ve got a bunch of young, inexperienced lads with loads of talent and minimal exposure, you’ll have days where you’d sacrifice an adorable kitten for a bloop hit.
Before Brayan Pena’s single in the third, I was pretty convinced that I might be witnessing an opening day no hitter. I could TOTALLY see it. I began worrying. I wondered, has that ever happened? It has. The Cleveland Indians’ Bob Feller no-hit the Chicago White Sox on opening day, 1940. Bruce Chen came out of the bullpen for the Sox and struck out two in the eighth. Will wonders never cease? Apparently not.
Lorenzo Cain covers a LOT of ground in CF:
And he wears Willie Wilson’s number. Sweet.
(I was going to make a cocaine joke here, but I figure that’s been done to death. It’s kind of like the Helen Keller jokes we all heard growing up. Seriously? We’re still picking on this deaf, dumb and blind chick 100 years removed? SHE DIED IN 1968, FOR FUCK’S SAKE. Can’t we just get on with our lives?!)
Advertisers breaking new ground (From the, “What Would Our Xenophobic Commenters Think?” Department):
I witnessed a commercial for "U-Pick-It" that was entirely broadcast in Spanish. My first thought was, “did we somehow pick up the Los Angeles feed? No? Oh, okay.”
My second thought was, “wait… did this place rip off U-Wrench-It? Did U-Wrench-It change its name? I’ve been to U-Wrench-It. I’m no pussy, but that’s a scary fucking place.”
My third thought was, “WE ARE BEING TAKEN OVER. CONCEAL AND CARRY. REMEMBER TRAYVON. I HAVE A DREAM. SAVE ME, REX HUDLER, SAVE ME!”
One down, 161 more of these columns to go.
Save me Rex Hudler, indeed.