Yankee Stadium has never looked better. For more lego stadiums, check out Home Run Derby.
On Saturday, I celebrated my birthday. Two days later, Major League Baseball is giving me the best present for which any obsessed Yankee fan could hope: Opening Day.
Today, Chien-Ming wang turns 28. His birthday present? An Opening Day start.
There’s really nothing like Opening Day when everything says zero, and everyone has their hopes and dreams. It’s the day when we know spring is here even if the weather tells us otherwise. It’s the day when we know summer will be on the way soon.
It’s the day when the clock starts ticking. No longer are we left debating trades that were and weren’t made. No longer are we left sitting here wondering about missed opportunities and an invasion of midges. No longer are we left scrutinizing meaningless spring training stats and wondering what kind of manager Joe Girardi will be in New York. Today is the day when everything starts all over again.
For the Yankees, it’s a new year, a new team and a new look. A lot of the names we’ve heard about made their ways to the Bronx last season. We saw 70 innings of Phil Hughes, three starts of Ian Kennedy and some mighty impressive 8th inning work by one Joba Chamberlain. Ross Ohlendorf, in a late-season call-up, showed off a heavy sinker and a tendency to throw strikes. This year, all four begin the season in the Bronx.
Of course, the old guns are back too. Jorge Posada and Mariano Rivera returned to the Bronx while Alex Rodriguez locked up a deal that makes him a Yankee for life. In fact, at some point this September, A-Rod will probably find himself a Yankee for longer than he was in Seattle or Texas.
And then we turn to the Cathedral in the Bronx. As the Yankees take the field today, they will do so for their final home opener in Yankee Stadium. It’s a bittersweet day to be sure.
For the Yanks, they have their work cut out for them today. They haven’t lost on Opening Day since 2004 when the Devil Rays beat them in Japan. At home, they’ve been perfect since April 11, 1997 when Aaron Small and the A’s outlasted Jeff Nelson and the Yankees 3-1 in 12 innings.
Today, the Yanks face Roy Halladay while Chien-Ming Wang pitchers for the Yankees. Two of the game’s most winningest pitchers over the last three season square off. Someone’s gotta give. The game starts at 1:05 p.m. on YES and ESPN.
Time, they say, begins on Opening Day. To me, life begins on Opening Day. It’s a day for promises and hope that after 162 games, there will still be more to play. Let’s get this season started.
Notes: Please pledge to join the RAB Big Three K’s Craniosyntosis fund drive. We’ve raised a total of $3.17 per Big Three strike out so far…Please take a minute to read the RAB Commenting Guidelines…While Bob Sheppard is out, Derek Jeter will still be announced by the Voice of the Yankees. Jeter recorded Sheppard saying his name last year. That’s smart thinking by the captain.
Update 12:14 p.m.: ESPN is reporting that the first pitch will be pushed back to 2 p.m. due to rain in the New York area. Tomorrow is a scheduled off day, but the rain is supposed to continue on and off throughout the next few days.
Update 2:10 p.m.: The game is still delayed. We may not see baseball in New York until Wednesday.
What fun would Opening Day be without the New York tabloids questioning the Yankees’ off-season? Today’s (hopefully) last gasp of Johan Santana doubting comes to us from John Harper in a column where the headline and reality don’t seem to line up.
“Scouts say Yankees should have traded for Johan Santana,” the headline on Harper’s latest screams. The article says otherwise:
Over the last week I posed that question to six major league scouts and executives who saw the Yankees multiple times this spring, and for what it’s worth, here is the consensus opinion:
The Yankees could well win multiple championships over the next 10 or so years, thanks largely to a pitching staff built around young guns Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain, and Ian Kennedy. But this year? Forget it. It’s more likely their streak of 13 straight playoff seasons will come to a crashing halt…
“I love their future,” was the way one scout put it. “But if you think those young guys aren’t going to take their lumps at times this season against American League lineups, you’re dreaming.”
The point Harper is trying to make — that the Yanks should have traded for Johan Santana to win now — is not the one he succeeds in making. Rather, by noting that the Yanks “could win multiple championships over the next 10 years or so,” Harper just proves all of us who were questioning the Santana trade right in the eyes of scouts.
The Yanks didn’t trade for Johan Santana because they too felt they could win for years after Santana loses his effectiveness. Agree or disagree with their decision, the rational has always been as simple and as transparent as that conclusion.
As we head into Opening Day, hopefully this will be the end of the Johan Santana speculation. He’s on the Mets and not the Yankees or the Red Sox (or the Twins who surprisingly ponied up for Joe Nathan instead), and the Yanks are in a position to potentially win a lot and often over the next decade. End of story.
I remember the year I needed a note to go to Opening Day.
It was 1995, and I was 12. I had never been to Opening Day before, and I really wanted to go. I had just lived the last eight and a half months without baseball, and I vividly remember my mom telling me on the morning of August 12, 1994 that baseball was going on strike. While at the time, I didn’t understand the financial implications of the labor battles, I knew that my life would be without baseball for an excruciatingly long period of time.
When April 1995 rolled around and the MLBPA and owners announced a strike settlement, I spent days lobbying my parents. “Please can we go to Opening Day?” I’d ask numerous times a day. Finally, as the delayed Opening Day crept closer and closer, my parents told me that yes, we could go to Opening Day.
April 26 — Opening Day 1995 — was a Wednesday, and my sixth grade class had plans to go see our high school’s dress rehearsal for Anything Goes, the annual musical. I would have to leave the production toward the end, and for that, I needed a note. Dressed in full Yankee regalia in honor of Opening Day, I snuck out of school early that day as my dad took me and my sister, then 7, to our first Opening Day game.
The game was a blast. The crowd of 50,425, still sore at the players for their eight-month walk-out and the owners for canceling the 1994 World Series that could have seen the Yanks face off against a very potent Montreal Expos team, was rowdy from the get-go. That day would be only the day until the ALDS that the Yanks would break the 50,000+ attendance mark. Those were the days.
The game itself lived up to all my Opening Day expectations. I witnessed the pomp and circumstance of Bob Sheppard, then a sprightly 84, announcing the lineup. There was Buck Showalter in his trademark jacket. Wade Boggs, Jim Leyritz, Paul O’Neill, Danny Tartabull, Don Mattingly, Mike Stanley, Bernie Williams, Tony Fernandez and Pat Kelly lined up along the first base line while Jimmy Key warmed up in the bullpen. As the National Anthem began, all was right in my world.
The Yanks won that day, 8-6. Tartabull homered in the second inning to deep left-center, and the Yanks never looked back. Jimmy Key went 5 innings, giving up 3 runs on 7 hits, but Kenny Rogers was worse. For the Rangers, he threw 3 innings and gave up 4 earned runs before Johnny Oates yanked him from the game. Bernie hit a home run; Pat Kelly went 3 for 4; and John Wetteland threw a perfect ninth for the save.
Since that day, I’ve been to a few more Opening Days. In 2002, still recovering from that heartbreaking loss in Game 7 of the 2001 World Series, I trekked down from college outside of Philadelphia to Baltimore to catch the Yankees and Roger Clemens lose badly to the Orioles.
Last season, my first full baseball season back in New York after four years of college and ten months spent living in Washington, DC, I sat in the left field bleachers as Carl Pavano became the most infamous Yankee Opening Day starter of all time. When Alex Rodriguez‘s 8th inning home run to left center cleared the fence, little did I know that a historic MVP season would unfold in front of New York only to cumulate in a dramatic opt-out during the final outs of the World Series and a subsequent reconciliation. The Yanks won that one, beating Scott Kazmir and the Devil Rays 9-5.
So here we are again. It’s Opening Day 2008, and the baseball slate is wiped clean. We have a glorious schedule of 162 games ahead of us. We have summer nights at a jam-packed Yankee Stadium and tense late-season games in Fenway Park. We have full seasons from the much-heralded young guns, a swan song for a baseball Cathedral and a July filled with an All Star spectacle.
This is Opening Day, and this is what makes baseball great.
As much as we don’t like rules around here, now and then, we have to enforce some measure of control over our anarchy. With Opening Day just a few hours away, let’s take care of this bit of housekeeping right now.
Over the last few months, we’ve seen a huge increase in the level of visitors and comments to this site. As I noted yesterday, we’ve had over 1.25 million page views since the Yankees 2007 season ended. With baseball on tap, we expect this site to remain popular, and we’ll be updating just as frequently during the season as we did during the off-season, if not more frequently. We’ll have game threads on a daily basis and other special RAB events as the season unfolds.
But before we get to the fun, I want to announce the RAB Commenter Guidelines. First-time visitors and long-time readers should take a minute to read through the guidelines. If you have questions or concerns, you know where to reach us. The guidelines will be posted permanently on this page, and a link above the comment box on each post will direct you to them if you need to consult the guidelines at any point. Click through the jump to read the guidelines.
Here’s to Opening Day.
Chad Jennings is back at it with the complete rosters. These aren’t official, but they’re darn close to it. Double-A Trenton will be the team to watch this year, but Low-A Charleston’s rotation is loaded with some serious potential. Can’t wait for the games to begin. · (12) ·
Chad Jennings managed to run down a list of where some key minor leaguers have been assigned. The notables:
Double-A Trenton: Phil Coke, Reegie Corona, Steven Jackson, George Kontos, Chris Malec, Dan McCutchen, Carlos Mendoza, David Robertson, Kevin Russo, Josh Schmidt, Eric Wordekemper, Chase Wright
That’s a decent infield, lots of versatility … I expect Marcos Vechionacci to man the hot corner full-time … they won’t be blowing many late game leads in Trenton this year, wowza is that a solid ‘pen … Wright was the victim of the rotation numbers crunch in Triple-A Scranton
High-A Tampa: JB Cox, Mike Dunn, Mitch Hilligoss, Jon Hovis, Mark Melancon, Ivan Nova, Braedyn Pruitt, Damon Sublett
Cox will be sent up to Scranton as soon as the weather warms up … looks like Hilligoss will continue to play short, which only ups his value … I suspect Pruitt will play his way out of the lineup by midseason, and could be replaced by Bradley Suttle at some point
Low-A Charleston: Austin Romine, Jesus Montero, Carmen Angelini
Romine and Montero will likely split time behind the plate and at DH, which will help keep them fresh both short and long term, but it’s not ideal developmentally for their receiving … Angelini’s just the man
Disabled List: Francisco Cervelli, Anthony Claggett, Christian Garcia, CJ Henry, Kevin Whelan
Whelan is out with a sore shoulder, ditto Garcia, who’s never been able to stay healthy for an extended period of time … not sure what’s up with Claggett or Henry … Cervelli’s out with the wrist obviously
None of the assignments are final, but for the most part they all seem reasonable. I’m curious to see how Charleston’s rotation shakes out, with guys like Dellin Betances, Jairo Heredia, Zach McAllister, Adam O. and Ryan Pope all legit candidates.
As part of their season preview, The Times dissected Yankee Stadium, both literally and figuratively. Tyler Kepner offers up an audio slideshow to go along with his article on the secrets of the Stadium. Richard Sandomir looks at the eventual demolition of both Yankee Stadium and Shea Stadium. · (1) ·