On what would have been MLB Opening Day, here are five storylines we’re missing today and five things we’re watching to keep hope alive for baseball season.
The hope that springs eternal is feeling a bit different this year. On this (what should have been) Opening Day there is hope, sure, but right now the hope on my mind is focused elsewhere.
The MLB season won’t start today, of course, and lately I don’t feel too hopeful in general anyway. When I try to summon hope it’s more for how we will come through this global pandemic than whether my Diamondbacks can sneak into a wild-card spot over the next 162 games. But I still feel the game’s absence today.
As we’ve arrived at the date we waited all winter for, it’s worth reminiscing for a moment on why we were so excited. Even without baseball being played, we can use this unique Opening Day as a reminder of why we love the sport, what gives us hope and what we have to look forward to when it returns as a distraction during the healing.
5 things we’re missing today
Mike Trout gets first crack at the Astros
The biggest story of the offseason was the Houston Astros cheating scandal. It was a story so big that even the usually mild-mannered Mike Trout ripped into the Astros. Opening Day would have brought us the Astros as home against the Angels. How would Houston fans have received their disgraced heroes? Was the whole city ready to go full heel? How long would it take for an Angels pitcher to plunk someone? Instead, the Astros’ scandal now feels almost distant. It would also have been our first chance to see an Angels lineup managed by Joe Maddon, one with Anthony Rendon protecting Trout, a first taste of whether this group can finally help lift up the game’s best player toward the postseason.
Kershaw in the afternoon sun
The Dodgers were set to open the season against the San Francisco Giants, giving the odds-on World Series favorites a chance to beat up on their rebuilding rivals. It would have been our chance to see Mookie Betts debut at Dodger Stadium and get a taste of just how good this juggernaut team can be. It would have also been another chance to bear witness to Clayton Kershaw, who had made a franchise record eight consecutive opening day starts before beginning the year with an injury in 2019. Seeing the lefty on the mound in the L.A. afternoon sunshine would have been a balm for those of us in parts of the country that are still cold and grey today.
Cole Train arrives in pinstripes
The Yankees got their guy this winter and for a player who had been a lifelong fan of the club, taking the mound on Opening Day in pinstripes – even away from the Bronx – would have been a special moment. Seeing Cole mow down a dozen hapless Orioles – one of the teams most stuck in a rebuild right now – would have been special for the rest of us.
DeGrom vs. Scherzer
In terms of Opening Day pitching matchups it doesn’t get much better than the two pitchers who have claimed the last four NL Cy Young awards facing off, as Jacob deGrom and the Mets were set to host Max Scherzer and the defending World Series champion Nationals. For all the talk of baseball needing to be more exciting and have more action, a deGrom vs. Scherzer pitchers duel would have been a treat for the purists and pitching appreciators out there.
Bomba Squad takes the Bay
If pitchers duels aren’t your thing, this one would have been the Opening Day game for you instead. Last season, the Twins “Bomba Squad” set the MLB record for home runs in a season with 307. Then they went and added Josh Donaldson, a former MVP who hit 37 long balls himself in 2019. The A’s hit 257 homers themselves in 2019, good enough for fifth-best in all of baseball. Both teams made the playoffs in 2019, but had short stints in October. This would have likely been an offensive showcase between two teams starting promising seasons.
5 things to keep us hopeful
Re-watching classic games
In an effort to fill the day with some kind of baseball, MLB has cooked up “Opening Day at Home” a full-day slate of classic games being streamed on social media and broadcast on TV.
There’s a chance for every fanbase to see a win at some point on Thursday and as a Dbacks fan, I will obviously be tuning in for Game 7 of the 2001 World Series when it’s replayed in the evening.
Some other highlights include perfect games from Felix Hernandez and Mark Buehrle, no-hitters from Justin Verlander and Clayton Kershaw, plus 11 walk-off wins.
Reading a book, watching a movie
If you get tired of watching old games, there is of course plenty of other baseball content out there to fill your socially-distanced days. The National Pastime has been endlessly chronicled in films and books. The baseball Hall of Fame is also offering a suite of online content if you want to dive back into the sport’s history at a time when you couldn’t travel to Cooperstown even if you wanted to.
Mike Trout telling me to stay home
Sure, our heartstrings are easy to pull this morning, but MLB knocked it out of the park with this one. “Opening Day may be postponed, but unity, hope and community don’t have to be.”
Vin Scully’s voice waxing poetic
Speaking of heartstrings – and we’re going to get really sentimental here – I have watched this video of Vin Scully reciting the famous speech from Field of Dreams a few times already today.
“It reminds us of all that was once good, and could be good again.”
Vin may not be in the booth anymore, he’s at home taking the coronavirus seriously like the rest of us, but his voice is still there for us. As he recently told the LA Times, “It’s the life of the world, the ups and downs, this is a down, we’re going to have to realistically accept it at what it is and we’ll get out of it, that’s all there is to it, we will definitely get out of it.”
Knowing that baseball will be back eventually
On Wednesday night, commissioner Rob Manfred told ESPN that “baseball will be back. Whenever it’s safe to play, we’ll be back. Our fans will be back. Our players will be back. And we will be part of the recovery, the healing in this country, from this particular pandemic.”
We can all hope.