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Yanks, Red Sox would like to forget first 2 percent

This is less than 2 percent of the season. Before the sky crushes us under its might and the jersey-burning commences and the Schadenfreude reaches devilish proportions, we must remember: 3 of 162 is nothing. Baseball's season lingers daily for six months so as to erase whatever pain could come of the first three games.

But.

But these are the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox.

But these are teams with, respectively, $198 million and $173.2 million payrolls.

But, for all that's good in the world, the New York Mets and Baltimore Orioles are 3-0.

We haven't seen this since 1966, the Yankees and Red Sox each tripping up three consecutive times to start the year. The Yankees, of an aging Mickey Mantle and an in-his-prime Joe Pepitone, of a staff with a guy who was a better coach than pitcher (Mel Stottlemyre), a man who later gave up one of the most famous home runs ever (Al Downing) and someone more famous for his wife-swapping than his mound acumen (Fritz Peterson). And the Red Sox, who labored through the weakest year of Carl Yastrzemski's prime and didn't savor Tony C enough because nobody could've imagined what would happen to him the next year, almost equally as wretched.

Boston ninth in the American League. New York 10th. Of 10 teams. Oh, how the game has changed since then.

This is less than 2 percent of the season, and it's still a big deal because it's not supposed to happen, because baseball's mightiest resemble superpowers more than teams, and the expectations are similarly colossal. Soon enough, these upside-down standings will rejigger themselves. They almost always do. Never – truly never – will the Yankees and Red Sox finish with the two worst records in the league again.

So let the sky fall and the Zippo flints work OT and the snark pulverize everything in its path. No matter how illusory it may be, if it's fun to pretend otherwise, relish those jollies now. The Yankees will be fine. The Red Sox will be fine. Though until then, as we recount all that went on over an eventful opening weekend in excessively comprehensive fashion …

1. Bobby Valentine gets to face the mother lode of grief only Bostonians can lavish on their local nine. If two championships didn't zap the innate self-loathing and projecting inherent in every Red Sox fan, nothing can, which renders Bobby V the proper scapegoat for a weekend that went wrong in just about every way possible.

Well, him and …

2. Alfredo Aceves. And …

3. Mark Melancon . Especially Melancon, since he was in Houston last September, and Bobby V in a television studio, neither anywhere near the nuclear fallout of the ugliest collapse anyone could remember, not just for Boston but for any baseball team.

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Rooted beneath the anger of the three-game sweep at the hands of the Tigers – of Melancon and Aceves blowing Games 1 and 3 of the series, achieving the rare double blown save in the latter – are the leftover feelings from the Beer-and-Chicken Sox that the presence of a new manager alone couldn't exorcise. Bobby V cleared the clubhouse of suds and proclaimed it was a new day in Boston and pissed off the Yankees in a spring-training game, but Red Sox fans know better: until he actually does something, he's nothing more than a charlatan. And two slump-offs in three days does little to allay fears.

It takes time to win over people who need to be won over, the sorts …

4. Joe Girardi still hasn't entirely convinced he's the right guy as Yankees manager. He thinks the right way. He uses a balance of numbers and classic evaluation. He is a former player. He is personable. He's damn close, in theory, to the Platonic ideal of a manager.

At least until his binder full of the statistics that guide his strategy backfires and he runs into the pitching buzzsaw that is the Tampa Bay Rays and he watches …

5. Mariano Rivera blow a save on opening day. On the rare occasions this happens, the question arises whether something is wrong with Mo, a question that, in a vacuum, makes plenty of sense, because the idea of a 42-year-old who throws one pitch succeeding is one fraught with peril. We know different, of course, and this being Rivera's retirement tour, it's beyond the pale to think he'll falter. The sky is blue and the grass is green and his cutter cuts, right?

Remember 2005? Second game of the season, Mo blew a save, the last time he gave up a run in his first appearance. Next day he blew another and allowed five runs. Panic set in. The headline in Newsday: "Closing door on great era of Rivera."

Rivera gave up one run over his next 29 games and finished with a career-best 1.38 ERA. He has 267 saves since. So, as is the case with his team, and his rival's, no need to fret. Just as Rivera will fish himself from a low moment …

6. Yoenis Cespedes will rejoin the rest of us here on earth, though may the ball he hit 462 feet to left-center field and pimped like Bishop Don Magic Juan remain in the ionosphere for as long as it damn well pleases. When in our predictions, forecasts and wild guesses I pegged Cespedes' longest home run at 472 feet, I worried that I was underestimating it, and his power surge in the season's first week proved such concerns true.

[ Related: Oakland Athletics' Yoenis Cespedes knows he broke an unwritten rule of baseball ]

At 6-foot, 225 pounds, Cespedes is something of a bowling ball, with a body seemingly ill-suited for baseball. But that swing. Heavens, that swing. So full of leverage that his back knee bends as if he wants to genuflect to his own raw power. The opposite-field job he pummeled Sunday – his big league-leading third of the season – was pure Sammy Sosa in its bat speed and remorselessness for the ball's welfare. Thank you, Cuba, for your cigars and Yoenis Cespedes. And …

7. Kendrys Morales ain't bad, either. Let us remember: Morales' last at-bat before opening day came May 29, 2010, when he ravaged his leg jumping on home plate to celebrate a walkoff home run. And let us remember: He didn't start playing in games there until less than three weeks remained in spring training. And so what Morales did Saturday – go 4 for 4 with a double – not only was an homage to modern medicine, it was a triumph of epic proportions for an athlete whom more than a few people in the sport considered done at age 28. It's the sort of thing even Fidel Castro might appreciate. Well, probably not. For his appreciation of Castro, on the other hand …

8. Ozzie Guillen found himself in a world of pain. There are two people it's practically illegal to be fond of in Miami: Nevin Shapiro and Castro. And while Guillen's point about respecting Castro's ability to stay in power for as long as he did is a salient one, the inelegance of its delivery again got him in trouble. It had been too long since Ozzie put his foot in his mouth, as opposed to putting his finger down his throat, which …

9. Heath Bell did Sunday for the Marlins. The third piece of their free-agent influx this offseason, Bell comes off a season in which his strikeout rate dropped precipitously. Maybe it was luck. Maybe it portends something more. Either way, Bell blew his first save opportunity in grand fashion, with Hanley Ramirez almost literally sitting on a Scott Rolen grounder as Drew Stubbs crossed home plate. It followed one of the more fascinating home runs of the first weekend, a shot …

10. Jay Bruce pulverized and watched rise from what looked like 10 feet over the shortstop's head to over a tall wall in left-center field. It was one of those that kept rising, barely starting its descent until nearly 400 feet from home plate, a pea to match a majestic shot to right field Bruce hit earlier in the game.

It's easy to forget this is Bruce's fifth season because he just turned 25. But he entered the season with 100 homers, and only 36 others have done that before their age-25 season. Sixteen are in the Hall of Fame, and Ken Griffey Jr., Alex Rodriguez, Albert Pujols, Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder could join them. If …

11. David Wright could recapture his age-25 season, the Mets might be more inclined to extend him than trade him. Signs of the old Wright – 6 for 9 with a homer, three walks and no strikeouts during the Mets' three-game sweep of Atlanta – put him on the short list for best first weekend with Cespedes, Bruce and …

12. Miguel Cabrera, whose rocket shot off Aceves sent the eventual 13-12 Detroit victory into extra innings on Sunday. Yes, Cabrera committed an error opening day. While there will be plenty of those, the Tigers can take solace in the fact that he's not Mark Trumbo. Anyway, he's there to hit, and when he lashed a pair Saturday and …

13. Prince Fielder hit two more, the Tigers' offense that looked so frightening on paper bared its teeth. Detroit's sweep of Boston wasn't just horrifying for the Red Sox; it was edifying for a city that flocked to Comerica Park to thank owner Mike Ilitch for pouring $214 million into someone whose jersey will become an awfully popular sight around Motown. His debut was electrifying, whereas …

14. Albert Pujols was simply steady. Three hits. Two doubles. A .962 OPS. No home runs. A couple of losses, actually, to Kansas City. Not exactly the start anyone wanted. Not indicative of anything, either, unless three of 162 suddenly became a valid sample size. It would be like claiming …

15. Carlos Pena is the best first baseman in the AL, which he most assuredly isn't. But hey. He's hitting .500, sits fourth in the big leagues with seven RBIs and twice now has batted second when facing right-handed pitchers. Joe Maddon's lineup construction remains one of the great wonders of baseball – if the Rays win the World Series, plenty will get a good laugh of the fact that Jeff Keppinger was their opening-day cleanup hitter – and his use of the high-strikeout, opposite-of-controlled bat in the 2-hole is among the more Maddonian strokes we've seen.

Once regression takes over and Pena takes his place below …

16. Eric Hosmer in the pecking order of AL first baseman, it will be interesting to see how high Kansas City's 22-year-old can rise. He hits with similar fury to Cespedes and Jose Bautista, loading his hands only to punch through with a staggering buggy whip. Pujols, Fielder and Adrian Gonzalez are the lords of the position today. Hosmer could ascend to the next level, with Paul Konerko and Mark Teixeira, and is poised soon enough to join the upper echelon. It's no wonder Kansas Citians are begging that Scott Boras does the same thing he did with …

17. Jered Weaver and negotiate a long-term, pre-free agency contract. In light of Matt Cain's five-year, $112.5 million extension, Weaver's five-year, $85 million deal looks like an even greater bargain. He was nonpareil against Kansas City in the opener, striking out 10 over eight scoreless innings. According to Game Score, the catch-all statistic that does a fantastic job of comparing pitchers, it was the second-best start of the season thus far, tied with a …

18. Justin Verlander opening-day gem in which he struck out seven and allowed two hits over eight scoreless innings. Only three of his starts in his MVP and Cy Young 2011 season were better: a 12-strikeout shutout, an eight-inning, 14-strikeout performance and a no-hitter. So who beat Weaver and Verlander? Well, it wasn't …

19. Jamie Moyer, who exited his first start as a 49-year-old after five innings and 69 pitches. He took his 205th career loss (only 32 pitchers have more than 200) and allowed his 512th and 513th home runs (nobody has yielded more) and now must wait until Thursday against San Francisco to go for the title of oldest starter to win a game.

[ Related: Jamie Moyer is a "freak" worth savoring at age 49 ]

Oh, and in case you were wondering, his fastball averaged 78.1 mph. In the meantime …

20. Stephen Strasburg threw a ho-hum 95.3 mph, the hardest for any starter thus far and almost certainly any starter to come. He remains a marvel in every sense of the word: the quality of his stuff, the deftness of his command, the depth of his poise. New elbow? New shmelbow. Strasburg may well be the best pitcher in the National League this season until the Nationals swaddle him in a receiving blanket and shake up a bottle of formula spiked so he won't bellyache about them shutting him down toward the end of the season. The kid-glove treatment likewise could go for …

21. Yu Darvish as he transitions into the major leagues Monday. He'll face the paltry lineup of first-place Seattle, which is 3-1 despite its .266/.291/.385 slash line, and he'll do so as the latest child of hype in the major leagues, heir to Strasburg and …

22. Aroldis Chapman, whose Chapmania of two years ago has transitioned into a quiet sort of dominance. While he should be in the Reds' rotation – $30 million-plus for a bullpen guy isn't the sort of luxury to which the Cincinnatis of the world often treat themselves – at least Dusty Baker is utilizing him in a less restrictive fashion. On Sunday, Chapman went two innings, struck out three Marlins and picked up his first win of the season. Another victory for Cuba, and one more for the rookie pitching Class of 2010, which includes Chapman, Strasburg, Madison Bumgarner, Daniel Hudson, Jhoulys Chacin, John Axford, Drew Storen, Sergio Santos, Alexi Ogando and …

23. Jonathon Niese, who Sunday made the Mets look like they hadn't overpaid too badly when they guaranteed $25.5 million to a guy with an adjusted career ERA 12 percent below league average. Niese carried a no-hitter into the seventh inning against Atlanta, and while Freddie Freeman's single made it 7,963 games and counting for the Mets without a no-hitter, the performance encapsulated a wondrous weekend for a franchise in desperate need of something to cheer about.

Niese, Wright, Johan Santana, Lucas Duda, Ike Davis, R.A. Dickey – they're pieces, enough to keep the Mets from embarrassing themselves in a brutal division. They could use more guys like …

24. Carlos Beltran, of course, but as Mets GM Sandy Alderson tweeted, he's plenty happy with having traded him for Zack Wheeler. The early returns from St. Louis GM John Mozeliak's two-year, $26 million deal for Beltran are equally munificent: two home runs and seven hits to help pace an offense that with a scorching David Freese and Rafael Furcal – and a four-game line of .321/.378/.495 – put up an NL-best 24 runs. The second-most runs belong to the Los Angeles Dodgers and …

25. Matt Kemp, serious, it seems, about going 50-50 this year. Two home runs, a stolen base and a caught stealing in his first four games show equal parts talent and audacity, and if the Dodgers can play anything like they did this week – probably not, but April is for dreamers – maybe the MVP votes that went Ryan Braun's way last year would gravitate toward the player who was hands down the best in the NL last season. If he gets pitching performances like the one …

26. Chad Billingsley spun Friday – 8 1/2 scoreless innings, three hits, one walk, 11 strikeouts and, yes, a better game score than Verlander and Weaver – maybe it's not altogether far-fetched. Billingsley is among the more frustrating players in the major leagues: big, strong, talented and eminently underachieving. He peaked in 2008, bottomed out last season and comes into this year with plenty to prove not just for himself but his checkbook.

With Matt Cain off the market, the 28-year-old Billingsley could battle …

27. Zack Greinke and Anibal Sanchez for title of premier right-handed free agent in this offseason's potentially loaded pitching class. Greinke's got the best pedigree certainly, with an AL Cy Young Award, as well as the best stuff, which he displayed in seven scoreless innings locking down a Cardinals offense that tattooed the rest of the Brewers' pitching staff. With a new agent (Casey Close) and a renewed reliance on a slider that might be the best in the game, Greinke could thrive as he hits free agency as a 29-year-old. A good year and his next contract will exceed $20 million a year, higher than …

28. Roy Halladay, whose efficient eight scoreless innings placed him alongside Verlander and Weaver for the best opening-day performance and started a run on great opening weekends by players whose last names begin with the letters Ha.

I defy anyone to find me a better two letters in baseball. Think about it: Halladay, Cole Hamels, Josh Hamilton, Dan Haren, Tommy Hanson, Joel Hanrahan, J.J. Hardy, Matt Harrison, Aaron Harang, Ryan Hanigan, J.A. Happ, Willie Harris, Josh Harrison

29. Jason Hammel (and his seven no-hit innings with Baltimore on Sunday) …

30. Lucas Harrell (and his surprising seven scoreless innings for Houston on Saturday) …

31. Corey Hart (and his three homers, tied with Bruce, Cabrera and Cespedes fo the major-league lead) …

32. Jeff Samardzija. Hmmmm. The Ha in his name must be silent.

Anyway, Samardzija would've thrown the first complete game of 2012 if not for Starlin Castro's throwing error with two outs in the ninth inning. Five pitches later, Adam LaRoche launched a two-run home run and Dale Sveum called on Carlos Marmol to record the 27th out.

Still – wow. Jeff Samardzija. Can't-throw-a-strike Jeff Samardzija going 8 2/3 innings without a walk and with eight strikeouts. Thrived-as-a-reliever Jeff Samardzija plowing through the Washington lineup with efficiency. Stuff-has-improved Jeff Samardzija showing his spring breakout may be real. He's only 27, and if this is no mirage, it's a huge coup for the Theo Epstein/Jed Hoyer administration so deeply focused on growing starting pitching. When one pops out of nowhere like …

33. Jake Arrieta did this spring as he seized the top spot in Baltimore's rotation, those fortunate enough consider it a blessing from the baseball gods. Arrieta, a right-hander from that rookie Class of '10, is throwing harder than he ever has after surgery to remove a bone spur from his elbow, and he attributed his breaking pitches' effectiveness to the resulting flexibility in his arm.

Lest we not forget the Orioles' 4-0 start last season and consider this one a similar hallucination. Still, after years of running through pitching prospects' arms, the latest being Zach Britton out for six weeks with shoulder problems, this is progress. Gaining velocity is better than what …

34. Tim Lincecum has done: bleed it like a man in need of a tourniquet. His fastball averaged 90.6 mph in his first start, nearly 3 mph below his career average and well below last season's. Lincecum didn't throw a slider, either, scrapping the pitch because of how much it taxes his right elbow.

[ Related: Tim Lincecum's poor opening outing doesn't faze San Francisco Giants bloggers ]

He suffered for it: Arizona taxed him for five runs in 5⅓ innings before Bruce Bochy pulled him, and while the seven strikeouts show Lincecum's arsenal remains dangerous, the sudden about-face on a pitch he threw nearly a quarter of the time last season indicates one of two things: He's not going to have nearly the weapons he has in previous seasons or he's genuinely concerned about the health of his arm.

Neither is good. The performance stood out on a weekend of so many good ones alongside that of …

35. Josh Beckett and his dodgy thumb, which, of course, he insisted after the start was fine. It may be. Giving up more home runs in your first start (five) than you did in your first 14 last season just tends to signify something otherwise. Nobody is hoping Beckett's meltdown against the Tigers was an anomaly more than …

36. Bobby Valentine, who spends Game Nos. 4 and 5 of his Red Sox career trotting Felix Doubront and Daniel Bard to the mound. Among the back 40 percent of his rotation, the health in the front of it, the Bullpen of Death and a schedule of unmatched difficulty over the next two weeks – three at Toronto, four vs. Tampa Bay, two vs. Texas, three vs. New York – mitigated only by the fact that the final nine come at home, Valentine faces the single toughest managerial job in baseball. And he did before Detroit's sweep.

All he needs is one win for now, one to hold off the hysteria. Bobby V will be fine, as will his Red Sox and the Yankees, and the Orioles and Mets won't, because 2 percent of the season is like a 3D picture: It may look beautiful, but reality just won't allow it to be real.

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