11:34 a.m. CDT – Welcome to Opening Day. I will be your humble tour guide for those sitting at work wishing they were at the ballpark, those sitting at school wishing they were anywhere else or those who are simply slackers and don't care enough to wish.
Happily count me among the latter today. Heaven is a tracksuit, a futon cushion and a connection to MLB.TV, on which I'll be hopping from game to game and filling in with constant updates. It's like Dan Wetzel did with the NCAA Tournament. Only I'm not pounding 437 beers. And my dad isn't along for the ride. Special guest stars here are my girlfriend and her mother, and they will be chiming in with their, um, expert opinions.
First game up is Mets-Nationals. Less than an hour until the first pitch. Because of Pedro Martinez's toe injury that kept him out most of the spring, Tom Glavine starts for the Mets. He turned 40 last week, and it's amazing to see the number of players – left-handed starters, particularly – pitching into their 40s. Today alone, Kenny Rogers (41), Randy Johnson (42) and Jamie Moyer (43) will start their teams' first games. And Curt Schilling, the Red Sox starter, turns 40 in November.
Is 40 the new 20?
12:50 p.m. CDT – Sorry it's been an hour. I was stunned silent by the commercial on SportsNet New York, the Mets' answer to the YES Network. Before they switched over to the Nationals' feed, they played an ad that said: "We demand your best, and if we don't get it, we'll boo you until it hurts."
New York is a cold place.
Glavine looks like he's 25.
Livan Hernandez is matching him pitch for pitch. What a curveball.
Next post will talk about the best pitching matchups of the day.
And, readers, I'm proud. Solid e-mails so far. To answer a few questions:
Mark Varvil asks if the weather's going to hold in Cincinnati for the Cubs-Reds game, and friend Marc Lancaster of the Cincinnati Post seems to say yes.
David Wyeth, of Dracut, Mass., doesn't like the talking heads in Boston pinning the Red Sox's success to Curt Schilling and Keith Foulke. Remember, last year the Red Sox ran into a Chicago buzzsaw that not even a healthy Schilling could stop. Having him and Foulke back would vault the Red Sox right back up with the Yankees.
Best e-mail so far was from Jeff Evans in Houston:
One other standout 40-something will be back in June – Roger Clemens. The rumor in Houston is that he will be in Yankee pinstripes this year. What have you heard?
Oh, and what's for lunch? Is your (maybe one day) mother-in-law making something special so you can maintain focus for the entire day's run of games?
Clemens will decide his fate in mid-May. People tend to think he's coming back. I'm not sure. If he does, the Astros are the spot, but if Houston is faltering, will Clemens really want to inject himself into that?
As for lunch, great question. Just moved to Chicago this week, so the MIL and the lady are touring the city. What say you, e-mailers? Pizza? Chinese?
Next question: Who wins the World Series this year, and why?
The girlfriend's pick: The Cardinals.
The MIL's: The Cubs.
Now I know she's crazy.
12:55 p.m. CDT – Other games we're looking forward to today:
• Florida at Houston: Doesn't get much better than Dontrelle Willis vs. Roy Oswalt.
• Chicago at Cincinnati: To make sure that Aaron Harang really is an Opening Day starter.
• Detroit at Kansas City: Seriously, this game is very important in Kansas City. Tomorrow, the city votes on two measures that would renovate Kauffman Stadium. If they don't pass, the city will default on its lease and the Royals could, conceivably, move. A 15-0 loss wouldn't exactly inspire confidence in a floundering Royals fanbase.
• Atlanta at Los Angeles: Preview of the NLCS?
• New York at Oakland: Perhaps the two best teams in baseball.
And Greg in Chadron, Neb., points out why I'll be watching St. Louis and Philadelphia at least four times today: "Can Chris Carpenter do what pitchers over the past 36 games could not and stop Jimmy Rollins?"
My guess: No. Rollins gets at least one hit and pushes the streak past 40 this week. After that, it's going to be fun.
1:03 p.m. CDT – Best part of MLB.TV: Sometimes you hear things you shouldn't.
Cannons went off after Brewers owner Mark Attanasio's father, Joe, sang the national anthem, and in the broadcast booth, one of the announcers yelled, "Ahhhhh … I've been shot."
"I didn't know they were coming with those boomers," the other said.
"Hey," said the cannon-shot victim, "this all off-camera?"
Our President is about to throw out the first pitch in Cincinnati. I've been told by a reliable source that he went looking for it in Iraq but couldn't find it.
1:16 p.m. CDT – Bush threw a ball. Bum.
Some quandaries posed by the readers:
Opening Day is just as much fun, if not more so, than the first day of March Madness. The problem is I have papers to grade for a class I am teaching. Am I wrong to sacrifice the educational future of 18 sophomores because I can't take my eyes off the games today?
There is only one Opening Day. They've got three more years to graduate. Play ball.
So your MIL chose the Cubbies? Well, I've got you beat … my MIL chose the Dodgers. No, the BROOKLYN Dodgers. When I informed her that they moved about 50 years ago, she justifies her pick by saying she's from Brooklyn, so you could see why she chose them. Marriage can be painful.
Nick, Los Angeles
So can being a Dodgers fan.
Stopped on the Red Sox game right now. Curt Schilling looks good. He's throwing almost all fastballs, and he struck out Rangers leadoff hitter Brad Wilkerson and Michael Young to start the bottom of the first.
1:27 p.m. CDT – Clemens is at Ameriquest Field to see the Red Sox and Rangers. Before the game, he spoke to the media.
"I'm probably going to kick back and watch," he said. "If somebody goes down and I feel like I can help and contribute, I might decide to do it. Just like I finished telling Al Nipper, the pitching coach here [in Boston], I'm not coming back to wave my hand and have fun. I want to win. That's been my approach my entire career, and it would be a huge commitment on my part."
That and the possibility of a $20 million paycheck for five months of work. Hey, if the work's good …
We're running even on food here between pizza and Chinese, though I think Jim T. just pushed me toward pizza with this e-mail:
If you get Chinese, make sure they speak Mandarin and ask for this (done phonetically for you): you xiang qie tiao. They might want that last part to be qi-eh zi, depending on where they're from. It's a dong bei (north east) dish and may be hard to find, but as someone who's lived in China for a while now, I recommend it. Think of it like Eggplant French Fries smothered in Chinese Gravy, although the literal translation would be Fishy Delicious Smelling Eggplant Strips.
While we're at it, why not order some Rocky Mountain Oysters, haggis and sweetbreads. Mmmm.
New question: What's the grossest thing you've ever eaten?
1:39 p.m. CDT – Editor Mark was kind enough to inform us that the Cubs put up five runs in the top of the first. Guess that answers our question about Aaron Harang.
Carlos Zambrano has walked three batters, and the first inning isn't even over.
The Cubs got the lead when rookie Matt Murton hammered a three-run home run. The National League Rookie of the Year race this year is going to be a doozy. I picked Florida's Jeremy Hermida, but I'm waffling on that. Between him, Milwaukee's Prince Fielder, Washington's Ryan Zimmerman and Murton, it's quite the competition.
Mark, for the record, has eaten tripe and menudo. I have dabbled in some haggis. And for those who keep suggesting I get a hot dog since I'm in Chicago, are there any hot-dog delivery places?
1:47 p.m. CDT – Quick hits:
• Murton just made leaping catch against the wall that saved Zambrano three runs.
• The advertising company that dreamed up the Diet Pepsi commercial with Jackie Chan should be fired.
• Just an egregious shot by my friend Kevin Kaduk, author of the new book "Wrigleyworld," as he e-mailed: "Your mother-in-law is Tony Gwynn?" Tony, the true Yahoo! Sports expert, picked the Cubs to advance to the World Series this year. Not win it. Just advance there. I will bite my tongue. So hard it starts to bleed.
• I fear for the children of America. From another teacher, Rex in Houston:
Well, if the sophomore teacher isn't supposed to be worried about his students academic future, then I guess I'm really off the hook teaching kindergarten and checking in on how the games are going. Right now its nap time and I'm checking all the stats and scores. Enjoyed reading the blog so far, and at least the people you've been talking to have chosen baseball teams. My girlfriend chose the Broncos to win the World Series.
Time to give some love to the small-market teams: Watching Pittsburgh at Milwaukee. Check back in a few. 2:00 p.m. CDT – Thank you to reader Joe Green for reminding us that we are on Daylight Time, not Standard Time. Duh.
2:04 p.m. CDT – Uh-oh. The girlfriend and MIL have informed me my car's about to be towed. Pardon me for a few minutes.
By the way, J.J. Hardy can play. Two for two with a home run, and the Brewers and Pirates are tied at 1.
2:38 p.m. CDT – Phew. Car's still there. Note to travelers: Do not park in Chicago lots without buying a permit first.
So I come back and the Brewers-Pirates game is still on. The Milwaukee announcers let us know that somebody named Pearly Gates has won a contest. That has to be some kind of a joke.
Mets and Nationals are engaged in quite the opener. Glavine and Hernandez looked great. David Wright has a homer and broken-bat single to right field.
Ortiz hammered a two-run homer to give the Red Sox a 5-0 lead and push the ERA of the $60 Million Man, Kevin Millwood, to 9.00.
Scott Hatteberg hit a three-run homer against Zambrano, who keeps giving up more and more home runs. His first full season, he yielded nine. Then 14. Last year, it was up to 21.
2:42 p.m. CDT – Mea culpa, part 2: Justin Riemer in Baltimore points out that Murton, in fact, isn't a rookie. He had 140 at-bats last season, and 130 is the threshold.
3:42 p.m. CDT – Assessed a one-hour penalty on myself for the Murton mistake. Inexcusable.
• Albert Pujols is the best hitter I've ever seen. Better than an allegedly juiced-up Barry Bonds. Two at-bats, two homers.
• Jimmy Rollins, on the other hand, is 0 for 3.
• Awful call by home-plate umpire Rick Reed on a great slide by Alfonso Soriano. He stuck his hand in between Paul Lo Duca's legs as Lo Duca juggled the relay throw, and Reed still called Soriano out. Mets win 3-2 as Billy Wagner goes 1-2-3 in the ninth.
• For all the questions about him, Miguel Tejada is off to a nice start: 2 for 3 with a homer.
• Chris Hammond is your first infinity ERA of the season. He relieved Harang with the bases loaded, gave up singles to Juan Pierre and Todd Walker, and left the game. Mike Burns – listed in the box scores as M. Burns, which had me hoping that his first name was Montgomery – let in Hammond's two runs. The line for Hammond: zero innings, two hits, two runs and an incalculable ERA.
• In the vein of my Pujols comment, who, dear readers, is the best you've seen? I've got a lot of e-mails to catch up to, so the next post will be made up of them.
3:47 p.m. CDT – I know it's a late lunch, but Giordano's pizza is delicious. Thanks to those who suggested it.
3:54 p.m. CDT – The blog's proudest reader, my dear father, just called.
"Mea culpa, number 3," he said. "Reed wasn't the one who made the call. It was Tim Tschida."
If you're scoring at home, E-son. Assist to the father.
3:55 p.m. CDT – Carlos Lee just hit a home run as far as Jim Thome's last night, and that one traveled 431 feet. Lee is a free agent this offseason. He's going to have a huge year.
Prince Fielder, on the other hand, is 0 for 4 with four strikeouts. Not a good debut.
On to the e-mails:
The rain has given me the day off here in L.A. I have all afternoon to watch everybody else, check your blog and watch the Dodgers and Braves sit around in the dugout (maybe that's not a bad thing).
Tony in Sherman Oaks, Calif.
Wait. So if I had moved to L.A., I would have gotten today off?
I'm a Yankee fan in the Bay Area, and the Yanks are only playing one series out here this year.... AND THEY MAY NOT PLAY A GAME unless something changes with the weather. What's the scoop, man?
Dave in San Francisco
Just talked with crack New York Daily News beat man Sam Borden in Oakland, and he's on his way to the park right now. Says that the weather looks like it's going to clear eventually, that they'll wait it out, and for the latest on the Yankees to check out his new blog. And I will add that we are both shameless.
How about considering Josh Barfield for rookie of the year?
Thomas from San Diego
Not a bad idea, Thomas. Caught up with Kevin Towers during the World Baseball Classic, and he loves Barfield. With good reason. In 2003, he drove in 128 runs at high A ball. Last year, he was excellent at Triple-A. And now, at 23 years old, he's ready with the Padres.
4:18 p.m. CDT – The nicest guy in all of baseball, Reggie Sanders, just drove in David DeJesus, a sleeper fantasy pick for everyone out there. Royals 1, Tigers 1. The battle for last place in the AL Central is on.
Time to click over to the Braves-Dodgers and see if I can find out why, exactly, Nomar Garciaparra isn't starting. Thanks to reader Joseph Mascaro for pointing that out.
Oh, and since I was railing on the Jackie Chan commercial earlier, here's one that makes me miss my days of living in California: The Carl's Jr. ad with the Kevin Federline look-alike pushing, pulling and dancing with the cow, and the punch line – milk shakes. The look on the guy's face when he dances with the Holstein is priceless.
4:35 p.m. CDT – Don in Pittsburgh wrote with some bad news for Devil Rays fans, all three of you. Looks like Julio Lugo left the game with a strained oblique.
In the U.S. Cellular Field press box last night, we were chatting about oblique problems, because we thought that's what C.C. Sabathia had. (Turned out it was a strained abdominal muscle.) It seems like it's a fairly new injury. It's certainly a devastating one.
Oblique problems stem more from the recurrence of injury than the first one itself. It's an easy problem to slough off, as Tim Hudson has in the past, to bad results.
Without knowing specifics, Lugo's injury could keep him out weeks, even longer. In all likelihood, the Devil Rays turn the shortstop job over to B.J. Upton, who isn't too likely to relinquish it. Problem is, teams now know that, and Lugo's trade value could take a big hit.
One down, 49 to go for Andruw Jones. His shot to center field continued the miserable afternoon for Derek Lowe, whose sinker isn't sinking.
Jimmy Rollins' time is running out. The Phillies and Cardinals are in the eighth inning, and he's 0 for 3.
Will hit some e-mails next, including the grossest-food answers.
4:58 p.m. CDT – The winner from the nasty-food contest is, far and away, Fred Stirrett.
Two years ago I won a Thanksgiving turkey testicle eating contest. GO CUBS!!!
I'm glad he used the exclamation points at the end of his second sentence rather than his first.
4:44 p.m. CDT – Jimmy Rollins' hitting streak lives. He pasted a 3-0 Adam Wainwright fastball past Pujols for a double in the eighth inning. It's 37 and counting.
5:16 p.m. CDT – Baltimore closer Chris Ray has one violent delivery. He's also got one save, finishing out Tampa Bay in a 9-6 victory. A 3-for-3 day from Ramon Hernandez, and an inauspicious start by Scott Kazmir: four innings, eight hits, six runs, three walks, four strikeouts.
Another line, from the readers:
How about some props to Oliver Perez? Not a bad line for a guy who was having his velocity questioned all spring. 5.1 IP, 3H, 1R, 1ER, 3BB, 9K.
Scott Resek in Pittsburgh
A promising debut for Perez, certainly, resembling his numbers two years ago. But until he learns to be efficient with his pitches, he will never be anything more than a pitcher with great stuff. Great pitchers don't necessarily need off-the-charts stuff; they need to pitch into at least the seventh inning, and Perez needed 95 pitches to go 5 1/3. That doesn't bode well.
Is Xavier Nady's opening day an indicator of what he is capable of?
Teddy Phillips in Vancouver, B.C.
Nady, outfielder/first baseman traded to the Mets in the Mike Cameron deal, went 4 for 4 today, including doubles off Livan Hernandez and Gary Majewski. Ever since he came out of Cal in 2000, Nady was a highly touted prospect. He always faltered with the Padres, and with Nady turning 27 last year, they tired of him. Nady beat out Victor Diaz for the right field job, and while he's not going to hit 1.000, he could be a pleasant surprise in New York.
5:28 p.m. CDT –Last year, Dmitri Young hit three home runs against the Royals on Opening Day. This year, Chris Shelton has a pair, plus another hit, and it's only the seventh inning.
Looks like Nomar could be going to the disabled list with a strained ribcage. Can $6 million fit in a toilet. Just asking.
Thanks to Mark Varvil from Kenosha, Wisc., for pointing out that the Cubs' Scott Williamson joined Chris Hammond with infinity ERAs. Nice start for the Cubs, by the way. Sixteen runs – even against the awful Reds – is impressive.
5:45 p.m. CDT – Boy, does Joel Zumaya have an arm. His fastball sits at 97 mph and hit 99 in his first major-league inning. Zumaya struck out two, first Reggie Sanders on a 97-mph fastball, then Emil Brown on a filthy breaking ball.
If Zumaya keeps pitching like this, the Tigers won't be able to keep him out of their rotation. He and Justin Verlander both could find themselves in AL Rookie of the Year contention.
Other candidates, as requested by David Shue: My preseason pick, Minnesota left-hander Francisco Liriano (who, incidentally, was just arrested on DUI charges), Mariners catcher Kenji Johjima (who homered today and, having come from Japan, really shouldn't be classified a rookie) and Rangers second baseman Ian Kinsler (who went 1 for 2 with a walk against the Red Sox).
6:24 p.m. CDT – Here comes Barry Bonds.
6:25 p.m. CDT – Since this is Opening Day, and all is well with the world, I will simply say to Barry Bonds: a very nice piece of hitting, sir.
Bonds walloped a ground-rule double in his first at-bat of the season. He seems to have Jake Peavy's number. Hit his 700th homer off Peavy, too.
Because the movers are a day late, I do not have a TV and thus will not be able to watch "Bonds on Bonds," the reality show that debuts on ESPN Tuesday night. Though we all know what the show is going to look like.
Bonds: "The media hates me."
Flunkee: "Yeah, Barry, yeah."
Bonds: "Why is life so difficult?"
Flunkee: "I know, Barry, I know."
Bonds: "I want to jump off a bridge."
Flunkee: "Yeah, Bar – I mean, no, Barry, no. But if you do, I'm still getting paid, right?"
6:36 p.m. CDT – Mike Piazza, opposite-field home run? Welcome back, big guy.
6:42 p.m. CDT – Stupid me. I was so fixated on Bonds, I forgot to click back over to the Braves-Dodgers, an excellent game that drew a record 56,000 to Dodger Stadium.
After looking through the line score, my pick of the Braves winning the World Series worries me. Blaine Boyer got shelled, and closer Chris Reitsma gave up two runs before holding on for an 11-10 victory.
If anything will be Atlanta's downfall, it's the bullpen. Before the trading deadline, John Schuerholz will have to make a move. Reitsma is a serviceable pitcher, sure. He's not a closer for a pennant-winning team.
7:06 p.m. CDT – Ladies and gentlemen, my sincerest thank you for traveling with this blog today. First time I've ever done this, and it was the most enjoyable Opening Day I could imagine. While this email address will be open for comments and questions, we're going to get a feedback form at the bottom of my stories soon. And because it was such fun, we'll do at least one more of these full-day-of-baseball blogs, though it'll be tough to match Opening Day.
Because Opening Day is about guys like Jeff Brown. He lives in Sacramento now, though he's from Missouri and still roots for the Cardinals. Jeff is convinced that Scott Rolen proved his health, and that he, Pujols and Jim Edmonds "are unbeatable in the heart of the order."
It's about enthusiasm.
Opening Day is about guys like Michael Fitzpatrick. He follows the Indians, and he wanted to know: "Is it true C.C. (Sabathia)'s 'abdominal strain' was the result of him eating 23 hot dogs before last night's game?"
It's about skepticism.
Opening Day is about guys like Brian Youse. He is from Severn, Md., who responded to the question about who was going to win the World Series this season and why.
Who? The Orioles, he said.
"Because," he wrote, "I'm a fan and it's OPENING DAY!!!"
Couldn't put it any better myself.
P.S. – Thanks to my editor Mark Pesavento for dutifully posting this from his home office in Santa Monica, Calif., and to my two lovely assistants, Sara the girlfriend and Mary Beth the MIL. Their final predictions: Sara thinks Derek Jeter is going to win the Cy Young this year. Mary Beth is convinced it's Mike Sweeney.