As I've written before and hope to again, I love the first day of the regular season. More than any other day of the year, it makes me appreciate what I do for a living.
After all, I think I played it safe in opning, essentially, that the Red Sox won't make it easy for the Yankees this year. I didn't exactly advocate that the United States switch to Communism, in terms of going out on a limb.
But it's one game. One out of 162. The tiniest sample size.
Chan Ho Park could go onto have a brilliant season. Dustin Pedroia could be so bad that he'd have Red Sox Nation saying, "We wish he at least would play as well as Robinson Cano did in 2008." The Yankees could win 110 games to Boston's 90.
I wouldn't bet on any of these twists of fate. But I would place a more general wager that many wacky events will grace us in the baseball world this season - happenings, trends and statistical compilations that we can't possibly anticipate after one of 162.
Shoot, I thought I played it safe last year with my Opening Day column. It's no longer on Newsday's Web site, but I'm actually grateful for that, after re-reading it on Nexis. It's essentially a love letter to Francisco Rodriguez, following this game, and it ends like this: "And if the Mets finally are ready to get back into the playoffs, they have a guy who not only knows how to run the final lap but revels in doing so."
With that in mind, present quick, I-can't-help-myself thoughts from last night:
Should Joe Girardi have lifted Sabathia for David Robertson in the sixth, with none out, second and third and Kevin Youkilis up? I didn't think it was mandatory. Sabathia wasn't yet at 100 pitches, and Girardi wanted Sabathia to somehow get through Youkilis so he could go after David Ortiz.
Yes, today's a day off, but why start crushing your bullpen on Day One? Especially when you have one of the game's best pitchers out there, with the thought of letting Sabathia emptying his tank against Youkilis and Ortiz. Yankees pitching coach Dave Eiland spoke to Sabathia right before the Youkilis at-bat, you may recall.
Of course, Youkilis drilled a triple, making the decision look like a bad one.
2) As long as we mentioned Ortiz...I am admittedly fascinated by what he'll do this year. It was a bad first night, even though he was at the plate in the seventh when Youkilis scored the tying run (to make it 7-7) on Jorge Posada's passed ball.
Big Papi looked consistently overmatched. His only triumph occurred when he worked a walk against Damaso Marte, who looked terrible in his one-batter appearance.
I remember speaking with a Yankees official over the winter, expressing my doubts about what the Red Sox were doing, noting specifically that Ortiz might be done. The official warily responded, "He didn't look done during the final few months of the year."
3) Yup, the Yankees' bullpen was pretty terrible. We'll see more of Park and determine whether his outing reflected him or the Red Sox. Marte might have justified his existence with his brilliant October, but if he veers all over the map this year and next as he did last year, that means that the Yankees made the wrong call on him with the long-term commitment.
(Nope, I'm still not giving up on that one).
To me, though, the biggest small-sample-sized source of concern has to be Joba Chamberlain, who still appears out of whack with his rhythm. Since the Yankees pretty much knew from the outset of spring training that Chamberlain would wind up in the bullpen, I wonder if it would've made sense to just use him that way throughout the Grapefruit League schedule, rather than have him start some games and/or pitch multiple innings?
Ah, what's better than second-guessing based on an inning and a third?
4) Curtis Granderson looked really good defensively, particularly when he raced to track down Adrian Beltre's second-inning blast against the wall, limiting it to a sacrifice fly. He also had that homer in his first Yankees at-bat, and afterwards he delivered his bat (which broke in the fourth inning, when he grounded out to Youkilis) and batting gloves to his marketing representative Emil Bodenstein.
The Sawx challenged Granderson twice with lefties, producing mixed results: A strikeout against Scott Schoeneweis in the fifth, and a walk against Hideki Okajima in the seventh. Speaking of which, how much money could you have won on March 1 if you said, "The second pitcher of the Red Sox's season will be Scott Schoeneweis"?
Erik Boland wrote an early story on Granderson.
5) I love watching Nick Johnson do his thing at the plate. He saw a total of 22 pitches in his five plate apperances last night, producing two walks, two hard-hit outs to centerfield and a strikeout looking. Yes, he had to be lifted for pinch runner Randy Winn in the eighth inning last night, something you don't need for Johnny Damon. But the Yankees would've needed one for Hideki Matsui, whom Johnson is actually replacing.
6) Great first night for Red Sox newbies Adrian Beltre, Mike Cameron and Marco Scutaro. Beltre and Cameron in particular looked very good both offensively and defensively. I was surprised that Red Sox Nation didn't give them more love in their first plate appearances of the game. Is it a more corporate crowd? Just from scanning the crowd, looking at those in the seats closest to the field, that didn't appear to be the case.
7) The weather was great - 67 degrees at first pitch - and it looks like we should be fine all week. Wouldn't it be nice to get a reprieve from the annual "Start the season on the West Coast!" pleas?
8) Last but definitely not least, Jorge Posada looked great at the plate and not at all great behind the plate. If Johnson falls back into character and suffers an injury, any chance that Posada shifts over to full-time DH? And, to really start taking leaps, if Jesus Montero develops this year, could he and Francisco Cervelli split the catching duties next year, with Posada as full-time DH? You certainly want that bat in the lineup as much as possible.
Speaking of Posada, he stirred it up some prior to the game, implying that Joe Girardi was the one who broke up the Posada-A.J. Burnett relationship last year. I love that Posada speaks from his heart, but I don't know about his theory. It was pretty apparent the pitcher and catcher didn't get along last year, and it's very reasonable to wonder whether they can this season.
--Good pice by Kimberley Martin, who's in Boston with Erik Boland and myself, on how the Red Sox fans treat the Yankees.
--How in the world is Gary Matthews Jr. starting in centerfield for the Mets today? Boy oh boy, this could be a rough season for Mets fans. I like the way Mike Vaccaro put it today: "Let's put it this way, at this point, it's probably unwise to think too big and hope for the Mets to get off to a good start. I think fans will settle for a 1-2-3 inning today in the top of the first. Baby steps and all that."
--Great piece by our pal JE for National Review Online, looking back at the past baseball offseason.