Cameron Maybin’s body was in Citi Field on Monday afternoon, but he may
have left his head somewhere in the depths of Roger Dean Stadium. The
Marlins’ center fielder, who just turned 23 on Sunday, was 0-for-4 with
three swinging strikeouts, narrowly
avoiding the dreaded golden sombrero. But that’s not even the worst of
it. By my count, he let three flyballs drop in front of him and one go
over his head, the latter part of a critical four-run sixth inning for
It wasn’t an easy day to play center field, as Gary Matthews Jr. can
surely attest. MLB.com says the wind was blowing out to left field at
about 13 mph, but it was playing tricks with any ball in the air,
forcing Matthews to stagger on a regular basis. I haven’t watched
Matthews much over the past few seasons, so I can only assume that’s not
some sort of trademark. If so, well, I need to stock up on antacids.
In any case, Maybin’s tools are undeniable. Though he was demoted last May, he even hinted at some
progress as a September call-up last season, batting .293/.353/.500 with
three homers, 10 RBI and 19 runs scored over his last 28 games. I don’t want this to sound like a knee jerk reaction, because I believe he should be playing every day in the majors, but he simply lacks the polish to be hitting No. 2 in front of Hanley Ramirez right now.
It’s usually about putting your best foot forward when it comes to setting a lineup on Opening Day. Dusty Baker, though, decided to lead with his head up his ass.
The Reds played both their fourth and fifth outfielders Monday, with Chris Dickerson leading off and Laynce Nix in the seventh spot.
The choice to bench Drew Stubbs was especially baffling. Not to knock Dickerson’s glove, but Stubbs is clearly superior defensively. Plus, he hit .300/.354/.700 with five homers in 60 at-bats this spring. To top it all off, he was essentially named the starter going into the exhibition season. Dickerson got off to a hot start last month, but he finished at a modest .288/.327/.462, while Stubbs entered the day about as hot as any NL hitter.
One could justify playing Dickerson, but in left, not in center. He does, after all, offer a lot more defensively than Jonny Gomes, something that’s pretty important with Aaron Harang on the mound. But Gomes wasn’t the starter either, even though all he did was hit .267/.338/.541 for the Reds last season and slug five homers in 55 at-bats this spring. Instead, Nix, who was lucky to make the team over Wladimir Balentien, got the call. Nix hit .239/.291/.476 for the Reds last year, boosting his career line to .236/.277/.421. Baker knows that he’ll never have to worry about him clogging up the bases.
For what it’s worth, the Reds ended up losing 11-6. Dickerson went 1-for-5 in the leadoff spot. Nix was 1-for-2 before Stubbs replaced him and went 2-for-2 with an RBI.
Some other odd choices:
*Dodgers manager Joe Torre must have been too preoccupied to notice that the Pirates were starting a lefty in Zach Duke today. Matt Kemp, who merely torched southpaws for a .362/.429/.616 line last year, hit fifth ahead of James Loney. If there was ever a situation that called for pitching around a guy, that’s it. Kemp was originally slated to bat second this year, but Russell Martin was in that spot today.
Also, the Dodgers this winter signed three bench players who essentially remain in the league because of their performance against left-handers: Reed Johnson, Ronnie Belliard and Jamey Carroll. Not one started today, though. That’s not necessarily the wrong strategy. But if the Dodgers didn’t want to platoon anywhere, then they chose the wrong batch of reserves.
*The Mets had Alex Cora lead off and Mike Jacobs bat cleanup. I think this one has been better covered elsewhere, but someday soon, they’re going to lose a game with Jacobs at the plate in the ninth and Jason Bay waiting on deck for a chance that never comes.
*With Alberto Callaspo still nursing a minor oblique injury, the Royals had Willie Bloomquist starting at third base and batting sixth. The sad thing is that you can almost justify batting him sixth, when the spots below him were occupied by Yuniesky Betancourt, Jason Kendall and Chris Getz. But why not go to Mike Aviles instead?
Between Aaron’s last post and this post we’re sort of recapping games which is not what we usually do, but (a) it’s Opening Day and everyone has been good enough not to mess up the vibe with real news; and (b) these sorts of recaps pretty much capture what Opening Day is all about: renewal and the restoration of order in the universe.
If Pujols restored the natural order of things with his two bombs, Roy Halladay did the same with his performance: one run on six hits in seven innings with nine strikeouts. The one run came in the first. After that he settled down and mowed down everyone between the second and the seventh, throwing 88 pitches and getting the win.
The man is going to just destroy National League hitters this year.
New season, same best player in the world.
Albert Pujols went 4-for-5 with two homers, three RBIs, and four runs this afternoon as the Cardinals blew out the Reds in Cincinnati.
He now has the following career numbers in 142 games versus the Reds: .365 with 42 homers, 48 doubles, 121 RBIs, and 131 runs. But wait, here’s the truly amazing part: That works to a 1.129 OPS, which Pujols has actually topped against the Pirates, Padres, and Nationals (and Royals, if you count frequent interleague opponents).
Colby Rasmus also had a big game for the Cardinals, going 2-for-4 with a homer and a walk while also robbing a potential homer off the bat of Scott Rolen. Oh, and Yadier Molina broke the game open with a late grand slam, showing that the strained oblique muscle that had him questionable for Opening Day is seemingly just fine.