Bases emblazoned with Opening Day sit ready to be installed on the field on opening night of the MLB season in Houston

The worst Opening Day starts of the 2000’s

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Opening Day is set to kick off in just a few minutes when the Houston Astros take on the Texas Rangers. The Rangers’ Matt Harrison opposes the Astros’ Bud Norris. Though Norris isn’t terrible, he isn’t exactly the type of starter you envision kicking off your team’s season on Opening Day.

With that said, let’s take a quick look back at some of the worst Opening Day starts of the 2000’s.

April 1, 2011: Roberto Hernandez (Indians) vs. White Sox

Hernandez, then known as Fausto Carmona, was hit right from the start. He allowed two runs in the first, four in the third, and was charged for four more in the fourth inning as the Sox put up an eight-spot. Adam Dunn and Carlos Quentin homered in the third, but the rest of the damage was done by singles and doubles.

Hernandez’s final line: 3 IP, 11 H, 10 ER, 1 BB, 5 K

April 5, 2010: Carlos Zambrano (Cubs) vs. Braves

The Cubs staked Zambrano to a three-run lead in the first inning, but he gave it back and then some in the bottom half of the inning. On a walk, four singles, and a three-run home run by Jason Heyward, the Braves scored six runs. In the second, Zambrano hit Martin Prado, then Chipper Jones grounded out but Prado ended up coming all the way around to score on a Zambrano throwing error, and Brian McCann homered before the right-hander was finally removed from the game.

Zambrano’s final line: 1.1 IP, 6 H, 8 ER, 2 BB, 1 K

April 2, 2007: Jose Contreras (White Sox) vs. Indians

Grady Sizemore led the game off with a home run, then three more Indians reached base without making an out — all singles. Josh Barfield landed a crushing blow with two outs, hitting a two-run triple to right field that brought the Indians’ lead to 5-0. Contreras came out for the second inning, but walked Sizemore, then surrendered a double to Trot Nixon to put runners on second and third with no outs. Travis Hafner hit a grounder to shortstop Juan Uribe, but he made an errant throw to first base, allowing Sizemore and Nixon to score, chasing Contreras in the process.

Contreras’s final line: 1 IP, 7 H, 8 R (7 ER), 1 BB, 1 K

April 3, 2006: Jon Lieber (Phillies) vs. Cardinals

Lieber was on the hook for eight runs in his start, which is amazing considering he exited the third inning having allowed only two runs on a Jim Edmonds RBI double in the first and an Albert Pujols solo home run in the third. The eventual World Series champions strung together a bunch of hits against Lieber in the fourth: five singles and a triple. Lieber left with his team down 5-0 with one out and the bases loaded. Julio Santana came in relief but he only poured more gasoline on the fire. Pujols hit a sacrifice fly, Edmonds was walked to re-load the bases, and Scott Rolen hit a grand slam to put his team up 10-0.

Lieber’s final line: 3.1 IP, 9 H, 8 ER, 1 BB, 3 K

April 4, 2005: Javier Vazquez (Diamondbacks) vs. Cubs

The first inning wasn’t that bad for Vazquez. He surrendered four hits, leading to two runs, but they were all singles. The Cubs started crushing everything Vazquez threw in the second. He got Michael Barrett to pop out to lead off the inning, but pitcher Carlos Zambrano reached base on a double, which was then followed up by three consecutive singles and an Aramis Ramirez double, putting the Cubs up 6-0. Jeremy Burnitz struck out, but Derrek Lee extended the inning with a double to left, driving in the Cubs’ seventh run, pushing Vazquez out of the game.

Vazquez’s final line: 1.2 IP, 10 H, 7 ER, 0 BB, 2 K

First American League All-Star voting totals are in, Sal Perez leads in the voting

Kansas City Royals catcher Salvador Perez jokes during batting practice before Game 2 of the Major League Baseball World Series against the New York Mets  Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2015, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
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It seems early, but this is when it happens: Major League Baseball announcing the early results for All-Star Game voting. Voting started in April which makes it kind of hard to weigh-in with any sort of certainty about how anyone is doing, but it probably doesn’t matter much. It doesn’t matter much for a lot of reason. Among them:

  • There are different schools of thoughts about who should be an All-Star. Some people think the biggest stars should always make it. Others think it’s a reward for a good first half of the season. I really don’t care either way, but if you’re a “biggest stars” person, April is fine for voting. Famous stars are no less famous because they’ve had a bad couple of months.
  • Despite the fact that the All-Star Game “counts” for home field advantage, the way it is played ensures that who starts is not super critical. Starters will be gone after a couple of innings. No matter the vote totals, the same general bunch of players will decided the game one way or the other, early or late. It’s the All-Star Game. It’s kind of a circus regardless.
  • Major League Baseball does not really care about the integrity of voting. They encourage you to vote a gabillion times, and it’s all very clearly aimed at getting people to visit lucratively-sponsored web pages in order to do it. Which, hey, good for them for making money, but that’s not how you run a tight voting operation.

That last bit is sort of key. I don’t want to overstate how important this is because, again, it’s just the All-Star Game, but there is laughably obvious fraud going on with the votes. Over the past few weeks I’ve gotten emails from MLB.com and Royals.com thanking me for my maximum five votes that day. Stuff like this:

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That was from a while back. Last I checked it thinks I’ve voted, like, 60 times or something. I haven’t voted once and, obviously, I haven’t listed the Royals as my favorite team. Someone is using my email address or ID or whatever. In my case it’s for Royals players. Maybe people from 29 other teams are hacking other people in their team’s favor too, but the point of this isn’t the specific votes. It’s that this isn’t exactly a high-integrity operation.

Because it’s just All-Star votes I sort of don’t care too much, but it’s at least smart to take the vote totals, especially the early ones, with a grain of salt, sit back and wait for the Home Run Derby and just remember that the All-Star Game is kind of a crazy non-serious event, no matter what people say about home field advantage. For now, here are the voting leaders:

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Cubs fan gets a tattoo that assumes a World Series win in the next four seasons

cubs logo
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This isn’t quite as risky as that (phony) story about the guy betting his life savings on the Cubs winning the World Series in 2016. But it’s still a gamble, both in objective, statistical terms and in terms of the Cubs and their overall karma and luck and stuff. But you gotta have hope, man. Hope is the best thing. Or at least that’s what an escaped ex-con once said.

This got tweeted out in March, but WGN and other media outlets are just picking it up now. I most appreciate the comma after the indeterminate 201_ year, which assumes they may win more than one.

Tattoo experts: what’s the easiest fix here assuming nothing happens for the Cubbies by 2020?

Mets owners get some breathing room on their Bernie Madoff settlement payments

New York Mets owner Fred Wilpon stands on the field before baseball's Game 3 of the National League Division Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers, Monday, Oct. 12, 2015, in New York. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
Associated Press
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For years the central fact of life of the New York Mets has been that their owners, the Wilpon family and Saul Katz, lost a ton of money after investing it with friend and business partner Bernard Madoff, perpetrator of the biggest Ponzi scheme in history. It has hampered their payroll and led to huge amounts of borrowing and restructuring that, before last year’s pennant run, seemed like it’d be a millstone on the Mets competitive prospects for years to come.

In addition to losing money, it was later determined that Katz and the Wilpons unfairly gained in some other respects and thus they ended up having their phony earnings clawed back via a settlement with the trustee managing the fallout of the Madoff scandal.  The upshot: the Wilpons and Katz, in addition to their losses, were ordered to pay nearly $60 million dollars back, half payable this week, half payable next year. That’s a lot of money for anyone to fork over and this week’s payment loomed large.

Now, however, Adam Rubin of ESPN New York reports that the Wilpons and Katz will get some breathing room. Specifically, they have modified their agreement with the trustee and some of the owed money has been deferred. Instead of some $29 million payable this week, they will only have to pay $16 million. The remainder will be paid in four installments — from 2017 through 2020 — with an interest rate of 3.5 percent on the unpaid balance, Rubin says.

Now, there obviously was no promise that the $13 million saved this week be invested in the baseball team, but it’s probably a good thing overall for the Mets if their owners’ debt payments are reduced a bit.

Mike Napoli hit a homer for a fan with cancer

CLEVELAND, OH -  MAY 30: Mike Napoli #26 of the Cleveland Indians rounds the bases after hitting a solo home run during the sixth inning against the Texas Rangers at Progressive Field on May 30, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
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Last night a fan named Kathi Heintzelman showed up at Progressive Field in Cleveland with a sign asking Indians first baseman Mike Napoli to hit a home run for her and to give her a hug. But there was a reason beyond her love for Mike Napoli. She’s starting chemotherapy today and the hug and homer would be a nice thing.  Hard to disagree with that, even if everyone knows that ballplayers can’t hit homers on demand.

Well, most players can’t. Mike Napoli did the easy part before the game, giving her a hug. Then in the sixth inning, he went yard:

 

Whether you believe that such things can be fated or if you merely acknowledge that Heintzelman asked Napoli for a homer at a good time — he’s on a hot streak right now and has hit bombs in four of his last 11 games — it’s a great story.