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Opening Day 2018: Today’s Matchups


As I’ve written a hundred times, that there are over 2,000 baseball games every year means that no single one is terribly important. If our coverage here at HardballTalk has been informed by anything over the past nine years, it’s been informed by that fact. We don’t freak out about single game results and we try not to let hype outpace basic reality.

But dang it, Opening Day is exciting. If I had the ability to put some jacked up graphics of robots smashing into each other and could afford to get Jason Isbell to dress up like Hank Jr. and do some parody song called “ARE YOU READY FOR SOME BASEBALL??!!!” I’d do it in a heartbeat. This is our Christmas, friends, and at 7AM, I’m already deep into the baseball eggnog.

As such, allow me to be super excited about today’s matchups and to treat these games like they matter.

The Games (all times EDT; national TV where noted):

Chicago Cubs vs. Miami Marlins, 12:30 PM, Marlins Park (ESPN)
Starters: Jon Lester vs Jose Urena
Analysis: The Marlins are currently a .500 team and, if they win this game, will have sole possession of first place in the NL East. This is likely the last time I’ll be able to say that all year.

Pittsburgh Pirates vs. Detroit Tigers, 1:10 PM, Comerica Park
The game has been postponed

St. Louis Cardinals at New York Mets, 1:10 PM, Citi Field
Starters: Carlos Martinez vs Noah Syndergaard
Analysis: Wild Card preview? Eh, maybe not — someone on the Mets will come down with boneinitis or skin failure or something — but if the starting pitching is healthy, they could be fun. Syndergaard is fun as it is.

Minnesota Twins vs. Baltimore Orioles, 3:05 PM, Oriole Park at Camden Yards
Starters: Jake Odorizzi vs Dylan Bundy
Analysis: Given the names of my kids’ middle school friends, in about 10-15 years, 75% of all baseball games will be started by guys named “Jake” and “Dylan.”

Houston Astros vs. Texas Rangers, 3:30 PM, Globe Life Park (ESPN)
Starters: Justin Verlander vs Cole Hamels
Analysis: I sort of went out on a limb and picked Verlander to be my Cy Young Award winner this year. I could totally see him pitching far worse, objectively speaking, than he did after coming over in the trade last year but still winning, like, 24 games because of all of the run support he’ll get. Sort of a late career Roger Clemens special, ya know?

New York Yankees vs. Toronto Blue Jays, 3:37 PM, Rogers Centre
Starters: Luis Severino vs J.A. Happ
Analysis: If I worked for a New York paper, and if Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge did anything less than go 3-for-4 with two homers and five driven in today, tomorrow’s column would read “what’s wrong with Judge and Stanton?” I’d do it totally straight, with no hint of sarcasm.

Boston Red Sox vs. Tampa Bay Rays, 4:00 PM, Tropicana Field
Starters: Chris Sale vs Chris Archer
Analysis: Nothing like the smell of the fresh grass, the warm spring breezes and the blue, blue skies of Opening Day. Truly, it is a day of renewal.

Los Angeles Angels vs. Oakland Athletics, 4:05 PM, Oakland Coliseum
Starters: Garrett Richards vs Kendall Graveman
Analysis: In 10-15 years the other 25% of games will be started by dudes named Garrett and Kendall.

Philadelphia Phillies vs. Atlanta Braves, 4:10 PM, Sun Trust Park
Starters: Aaron Nola vs Julio Teheran
Analysis: The Phillies will likely start their rookie sensation, Scott Kingery. The Braves’ rookie sensation, Ronald Acuna, will be working out on a minor league field someplace. There are a lot of reasons for that, but it’ll be more fun to be a Phillies fan than a Braves fan this year, I suspect.

Milwaukee Brewers vs. San Diego Padres, 4:10 PM, Petco Park
Starters: Chase Anderson vs Clayton Richard
Analysis: I’ve been to a lot of games at Petco Park, some day games, some night games. The place is a totally different and far more fun for day games, both because of the atmosphere and because the ball flies way better. I know television and economics won’t allow it anymore, but if I were made Supreme Ruler of Baseball, I’d mandate that the Padres — and heck, maybe all California teams — play all of their home games during the day.

Chicago White Sox vs. Kansas City Royals, 4:15 PM, Kauffman Stadium
Starters: James Shields vs Danny Duffy
Analysis: I wish starting pitchers shook hands on the field before each game because if it happened here it’d be sorta like a time traveler, former Royals ace James Shields, coming to the present to warn current Royals ace Danny Duffy about all of the crap that’s gonna happen to him in the next five years.

San Francisco Giants vs. Los Angeles Dodgers, 7:00 PM, Dodger Stadium (ESPN)
Starters: Ty Blach vs Clayton Kershaw
Analysis: This is gonna be a bit less exciting than it might’ve been if Madison Bumgarner hadn’t broken his hand. Still, it’s hard to beat Giants-Dodgers on Opening Day.

Cleveland Indians vs. Seattle Mariners, 10:00 PM, Safeco Field (ESPN)
Starters: Corey Kluber vs Felix Hernandez
Analysis: Indians fans are the only ones in all of baseball who have to deal with a fan-unfriendly, super late Opening Day game. On a weeknight no less. Be kind to them at work tomorrow morning.

Colorado Rockies vs. Arizona Diamondbacks, 10:10 PM, Chase Field
Starters: Jon Gray vs. Patrick Corbin
Analysis: Wild Card rematch from 2017. There’s a humidor in Phoenix now. I wonder if the balls will fail to fly as far.

Derek Jeter calls Bryant Gumbel “mentally weak”

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Derek Jeter has not covered himself in glory since taking over the Miami Marlins. His reign atop the team’s baseball operations department has been characterized by the slashing of payroll in order to help his new ownership group make more money amid some pretty crushing debt service by virtue of what was, in effect, the leveraged buyout of the club. A club which is now 5-16 and seems destined for five months more and change of some pretty miserable baseball.

Jeter has nonetheless cast the moves the Marlins have made as good for fans in the long run. And, yes, I suppose it’s likely that things will be better in the long run, if for no other reason than they cannot be much worse. Still, such reasoning, while often accepted when a lesser light like, say, White Sox GM Rick Hahn employs it, isn’t accepted as easily when a guy who has been defined by his hand full of championship rings offers it. How can Derek Jeter, of all people, accept losing?

That’s the question HBO’s Bryant Gumbel asked of Jeter in an interview that aired over the weekend (see the video at the end of the post). How can he accept — and why should fans accept — a subpar baseball product which is not intended to win? Jeter’s response? To claim that the 2018 Marlins are totally expected to win and that Gumbel himself is “mentally weak” for not understanding it:

JETER: “We’re trying to win ball games every day.”

GUMBEL: “If you trade your best players in exchange for prospects it’s unlikely you’re going to win more games in the immediate future–”

JETER: “When you take the field, you have an opportunity to win each and every day. Each and every day. You never tell your team that they’re expected to lose. Never.”

GUMBEL: “Not in so–”

JETER: “Now, you can think — now– now, I can’t tell you how you think. Like, I see your mind. I see that’s how you think. I don’t think like that. That’s your mind working like that.”

. . .

DEREK JETER: “You don’t. We have two different mi– I can’t wait to get you on the golf course, man. We got– I mean, I can’t wait for this one.”

BRYANT GUMBEL: “No, I mean–”

DEREK JETER: “You’re mentally weak.”

I sort of get what Jeter was trying to do here. He was trying to take this out the realm of second guessing among people who know some stuff about sports and subtly make it an appeal to authority, implying that he was an athlete and that only he, unlike Gumbel, can understand that mindset and competitiveness of the athlete. That’s what the “get you on the golf course” jazz was about. Probably worth noting at this point that that tack has never worked for Michael Jordan as a basketball executive, even if his singular competitiveness made him the legend he was on the court. An executive makes decisions which can and should be second-guessed, and it seems Jeter cannot handle that.

That being said, Gumbel did sort of open the door for Jeter to do that. Suggesting that baseball players on the 2018 Marlins don’t expect to win is not the best angle for him here because, I am certain, if you ask those players, they would say much the same thing Jeter said. That’s what makes them athletes.

No, what Gumbel should have asked Jeter was “of COURSE you tell your players to win and of COURSE they try their hardest and think they can win every night. My question to you is this: did YOU try YOUR hardest to get the BEST players? And if not, why not?”

Question him like you’d question Rick Hahn. Not like you’d question Future Hall of Fame Shortstop, Derek Jeter.