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Opening Day 2019: New, fun, random things in store this season

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Opening Day is Thursday, so today we’re previewing. In addition to the stuff, like this, we’ll be posting this morning, be sure to join us for a 2019 season preview on the MyTeams App at 2PM Eastern Time.

We’ve posted our National League Preview and American League Preview. And, though they’ll almost certainly be wrong, here are our predictions for 2019. Now let’s look at some of the new, random and fun things in store for the 2019 season.

The New Faces

If you only follow your team closely and if your team is returning Casey O’RetiredCatcher as manager for the 19th straight season, you may not be aware of the new faces in dugouts across the league. There are six new skippers in the bigs this year: David Bell with the Reds, Chris Woodward with the Rangers, Charlie Montoyo with the Blue Jays, Brad Ausmus with the Angels, Rocco Baldelli with the Twins and Brandon Hyde with the Orioles.

There are also several new general managers/president of baseball operations guys, though you’ve had a better chance to get to know them during the hot stove season:Brodie Van Wagenen with the Mets, Farhan Zaidi with the Giants, and Mike Elias with the Orioles.


The New Looks

Only two teams have made wholesale changes to their standard uniform. The Indians, you know well by now, have removed Chief Wahoo from their caps and sleeves, with a Block-C appearing on all caps now. Otherwise they look more or less the same. The Marlins have undergone a complete renovation:

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There will, obviously, be a lot of random alternates and things. And the Reds will be doing throwbacks all season long. Some of them are pretty wild.


The Stadiums

This will be the Texas Rangers’ final season at Globe Life Park in Arlington. Next year they will be moving to Globe Life Field, just next door. The “old” park opened way, way, way back in 1994, so I hope its decrepit and crumbling walls and antiquated electrical and plumbing systems don’t injure someone before the season is out.

Two parks are getting new names: the stadium of the Seattle Mariners — formerly Safeco Field — is now T-Mobile Park. The home field of the San Francisco Giants will get its fourth name since opening in 2000: Oracle Park.


The Schedule

Given that we — and Major League Baseball for that matter — tend to see the early regular season games which occur in Japan or Australia or other international locations as special cases, Thursday is truly Opening Day. Let the record reflect that March 28 is the earliest Opening Day in Major League Baseball history. It beats last year’s previous record by one day.

Those two games between the A’s and Mariners last week are not the only international games this year. There will be two series in Mexico: the St. Louis Cardinals and the Cincinnati Reds will play in Monterrey, Mexico on April 13 and 14. The Houston Astros and the Los Angeles Angels will play in Monterrey on May 4 and 5. There will also be the first ever regular season games played in the United Kingdom, with the Boston Red Sox “hosting” the New York Yankees at London Stadium on June 29 and 30.

There will likewise be a couple of domestic games played in non-traditional settings: the Kansas City Royals will face the Detroit Tigers at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, Nebraska on June 13, two days before the College World Series. On August 18 the MLB Little League Classic will be held at at BB&T Ballpark in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, coinciding with the Little League World Series. The Pittsburgh Pirates and the Chicago Cubs will meet in this, the third installment of the Classic.


The Milestones

No monumentally historic career records or milestones seem to be within striking distance for anyone in 2019, but here are some round and/or divisible-by-five numbers that will get a shoutout when they happen:

  • Robinson Cano is 30 hits away from 2500, With 44 hits Cano will move into the Top 100 all-time;
  • Ian Kinsler is 57 hits away from 2000;
  • Albert Pujols could really move up on the all-time hits list. He’s currently at 24th all-time, and will pass people in front of him with his 8th, 29th, 34th, 60th, 61st, 71st, 73rd, 85th, and 103rd hits of the season, moving him all the way up to 15th place.
  • Miguel Cabrera is 35 homers away from 500;
  • Edwin Encarnacion is 20 dingers away from 400. Nelson Cruz is 40 away.
  • Mark Reynolds (6), Jay Bruce (14), Justin Upton (14), Chris Davis (17), Matt Kemp (20), Evan Longoria (23) and Joey Votto (31) could all get to 300 homers;
  • Albert Pujols can pass Willie Mays for 5th on the all-time on the home run list if he hits 28.
  • Edwin Encarnacion, Ryan Braun, Justin Upton and Joey Votto are almost all assured of getting to 1,000 career runs scored this year. Matt Kemp needs 72 to get there. It’s unclear if he’ll play enough to do so;
  • Pujols is 18 RBI away from 2000 in his career. When he gets there he’ll move into 5th all-time;
  • Ryan Zimmerman (12), Jose Bautista (25), Brian McCann (27), Nick Markakis (31), and Evan Longoria (54) could all reach 1000 career RBI in 2019;
  • CC Sabathia is four wins away from 250 career wins;
  • Bartolo Colon is three wins away from 250 career wins, but he’s unemployed and it’s not clear if anyone will give him a chance to pitch again;
  • Zack Greinke is 13 wins away from 200;
  • CC Sabathia is 14 Ks away from 3,000 career strikeouts;
  • Justin Verlander is 294 away from 3,000. A longshot — last year was his career high with 290 — but he’ll get close;
  • Ervin Santana (79), David Price (147), and Chris Sale (211) are within reach of 2000 career strikeouts;
  • Kenley Jansen is 32 saves away from 300; and
  • Craig Kimbrel, currently 14th — can move into 8th all-time on the career saves list, passing people when if/when he gets to 9, 15, 26, 35, 36, and 45 saves this season. Of course he’ll need a job to do that and he’s currently unemployed.

May the odds be ever in your favor, fellas.


The Farewell Tours

We already bid Ichiro Suzuki adieu following his two-game appearance in the Japan Series last week. We already know that this year will be the final season for two other greats as well: Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia announced last November that he will retire at the end of the season. In February Giants manager Bruce Bochy announced he will retire at the end of the season as well.


The Retirement Parties

Two numbers will be retired this season. On June 8, Adrian Beltre will have his #29 retired by the Texas Rangers. On June 15 Joe Mauer will have his #7 retired by the Minnesota Twins.

And, of course, a whole lotta stuff we can in no way predict will happen will, in fact, happen in 2019. That much you can bet on.

Myles Garrett and Mason Rudolph: meet Juan Marichal and John Roseboro

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Last night the Pittsburgh Steelers lost to the Cleveland Browns. No one is gonna be talking nearly as much about the outcome today, however, as they are the carnage.

Specifically, the carnage that led to Browns defensive end Myles Garrett getting ejected from the game after ripping Steelers’ quarterback Mason Rudolph’s helmet off, swinging it at him and connecting with Rudolph’s skull as the game came to a close. Things were already chippy as all get-out, but that obviously led to a brawl which will lead to a ton of suspensions, including a possibly record-breaking one for Garrett. For all your analysis on that, check out PFT, obviously.

The incident will dominate the sports shows today because malicious attempts to injure another player with a piece of equipment are pretty rare in professional sports. There was at least one incident in baseball history, however, that was analogous to what went down in Cleveland last night.

It took place on August 22, 1965 at Candlestick Park in San Francisco during a Dodgers-Giants game. That’s when Giants ace Juan Marichal, playing the role of Garrett, took a baseball bat to the head of Dodgers catcher John Roseboro, standing in for Rudolph.

The Dodgers and Giants are rivals, of course, and in 1965 the two teams were in a pitched battle for the N.L. pennant, with the Dodgers leading San Francisco by a game and a half as the day began.

Pitchers in 1965 were a bit more aggressive about claiming the inside part of the plate than they are today, and on that day, everyone seemed cranky. Marichal knocked Dodgers shortstop Maury Wills down with some chin music in the top of the second for, it appears, committing the terrible transgression of bunting for a single in his first at bat of the game. In response Koufax fired a fastball over Willie Mays’ head, sending the ball to the backstop. So everyone was even, yeah?

Nah. Marichal responded in the top of third with an inside fastball that sent Dodgers first baseman Ron Fairly sprawling to the dirt. At that point home plate umpire Shag Crawford issued a warning, indicating that that the next close pitch from either team would result in an ejection. Walter Alston’s Dodgers, though, were a clever bunch. Sure, maybe a close pitch was going to get an ace ejected in a pennant race, but there are other ways to buzz someone’s tower, right?

Pitchers batted in every game back then, of course, and Marichal came to bat in the bottom of the third. Koufax didn’t throw at him, though. Instead, Roseboro, catching for L.A., threw the ball back to Koufax in such a way as to have it sail close to Marichal’s head as he stood in the batter’s box. He later admitted in his autobiography that it was no accident, he was trying to intimidate Marichal.

Marichal flipped out, clubbing Roseboro with his bat, after which all hell broke loose (all photos, and the original caption from 1965, are from Getty Images):

 

Juan Marichal holding bat, John Roseboro attacked, and Sandy Koufax closes in.

 

Roseboro throws a punch at Marichal while latter swings bat and Koufax comes in to try and break it up.

 

On deck batter Giant Tito Fuentes pulls Roseboro away while Marichal wields bat at Koufax while umpire Shag Crawford and Giant coach Charlie Fox try to break it up.

 

Umpire Shag Crawford wrestles with Marichal while Dodgers Jim Gilliam (19) and Koufax come in. Rear is Giants coach Charlie Fox. Marichal falls to the ground on top of Shag Crawford while Giants Orlando Cepeda joins the melee.

 

Umpire Shag Crawford is shown here wrestling with Marichal as Dodgers Jim Gilliam (#19) and Sandy Koufax join in. In the rear is Giants’ coach Charlie Fox.

 

Identifiable L-R: Dodger Jim Gilliam (19); John Roseboro (with chest protector); Giants Orlando Cepeda (30); Cap Peterson (17); Warren Spahn; and Mgr. Herman Franks (3).

Willie Mays was credited with keeping the brawl from getting worse. Roseboro had military and martial arts training and, as you can see in the second photo, he was not slowed by his head injury — an injury that would require 14 stitches — from trying to take Marichal apart. Mays was the one who ultimately pulled Roseboro away and out of the fracas. He even held a towel to Roseboro’s head which by then had begun to bleed profusely. The fight eventually ended, with several players sustaining injuries due to kicks and accidental spikings of hands and legs and stuff.

The incident delayed the game for 14 minutes but the fallout beyond that was pretty tame compared to today’s standards. Marichal got an eight day suspension which, because of scheduled doubleheaders, caused him to miss ten games. He was also fined $1,750, which is around $15,000 today. Roseboro only missed two games due to his injury. The Dodgers would lose this game thanks to a big homer from Mays off of Koufax, but the Dodgers would go on to win the pennant and defeat the Minnesota Twins in the World Series.

There was additional fallout: Roseboro sued Marichal for $110,000 in damages. They’d eventually settle, with Roseboro receiving $7,500 from Marichal.

But there was no lingering bad blood. In interviews after the incident both players admitted that there was much more on their minds in 1965 that might’ve contributed to their aggression on that day. There was the rivalry, of course, and the pennant race. But Marichal had been much more personally distracted by a civil war in his native Dominican Republic that raged in 1965 and would not end until September. Roseboro had been, understandably, affected by the Watts Riots in Los Angeles which had taken place just over a week before this game. When you feel helpless about situation A, you often channel your feelings into situation B and both men said that something like that was probably simmering.

Marichal would play for the Dodgers for two games in 1975, the final year of his career. Roseboro had already retired, but Marichal’s cup of coffee with L.A. allowed them to meet up at a Dodgers old-timers game in 1982. There they posed for this photo: 

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“There were no hard feelings on my part,” Roseboro told the L.A. Times in 1990. Roseboro died in 2002. Marichal was an honorary pallbearer at his funeral.

Let’s check in with Garrett and Ruldolph in 37 years to see how they’re doing.