Monday, April 04, 2005

Opening Night

Has it been 158 days since the Red Sox won the World Series already? Jeez, time flies when you don't have to spend all offseason playing the "what-if" game. What's funny is that the first game of the 2005 season felt a whole lot like the last game of the ALCS (except for the part where the Red Sox lose). At least in that it was a nationally televised contest played in fall-like conditions. Other than that, I guess it was really nothing like the ALCS, but I digress.

Anyway, despite not having a great outing, count me in as a David Wells fan. I like him because he throws strikes, because he dresses like Snake from the Simpsons (sans the hair), and because he's chubby. He's a welcome change from the camera-happy antics of Curt Schilling. Speaking of antics, how great was it that Kevin Millar -- the resident Boston redneck -- hit what should've been a home run off the Yankees new resident redneck (and apparent savior), Randy Johnson. I haven't even gotten over Hideki Matsui wearing out the Sox during the first half of the ALCS and this guy has already stolen a home run. Dude, relax, you've got 161 more games to go. I said it last fall, but I'll repeat it here: Matsui needs to go through one of those airport magnetometer's because I'm convinced he's a robot. Like the six-million dollar man, but not as fat (and when accounting for inflation, worth a little more).

... Did anyone think that Manny was playing centerfield on that single by A-Rod during the middle innings? You know the one, where Damon tried to tackle the short-hop only to have it bounce away and lead to Jeter scoring. That was awesome. The Red Sox are now two-thirds of the way to having an All-Barnum & Bailey outfield. Maybe they should call up the bearded woman from Pawtucket and go ahead and get that record out of the way.

... I miss having Orlando Cabrera out there. I know that Renteria is better, but he's a lot like Matsui in that he when he was getting put together back at the lab, they forgot to install the software responsible for facial expressions. You get the impression that if Matsui and Renteria were in a car that had just gone off the Grand Canyon, they'd have the exact same expressions you see them sport during the course of a game. Anyway, back to Cabrera -- I tend to agree with Bill Simmons:
Instead of spending $30 million over four years to bring back Orlando Cabrera (the winning shortstop in the 2004 World Series), they spent an extra $10 million for Edgar Renteria (the losing shortstop in the 2004 World Series). Everyone agrees that Renteria is slightly better on paper than the OC – higher OPS, a little more speed, not as much of a free swinger -- although I can't remember watching the 2004 World Series and thinking, "Man, if only we had Renteria instead of Cabrera." Throwing in Cabrera's defense, clutch hitting and happy demeanor (remember, he won the High Comedy MVP Award in the post-season DVDs), this was somewhat confusing -- like "Curb Your Enthusiasm" replacing Jeff Garlin after the first season with John Goodman because he's a slightly bigger name. Why even bother?
... I'm so glad A-Rod plays for the Yankees. He's impossible to root for. In fact, he makes Derek Jeter seem almost tolerable. Almost. In fact, the best thing Jason Giambi has going for him now that he's off the juice, is that he plays on the same team as A-Rod. That should help deflect a lot the criticism that should be aimed squarely at him. It's funny, because Giambi's now like Clark Kent in the first "Superman." Remember when he gave up his powers to be with Lois Lane and then promptly got the crapped kicked out of him at a diner that made the Boar's Nest seem like the Peach Pit. Anyway, now that Giambi is back to mortal status, we're just all waiting for the other shoe to drop. Namely, watching him suffer through a 1 for 85 slump that includes a Bellhornian 70 strikeouts and 15 double plays. Of course he could always make himself look better by hanging out with Jeremy Giambi, the only player to take steroids and still be awful. Can you imagine how bad Jeremy must've been before he started letting Canseco give him his fix in the Shoney's bathroom near the Oakland Coliseum?

... Did anyone else think it was weird to see The Donald, Regis and Bill O'Reilly to be sitting together? Regis was sandwiched in the middle, and I could only imagine that he was wondering what the hell he did to deserve this.

... The only thing funnier than this was the image of Steinbrenner sitting in his box about five feet above Yankees GM Brian Cashman. Cashman had the look of a guy who was trying to figure out exactly where he went wrong. You know, like one of those dopey villians who get outsmarted every episode by the Scooby-Doo crowd. Except in Cashman's case he doesn't have the luxury of going to jail. He has to sit there and take it from the boss.

Things got better when ESPN's new Lisa Guerrero, Sam Ryan, put Cashman on the spot about the whole steroids issue. He danced around a couple of questions about as well as Bud Selig at a Congressional Hearing. Which leads me to the new winner of the "Dumbest Person in the World" award. Yep, that's right, it's Alex Sanchez. He's the first guy to get caught using a "controlled substance" under MLB's new drug policy. Here's my question: didn't he know it was coming? I mean, was this test a surprise? First-time offenders only get a 10-day suspension, but given that Sanchez knew the test was coming and he still got caught, I think he should be banned from baseball for life. And don't get me wrong, I don't think he should be banned for breaking the law, I think he should be banned for being dumb enough to get caught after being warned that MLB would be testing for "controlled substances."

I keep using the phrase, "controlled substance" because MLB didn't specify that Sanchez was actually using steroids -- something Joe Morgan mentioned during the broadcast. Apparently part of the new MLB drug policy was to name the player, and the substance for which they were being suspended, partly to serve as a deterrent to other potential users. Well, MLB must've been kidding because they only named Sanchez, but not his enhancement drug of choice.

OK, so Bud Selig didn't keep his promise (again). At least he stuck it to Orioles owner Peter Angelos when he didn't give him another big payout to cover the cost of the Washington Nationals stealing some of his fan base. What? Selig did give Angelos another big payday along with television rights to the Nationals games as compensation for lost market share? Oh. OK, just forget I said anything. At least Selig didn't have anything to do with the ESPN's newest worst feature (at least I don't think he had anything to do with it): Sunday Night Sounds of the Game. As a fan, I know there's nothing I'd rather be subjected to than listening to C-list celebrities tell me why their favorite team is the BEST! This is a great idea -- right up there with Cold Pizza and Skip Bayless.

In the meantime, there are 161 more games to go in the baseball season, and the good thing is that even though the Sox lost, I don't have quite the sense of urgency I would've, say, a year ago. I guess that's one of the benefits to winning a World Series a tad more frequently than the return of Halley's comet. And apparently UNC's going for their first NCAA title since 1993 -- you know, when guys like Derrick Phelps, Brian Reese, Pat Sullivan, Eric Montross and George Lynch were wearing Carolina Blue.