MLB Opening Day (the real one, not the Australian one) is one of the most enjoyable sports days America has to offer. It just does not feel like spring until that first pitch is thrown and fans who just so happened to be wise enough to take a day off work fill the seats of every individually beautiful stadium across the country. More so than any other sport, specifically football and basketball where teams and fans alike can mostly grasp when their team’s season is doomed from the start, opening day in MLB represents a huge sense of optimism for even the cellar dwellers. It truly is a fantastic day to be a sports fan. There were some good and some bad on day one, but during the grind of such a long season, opening day is a win for everybody.
Up: Grady Sizemore
The new center-fielder for the Boston Red Sox went 2-for-4 with a home run in his first game since 2011 after going through seven surgeries, including microfracture procedures on both knees. Sizemore is attempting to make a huge comeback and reestablish himself as a superstar while also helping to make Sox fans forget about Jacoby Ellsbury. Sizemore heading back to the dugout after his long-ball grinning from ear to ear before receiving a hearty congratulations from his entire team was arguably the best sight of opening day.
Down: Billy Hamilton
The stolen base wizard solidified his job as the starting center-fielder for the Cincinnati Reds and leadoff hitter and now has gigantic expectations to live up to. He took MLB by storm last year following a late call-up, but is believed to be on a bit of a short leash now. He did not help himself at all by chalking up a Golden Sombrero on day one, going 0-4 with four strikeouts. Tomorrow is another day.
Up: Jimmy Rollins
Rollins caused a bit of a stir during spring training after receiving limited playing time and speaking out about it, but erased any negativity on opening day. Rollins tied Cal Ripken Jr.’s all-time record by starting at shortstop for one team for 14 consecutive opening days, and he commemorated it by belting a grand slam, also his 200th career homer in a 14-10 Phillies victory over the Texas Rangers.
Down: Jose Reyes
The Toronto Blue Jays made headlines across MLB last offseason by making a number of huge acquisitions, none of whom exactly paid off. Expectations are once again high in baseball’s toughest division, but things just got a little tougher after Reyes pulled a hamstring in his first at-bat of the season. He landed on the disabled list shortly thereafter.
Up: Seattle Mariners
It is hard to believe Seattle was second in the majors last season in home runs since the offense overall struggled so much. The team has not reached the playoffs since 2001 and now features a much more formidable lineup highlighted by Robinson Cano and his new $240 million contract as well as a handful of younger players who Seattle desperately needs to start reaching expectations. The offense exploded against the Angels on Monday, overcoming a 3-1 deficit to score nine runs over the last four innings, highlighted by a huge 3-run bomb by Justin Smoak and a 3-run triple by Dustin Ackley in the ninth inning to put the game out of reach.
Down: New York Mets’ Bullpen
The Mets had a nice game going against the vaunted Washington Nationals before imploding in all-too-familiar fashion. The Nats scored two in the seventh inning to tie the game up, then closer Bobby Parnell blew another one-run lead in the ninth inning. Nats’ second baseman Anthony Rendon put the game to bed with a three-run shot in the tenth inning. The Mets also have higher expectations this year, but are going to need substantial improvement from the bullpen to do so.
Commentary by Justin Hussong
Guardian Liberty Voice Sports Writer for the Los Angeles Dodgers