So I’m sitting on the recliner last week, placating boredom by taking in a college basketball game between a pair of teams my memory has rendered nondescript. I’d daydreamed my way into a semi-awake state of goo when the MLB Opening Day 2014 commercial snapped me back to reality. You know the one: “A 20-year-old kid knocked one out his first two times to bat, a player tied the all-time home run record, and a brave first baseman stepped onto Ebbets Field and broke baseball’s color barrier. All these things happened on Opening Day...” At that point, my heart was fluttering like the moment right before the moment you know you’re in love. When the narrator said: “Where will you be?”, I actually whispered back: “With you.”
Where else is there to be? Although a petition to the White House to make Opening Day a holiday failed last week, a calendar isn’t needed to instruct one when to celebrate. Last year around this time, on April 2, I set my alarm for 4:00 AM on a Tuesday morning so I could catch my beloved Minnesota Twins open the season at Target Field against the Tigers. In so doing, I became the first—and last—person in China’s long history to rouse before dawn to watch Vance Worley perform. On that day, it was irrelevant to me that I would have to teach an English course at 8:30 AM. Some traditions can never be broken under any circumstances.
This year, I’m thrilled to report I’m back stateside for Opening Day. Replacing a choppy internet feed dispensing splices of troubling Vance Worley footage on my iPad will be dollar Old Styles in an Iowa City hole-in-the-wall. God bless America.
Editor's Note: Rotoworld's partner FanDuel is hosting a one-day $100,000 Fantasy Baseball league for Opening Day's games (March 31). It's $25 to join and first prize is $15,000. Starts at 1:05pm ET on Opening Day. Here's the FanDuel link.
And with that, The Week That Was:
- Clayton Kershaw kicked off the MLB regular season last weekend by firing 6 2/3 frames of one-run ball in a 3-1 victory over the Diamondbacks. The Dodgers swept the two-game set Down Under, but all is not well heading into Opening Day, as Kershaw was placed on the disabled list for the first time in his seven-year career due to a swollen muscle in his back. Although the All-World southpaw has pooh-poohed the injury, Dodgers manager Don Mattingly, who made the call to shut him down, won’t ask Kershaw to toe the bump again until the pain has ceased. Kershaw is first eligible to return on April 7.
- The Tigers signed Miguel Cabrera to the largest extension in baseball history, an eight-year, $248 million pact that infuriated the industry and elicited jealousy from LeBron James. By the time Detroit’s 10-year commitment that could be worth as much as $352 million expires, the city itself will be a sci-fi wasteland and I’ll be able to think these columns into existence.
- The Angels signed Mike Trout for K-Mart money, by comparison, doling out a $144.5 million, six-year contract on Friday. By the time that deal ends, Trout, entering his age-29 season, will be able to ask for the city of Atlantis in contract talks and I’ll own pet drones decorated as dragons so I can feel like Khaleesi.
- Yu Darvish won’t pitch in Week 1 of the fantasy schedule, but hopefully he’ll be back for Week 2. The Rangers’ ace, who will begin the season on the disabled list with a stiff neck, is scheduled to throw on Sunday. More should be known about his status at that time. He’s eligible for activation on April 5. Because of his absence, Tanner Scheppers on Monday will become the first pitcher since Fernando Valenzuela in 1981 to make his first start on Opening Day.
- Opening Day won’t be as fun for Daisuke Matsuzaka as it will be for you, as the Mets surprisingly shipped him to Triple-A and announced NL-only target Jenrry Mejia as the No. 5 starter.
- Jonathan Schoop, Ryan Flaherty and Steve Lombardozzi all made Baltimore’s Opening Day roster to mix and match between second and third base until Manny Machado’s knee mends. All three are ownable in a 12-team AL-only league, but Schoop is the target if you can only have one. Though he carries the most risk in that Baltimore will probably prefer to option him to the minors for full-time at-bats when Machado returns, a quick start could change all that. And not for nothing, the youngster is coming off a head-turning spring.
- Carlos Villanueva beat out Chris Rusin for a spot in the Cubs’ Opening Day rotation. Villanueva is worth an NL-only look until Jake Arrieta (shoulder) returns.
- The Red Sox and Jon Lester have shelved contract extension talks for now.
- Jhoulys Chacin (14-10 with a 3.47 ERA in 2013) will begin the season on the disabled list with a shoulder strain.
- Top-notch fantasy hurlers Mat Latos, Mike Minor, Doug Fister and Hisashi Iwakuma will also begin the season on the shelf.
- Fister’s right lat strain opened the space necessary for both Tanner Roark and Taylor Jordan to make Washington’s rotation. The right-handers are both intriguing early-season NL-only options.
- Arizona setup man David Hernandez’s season is already over due to a torn ulnar collateral ligament. He’ll meet with Dr. James Andrews for a second opinion Monday, but it appears a date with Tommy John is forthcoming.
- Chris Owings edged Didi Gregorius for both the starting shortstop gig and designation as Arizona’s SS-of-the-future. Gregorius has been banished to Triple-A until Diamondbacks’ general manager Kevin Towers can find a trade partner or injuries strike the middle infield, whichever comes first. The shortstop-deprived Mets are a possible destination, and the Pirates have reportedly already inquired. Meanwhile, Rotoworld fantasy baseball doyen Matthew Pouliot ranks Owings No. 20 amongst shortstops and predicts .262 with 11 homers and 11 steals over 484 at-bats.
- Sleeper pick favorite and perennial fantasy disappointment Josh Johnson will miss at least a month with a flexor strain in his forearm. It says here that he can be guilt-free released in standard mixed leagues. Starting pitching is too deep this year to light a roster spot on fire waiting on this tease.
Happy Opening Day, y’all.