Here we go… Easter lunch is out of the way, so now the real holiday can begin – no disrespect to Jesus of course. Two of Major League Baseball’s top franchises will take the diamond tonight and kick of the 2010 season. Normally I’d be as interested in a Yankees-Red Sox affair as I would in a Spurs-Jazz snoozefest, but tonight, I’m so starved for baseball I can’t wait to see these guys in action. Aside from the whole Opening Night thing, there’s plenty of other storylines to keep me glued to the tube. Sure, it’s a rivalry game featuring the defending champions blah blah blah, but here is what has got me excited…
CC Sabathia vs. Josh Beckett – Forget great Opening Day matchups, this is about as good a matchup as you’ll see on any given day in baseball. Sabathia is a Bay Area product, so he’s got plenty of supporters at Doin Work. He’s also one of the preseason favorites for the AL Cy Young Award. While Beckett isn’t as high on the Cy Young list, he’s still one of the best pitchers in the game. He may not have the hardware that most pitchers covet, but I’m sure he wouldn’t trade his two World Series rings or his World Series MVP for anything. One might anticipate a pitcher’s duel tonight, but there’s so much firepower on the offensive side for both teams that there are sure to be some runs put on the board as well.
New Additions – Each team picked up one guy I’m looking forward to seeing make their debut tonight. The Yankees replaced Johnny Damon in center field with former Tiger, Curtis Granderson. Granderson is quietly emerging as an elite player in this league, and the Yankees coveting him only further cements that. If he can get his average back up closer to .300 this year, he’ll surely build on his first all-star berth last year with many more to come, since there’ll be no shortage of exposure playing the Big Apple. The Red Sox, on the other hand, tested my hatred of them by signing the legendary Marco Scutaro. Even if Scutaro spurned the A’s to sign with Boston, he can do absolutely nothing to ever stop me from being a fan.
John Lackey in a Boston Uniform – You know how there are certain things that make you cringe or gag at the sight of it? I’m willing to bet that John Lackey donning a Red Sox jersey is going to be one of those. As much as I dislike the Red Sox, there’s not really any players on the team that I hate, aside from Papelbon of course. I think Lackey is going to be that guy, and I look forward to it. I’m actually going to keep a trash can by the couch to start the game in case the first camera shot of Lackey makes me throw up. It could happen.
First Fantasy AB of the Year – I try to keep my fantasy nerdom to a minimum here on the blog, but I can’t lie…. When Granderson steps into the box to face Beckett in the first pitch of the season, my squad, Five Tool Academy, is going to have a monopoly on fantasy stats for the duration of the at-bat. Beckett returns to my team by way of the draft (7th rd) after helping HolyShirtsandPants secure third place in last year’s league. Granderson is a new addition after being selected in the 5th round as part of my five tool plan, complementing other power/speed combo players Matt Kemp, BJ Upton, and Adam Jones. The fantasy season won’t be won with one at bat, but it starts here.
A couple weeks back I introduced the first installment of a new feature here on Doin Work. Being a Northern California sports fan, I’ve seen more than my share of lousy games. Between the A’s, Raiders, Kings, and Warriors, I’ve endured my share of losing seasons. But there are a few games that stand out in my memory. Today, I’m bringing out the big gun. Quite possibly the greatest game I’ve ever witnessed, given the importance of it. I can probably count the number of professional sports playoff games I’ve been to on one hand. Most of them are A’s games. Although they’ve made it to the postseason more than most teams, it often has ended in disappointment. But not on this day in 2006…..
MCeezy and DJ Inevitable doing what they do best in the Oakland Coliseum parking lot.
It was an overcast Thursday morning. I remember it clearly. We purchased tickets long in advance for this game, but no one in their right mind could’ve predicted the Athletics would come back from Minneapolis with a 2-0 lead on the Twins in the ALDS. After the two improbable victories, the team returned to Oakland with a chance to clinch. Now, any baseball fan knows that a potential series clinching game is no walk in the park for the A’s. They earned a reputation of not being able to close out series. Still, nothing could contain my excitement, for my A’s fandom may have been at an all-time high that season. After attending more than 25 home games that year, I felt like a part of the team. I still remember when I requested the day off from work. My boss said he’d get back to me, and I actually told him straight up, “Honestly, if you don’t give me the day off, I’m gonna quit. It’s that serious.” Ultimately he obliged, but out of good will I went and put in an hour or two of work just to knock a few things out. Around 8am, my friend Andy met up with me and we ventured across the Bay Bridge to Oakland for the big game.
The Boston Red Sox and SS Marco Scutaro agreed to a two year deal this morning, making Scutaro the team’s new shortstop – a position that’s been somewhat of a hole for the club in recent years. It’s unfortunate to see one of my favorite players go to my least favorite team, but I’m happy for him to get the opportunity to be an everyday player on a contending team.
In honor of Scutaro’s deal, we’re going to revisit his greatest career moment, and probably the greatest moment I ever witnessed, in person, in my career as a professional sports fan. Back in 2006, the Oakland A’s won the American League West division title, and earned a first round matchup with the Twins. The Twins had home field advantage, and many predicted the A’s would leave Minneapolis down 0-2 in the series. Scutaro had a key RBI in each of the first two games. Game 3 was out here in Oakland. After an RBI double in the 2nd inning, Scutaro came to the plate with the bases loaded and 2 out in the bottom of the 7th. With a capacity crowd chanting his name in unison, Scutaro fell behind 1-2, and then cleared the bases with a drive down the right field line, sending the Coliseum faithful into a frenzy – and me almost over the railing down into the first deck. That hit put the game out of reach, as the A’s now had an 8-2 lead, and ultimately sealed the Division Series sweep for the A’s.
With the trade deadline approaching, it looks as though teams need to make some moves to ensure that a playoff run is going to happen. There are powerhouses (Dodgers, Phillies, Yankees, and Red Sox), that may not need to make a move to make the playoffs, but there’s a good chance they may need to make a move to win a championship. I’ve been waiting to see what prospects the A’s can pull out of it, and they do have a few bargaining chips so this may be the last time I’m excited about news from them for awhile. Aside from the Halladay sweepstakes, many say there aren’t many difference makers in the market this year. I agree to some extent that Halladay could make an impact like CC Sabathia did last year taking Milwakee to the playoffs. Then again there are the subtle differences like Boston adding Orlando Cabrera and upgrading their defense to help them push their way to breaking the curse. I will run through some other players not named Halladay, that could be a big difference maker when it’s all said and done.
Matt Holliday. I guess I have to start with a player from my team. I’m just hoping we get something to the tune of a few major league ready minor league players, instead of two compensation draft picks when he leaves this off-season. San Francisco, Atlanta, Chicago, and even Boston could use some power at the moment, and are all within three games of the wild card spot at the moment. Holliday hasn’t lit the world on fire since coming to Oakland, but is showing teams he’s still a good player as it gets closer to the deadline with 3 HR’s, 13 Runs, 14 RBI, and a .311 BA over the last month.
Justin Duchscherer. Another A’s player, and Buster Only was all over him as a poor man’s Halladay. I’m not sure I’m sold on him returning to his dominant form of last season, but the numbers don’t lie, as he’s set to make his re-hab stint and hopefully a return to the majors soon. Pitching as a reliever or a starter his ERA has never been higher than 3.27, which makes me a believer that teams would pick up his modest salary in hopes he returns to form by playoff time. It also opens the door for him to return to the bullpen when he makes it back up, which would make the likes of Wuertz and Ziegler available. I would rather have either of them that the Orioles George Sherill.
Victor Martinez. He’s having a solid comeback season with 14 HR’s, 59 RBI’s and a .286 BA. Vic is a player that would be a good fit for Red Sox or the Mets with Delgado and Lowell constantly battling injuries. He would also be a solid fit behind the plate in Boston with the deteriorating Varitek.
Cliff Lee. I think the chances of Lee making as much of an impact as Halladay are fairly likely. It’s been reported that since the Sox placed Wakefield on the DL they sent their top scout to Toronto to watch Lee dominate the Jays in his second consecutive complete game. It seems like Cleveland should have plenty of phone calls for last years Cy Young award winner and Martinez.
Marco Scutaro. He’s an interesting player on the block. I think he is the ultimate team player, kind of like Mark DeRosa was to the Cubs last season. He can play multiple positions, and can come through with clutch hits (Many fond memories of him in an A’s uniform). He’s a glue guy that every contender needs, and if a team deals for him they won’t be disappointed with what he brings to the table.
Freddy Sanchez. The Pirates failed to reach agreements with Sanchez and Jack Wilson, so it looks like once again they will be trying to trade their soon to be free agents for some more prospects. Sanchez is the most interesting of the two as he plays phenomenal defense, and gets on base with regularity hitting .311 on the season. He’d be a good fit with the Giants or the Cubs.
Only time will tell, and after July 31st we will see which teams make their upgrades, and which teams think they already have what they need. Even though I doubted there would be any fireworks this year. I think there are some good names on the market besides Halladay!