BREAK UP THE ASTROS…THEY SOUNDLY DEFEAT THE RANGERS

Astros beat Rangers, 8-2, to open baseball season

The Associated Press
Updated:   03/31/2013 11:35:21 PM EDT

 

Houston Astros’ Rick Ankiel (28) is welcomed back to the dugout after hitting a three-run homer against the Texas Rangers in the sixth inning of an opening day baseball game Sunday, March 31, 2013, in Houston. (AP Photo/Pat Sullivan)

Houston Astros’ Brett Wallace (29) singles as Texas Rangers’ A.J. Pierzynski (12) waits for the ball in the third inning of a baseball game Sunday, March 31, 2013, in Houston. (AP Photo/Pat Sullivan)

HOUSTON — Rick Ankiel and the Houston Astros made an impressive debut in the American League, trouncing the Texas Rangers 8-2 Sunday night in the major league opener and giving Bo Porter a win in his first game as manager.Ankiel launched a pinch-hit three-run shot for the first homer this season, Bud Norris pitched well for the win and Erik Bedard threw 3 1/3 scoreless innings for his first career save.

Having switched from the National League to the AL in the offseason, the Astros earned their first opening day victory since 2006 and the 4,000th regular-season win in franchise history.

The Astros are coming off consecutive 100-loss seasons and has the lowest payroll in the majors, prompting many to predict they will be the worst team in the majors. But Houston opened in style wearing spiffy new uniforms that brought back the orange and blue of old-school Astros teams.

Justin Maxwell added a pair of triples and made a nifty catch in center field.

Norris (1-0) allowed five hits and two runs with five strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings. He was one of five Astros making their first opening day start on baseball’s second-youngest team.

Bedard shut down the Rangers on one hit the rest of the way for his first save in a 10-season career.

As Houston began a new era with the move to the AL, the Rangers were embarking on a new chapter without 2010 AL MVP Josh Hamilton. Along with Hamilton’s departure to the Angels, Texas also lost catcher Mike Napoli and infielder Michael Young.

The loss snapped a streak of four straight opening day victories by the Rangers. Former Astros star Lance Berkman had two hits in his first game as Texas’ designated hitter.

Matt Harrison (0-1), who signed a $55 million contract this offseason, yielded six hits and five runs and tied a career high with nine strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings.

Maxwell’s two-out triple in the fourth inning broke a scoreless tie and gave Houston a 2-0 lead. The ball bounced off the wall in left field and scored Brett Wallace and Carlos Pena, who both got on with singles. Umpires reviewed the play to make sure it wasn’t a home run, and upheld the call.

An error by right fielder Nelson Cruz let Houston score a run in the fifth, and Jose Altuve singled home another.

Harrison put runners at first and second with walks in the sixth and was replaced by Derek Lowe with two outs. Ankiel, the one-time pitcher with St. Louis, connected on his fifth career pinch-hit homer, a full-count shot to right field that made it 7-2.

Norris had a tough second inning and had to use 26 pitches to escape, striking out Mitch Moreland. Norris got on a roll from there, retiring nine of the next 10 batters.

Norris ran into trouble in the sixth

Texas Rangers’ Ian Kinsler, left, is welcomed back home by Nelson Cruz (17) after scoring on a David Murphy single in the sixth inning of a baseball game against the Houston Astros Sunday, March 31, 2013, in Houston. Astros catcher Jason Castro is in the background. (AP Photo/Pat Sullivan)

when Ian Kinsler drew a walk and Berkman hit a one-out single. Murphy’s two-out single sent Kinsler home to make it 4-1. Cruz followed with a groundball single that rolled just out of reach of diving shortstop Ronny Cedeno to score Berkman and chase Norris.Chants of “Cruuuuuuuz” filled the stadium, indicating the large number of Rangers fans who made the 250-mile trip from Dallas. Norris was replaced by Erik Bedard, who is Houston’s fifth starter, but won’t be needed for a while in the rotation because of off-days.

 

YANKS-SOX RIVALRY SINKING FAST

BOSTON - JULY 24:  Alex Rodriguez #13 of the New York Yankees walks to first base with hitting coach Don Mattingly #23 after a fight with Jason Varitek #33 of the Boston Red Sox in the third inning after Rodriguez was hit by a pitch by pitcher Bronson Arroyo on July 24, 2004 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts. Both Rodriguez and Jason Varitek of the Red Sox were ejected from the game. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) BOSTON – JULY 24: Alex Rodriguez #13 of the New York Yankees walks to first base with hitting coach Don Mattingly #23 after a fight with Jason Varitek #33 of the Boston Red Sox in the third inning after Rodriguez was hit by a pitch by pitcher Bronson Arroyo on July 24, 2004 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts. Both Rodriguez and Jason Varitek of the Red Sox were ejected from the game. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

Published: 03/31/2013, 12:02 AM

Updated: 03/31/2013, 12:03 AM

Yanks-Red Sox rivalry sinking fast

BY: Jerry Sullivan / News Senior Sports Columnist | @TBNSully

 

In 1965, my first full season as a baseball lover, the Red Sox lost 100 games. I was 9 at the time, too young to do the smart thing and find another team. How could I know my team would torture me for the next 38 years?

The Sox had a young team with Carl Yastrzemski, Rico Petrocelli and Tony Conigliaro, who led the AL in homers in ’65 when he was only 20. Tony C is still the youngest player to lead a league in home runs. They had Fenway Park, with the big wall in left, the Green Monster. Things could only get better.

It helped that my best friend, Brian, was a Yankee fan. Brian was a batboy for a town amateur team. He was much wiser than I in the ways of baseball, and had a large collection of bats and gloves. But his once-dominant Yankees had fallen on hard times after losing the World Series the year before.

We had some spirited arguments about baseball in those days, when we weren’t flipping baseball cards against the wall or playing hardball in the sprawling cemetery that separated our houses in Newport, R.I.

“The Red Sox stink!” Brian would say.

“Yeah, but the Yankees stink worse!” I’d holler back.

The next year, the Yanks proved me right. The Red Sox moved up to ninth place in 1966 with a 72-90 record (a 12-game improvement!). The Yankees finished 10th at 70-89. Brian told me the Yanks would have finished ahead of Boston if the league had allowed them to play those three rained-out games.

That was the last time the Red Sox and Yankees finished a season together at the bottom of a league or division.

Things did get better for the Red Sox. They won the pennant on the final day of the famous 1967 “Impossible Dream” season, the best year a young baseball fan could imagine. They didn’t have another losing season until 1983. Over a 45-year span, the Sox had 40 winning seasons and finally won two World Series, ending the mythical “Curse of the Bambino”.

The Yankees did all right after George Steinbrenner bought the team in 1973, reaching the postseason 22 times in 40 years and winning seven World Series titles. There was a rough decade in there from 1982 to ’92. But they have an active streak of 20 consecutive winning seasons. The Bronx Bombers have won 100 games five times during that time, averaging 95 wins a season.

Do you know how many times the Yankees and Red Sox have had losing seasons in the same year since Brian and I squabbled about them in 1966? Once. In 1992, the Yanks tied for fourth and the Sox finished seventh and last in the AL East.

Either the Sox or Yanks have appeared in every postseason since the strike of 1994 wiped out the playoffs. In eight of the last 18 seasons, both of them made the playoffs. The Yankees missed only once during that time, in 2008. They gave us the best rivalry in sports and two unforgettable ALCS showdowns in 2003-04.

I guess you could say Boston and New York fans have been spoiled. But this year, after nearly half a century, they might battle for last place again.

The Red Sox have missed the postseason three years in a row, the first time that happened in 10 years. Last year, they went 69-93 and finished 26 games behind the Yankees in the AL East. It was Boston’s worst winning percentage since that dreadful 100-loss outfit when I was a little kid.

Yes, the Bombers could be looking at another ’65, when the bottom fell out. Everything has been going wrong for them since their ignominious sweep at the hands of the Tigers in last year’s ALCS.

Alex Rodriguez is out until at least midseason with hip issues and is embroiled in another steroid flap. Curtis Granderson is out for two months with a broken arm. Mark Teixeira could miss the season with a wrist injury. Derek Jeter is expected to start the season on the disabled list with an inflamed ankle. Phil Hughes just went on the DL with a bulging disk in his back.

Michael Pineda, a hot young pitcher the Yanks got from Seattle (for a top catching prospect, Jesus Montero) in a trade before the 2012 season, is still recovering from a torn labrum and isn’t expected back until June. Closer Mariano Rivera, who is 43, hasn’t pitched since injuring his knee last May.

Rivera, the best closer of all time, has announced that this will be his final season. It’s a shame that it will likely be the worst Yankees team he’s played on. Not only have the Pintripers not had a losing record since Rivera began his career in 1995, they’ve never had a winning percentage below .540.

It’s small consolation that the Red Sox could be worse. Veteran slugger David Ortiz is out with inflammation in both heels. Mike Napoli, their big free-agent acquisition, has a degenerative hip. There’s no guarantee Jacoby Ellsbury will return to his MVP form of two years ago after missing much of last year to injury. The defense isn’t very good.

They’re hoping that starters Clay Buchholz and Jon Lester will rediscover their past brilliance and revive a terrible pitching staff. There’s even hope that John Lackey can still be effective. Ryan Dempster will help, presumably.

Where there used to be high expectations, there is now merely hope in Boston and New York. Ever since the epic 2004 ALCS, we’ve waited for them to collide in another October classic. We’re still waiting.

Last year, there was talk that hiring Bobby Valentine as manager would revive the rivalry. It didn’t happen. There was more conflict in the Boston dugout than against the Yanks. It was one and done for old Bobby.

The rivalry seems all but gone, too. Who cares at this point? Where’s the hate? Most of the chief antagonists are gone. There’s no Jason Varitek to rub his catcher’s mitt in A-Rod’s mug, no Pedro Martinez to throw Don Zimmer to the ground. No Joe Torre. No Terry Francona.

George Steinbrenner is dead. When’s the last time you heard anyone mention the Evil Empire? It’s the Red Sox organization that embarrassed itself in the latter days of Francona’s regime, which he outlined in his book.

When the Sox and Yanks met for the first time in spring training early this month, there was little fanfare. The Yanks sent only one regular, Brett Gardner. There were no newspaper hordes from the Boston and New York papers.

This year, the writers might very well be sitting through 4-hour games that decide who finishes fourth. People are predicting them to finish together at the bottom for the first time since 1966.

You’ll notice I have three of the five AL East teams making the postseason this year, and none of them are from Boston or New York. I feel like calling Brian and telling him, “The Yankees suck!”

But I’m afraid he’ll yell back,”Yeah, but your Red Sox suck worse.”

BASBALL’S LARGEST HOT DOG

Meet the ‘Boomstick,’ baseball’s largest hot dog

By Melanie Hicken @CNNMoney March 31, 2013: 10:21 AM ET

NEW YORK (CNNMoney)

What started as a novel food experiment at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, Texas has turned into a super-sized food franchise — all centered around a two-foot-long hot dog affectionately known as the “Boomstick.”

Named after the bat used by Texas Rangers slugger Nelson Cruz, the $26 Boomstick is a 2-foot all-beef hot dog, smothered in chili, nacho cheese, jalapenos and caramelized onions, all on top of a massive potato bun. The whole thing weighs in at 3 pounds.

The ballpark sold nearly 20,000 of the monster hot dogs during the 2012 season — the Boomstick’s inaugural year — raking in an estimated $500,000 in sales.

“We knew it was going to be a fun novelty type item, but it just really took off,” said Shawn Mattox, the general manager for Delaware North Sportservice, which runs food operations at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, Texas. “It quickly became a fan favorite.”

Related: Hot dogs and beer: See what $20 buys at the ballpark

After a large hot dog dubbed the Texas Rangers “Big Dog” sold well during 2011 playoffs, Mattox’s team decided to top that, with the 24-inch beast. “‘We’re Texas,’ I said. ‘I want to have the biggest hot dog,'” Mattox recalled telling his staff.

They hit a roadblock when they discovered that they couldn’t find a company that made hot dogs — and buns — so large. Not to be stopped, they partnered with a local food services company and a bakery to custom make the super-sized hot dogs and buns.

The Boomstick was so popular that Delaware North introduced the giant hot dog at six other MLB stadiums for the month of July under the name the “Giant Slugger.”

To build upon the Boomstick’s success, Rangers Stadium will sell Boomstick lapel pins and plush toys. And a “24”-themed food stand will be opened, featuring a variety of super-sized menu options.

Related: 10 things you’ll pay more for this year

The Boomstick will be joined by the “Totally Rossome” Boomstick ($32), named after Rangers relief pitcher Robbie Ross, which is smothered with smoked brisket, fresh pico, sour cream and Doritos chips. Also on the menu is a whopping 24-ounce bacon burger ($26), a 24-inch sausage ($26), a 24-inch pretzel ($13) and a 24-inch quesadilla ($26) covered with brisket and served on a bed of nacho cheese Doritos.

“When we first started talking about it, I was like gosh that’s a lot of meat,” Mattox said of the 1-pound burger topped with 8 ounces of bacon, grilled onions and cheese, dubbed “The Beltre Buster” after Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre.

Mattox said he’s not sure what the massive eats come in at nutrition-wise, but acknowledged it’s got to be close to a day’s worth of calories.

While some brave fans may attempt to tackle the food alone — as one who devoured a Boomstick in less than four minutes did in an eating contest last year — Mattox said the “24” menu items are really meant to be shared among friends or family.

“There are those that have the badge of honor and will over the course of several innings eat the whole thing,” he said. “God bless them, but it’s not really designed for that.” To top of page

ASTROS VS RANGERS TO OPEN BASEBALL SEASON

Houston Astros Vs. Texas Rangers

3/31/13 Mark’s Free MLB Baseball Pick

Written by Mark on March 28, 2013

Houston Astros Vs. Texas Rangers: 3/31/13 Mark's Free MLB Baseball PickPhoto by: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY SportsTexas visits American League and division newcomer Houston on Sunday.

  • Texas Rangers (0-0) at Houston Astros (0-0)
  • Date & Time: MLB Baseball: Sunday, March 31, 2013 at 8:05 pm (Minute Maid Park)
  • The Line: The Line: Texas Rangers -147 /Houston Astros +137 — over/under 8.5 See The Latest Odds
  • Live On: ESPN

 

The Houston Astros open up their first season in the American League with their division rival the Texas Rangers on Sunday.
We all know what has been going on with Houston the past several years and ioit hasn’t been positive. Of course, that was in the National League so will the move to the AL improve things for the Astros? My guess is no because this game is all about hitting and pitching and the Astros haven’t been getting enough of either for quite awhile and that doesn’t appear to have changed. A new manager in Bo Porter and some youth might infuse some good things but the numbers from 2012 say a lot: 55 wins, last or next to last in most offesive categories and a pitching staff that needs run support but didn’t get it. Carlos Pena comes over from Tampa Bay and brings 19 homers with him and Justin Maxwell hit 18 bombs in 2012, while Jose Altuve hit .290 with 33 stolen bases so the cupboas not bare but it’s not fully stocked either. Right hander Bud Norris gets the opening day starting assignment and is looking to rebound from an injury plagued year in which his ERA ballooned from 3.77 in 2011 to 4.65.
Texas has more than a few things to prove after a September meltdown cost them the American League West before a loss in the Wild Card game ended their season. The Rangers dropped seven of nine including three in a row to Oakland to not only squander a 5 1/2 game lead they held on September 6th but to lose the division and be labeled as ‘chokers’ by some. Things might be even more trying for Texas with Josh Hamilton, Michael Young and Mike Napoli plying their wares elsewhere. The team tried to soften the blow of theses losses with the acquistions of AJ Pierzynski and Lance Berkman but replacing a talent like Hamilton is simply not going to happen that easily. The Rangers still will have a veteran laden, dangerous lineup but ultimately their fate could be decided by a rotation that was not consistent nor very deep with Yu Darvish, Alexi Ogando and Matt Harrison needing huge seasons. Harrison gets the opening day nod after an 18 win campaign and 3.29 ERA got him a 5 year contract extention.
Even though Texas lost some talent that quite honestly can’t be replaced, they are not a pushover and Houston has a long way to go. If Norris is at the top of his game, the Astros have a shot but Harrison should keep the Houston lineup in check. I’m leanining Rangers but need to see what kind of odds we’re looking at when released so please check back.

The Houston Astros open up their first season in the American League with their division rival the Texas Rangers on Sunday.

We all know what has been going on with Houston the past several years and it hasn’t been positive. Of course, that was in the National League so will the move to the AL improve things for the Astros? My guess is no because this game is all about hitting and pitching and the Astros haven’t been getting enough of either for quite awhile and that doesn’t appear to have changed. A new manager in Bo Porter and some youth might infuse some good things but the numbers from 2012 say a lot: 55 wins, last or next to last in most offensive categories and a pitching staff that needs run support but didn’t get it. Carlos Pena comes over from Tampa Bay and brings 19 homers with him and Justin Maxwell hit 18 bombs in 2012, while Jose Altuve hit .290 with 33 stolen bases so the cupboard not bare but it’s not fully stocked either. Right hander Bud Norris gets the opening day starting assignment and is looking to rebound from an injury plagued year in which his ERA ballooned from 3.77 in 2011 to 4.65.

Texas has more than a few things to prove after a September meltdown cost them the American League West before a loss in the Wild Card game ended their season. The Rangers dropped seven of nine including three in a row to Oakland to not only squander a 5 1/2 game lead they held on September 6th but to lose the division and be labeled as ‘chokers’ by some. Things might be even more trying for Texas with Josh Hamilton, Michael Young and Mike Napoli plying their wares elsewhere. The team tried to soften the blow of theses losses with the acquisitions of AJ Pierzynski and Lance Berkman but replacing a talent like Hamilton is simply not going to happen that easily. The Rangers still will have a veteran laden, dangerous lineup but ultimately their fate could be decided by a rotation that was not consistent nor very deep with Yu Darvish, Alexi Ogando and Matt Harrison needing huge seasons. Harrison gets the opening day nod after an 18 win campaign and 3.29 ERA got him a 5 year contract extension.

Even though Texas lost some talent that quite honestly can’t be replaced, they are not a pushover and Houston has a long way to go. If Norris is at the top of his game, the Astros have a shot but Harrison should keep the Houston lineup in check. I’m leanining Rangers but need to see what kind of odds we’re looking at when released so please check back.

YANKEES PROJECTED EVETDAY LINEUP

Yankees’ projected Opening Day lineup

MLB.com | 3/28/2013 4:47 P.M. ET

Outlook: Sabathia, SP, NYY00:00:46
Despite some shaky numbers, CC Sabathia finished with at least 15 wins for the sixth straight year in ’12 and ’13 won’t be any different

The Yankees open their season Monday against the Red Sox in New York as CC Sabathia faces Jon Lester at 1:05 p.m. ET. Below is the Yankees’ projected Opening Day lineup.

1. CF: Brett Gardner
2. RF: Ichiro Suzuki
3. 2B: Robinson Cano
4. 1B: Kevin Youkilis
5. DH: Ben Francisco
6. LF: Vernon Wells
7. SS: Eduardo Nunez
8. 3B: Jayson Nix
9. C: Chris Stewart
SP: CC Sabathia

THIS IS WHY SO MANY FANS HATE A-STIFF

Photos: Yankees disabled slugger Alex Rodriguez shows off his latest rehab efforts on Facebook

A-Rod was a no-show this year for spring training in Tampa, instead taking his hip rehab to New York and Miami. Despite the slugger’s upbeat caption on the most recent Facebook photos, which depict A-Rod’s fit physique, he is not expected to be available to play until after the All-Star break.

By / NEW YORK DAILY NEWS

Friday, March 29, 2013, 5:02 PM

Facebook

A rehabbing Alex Rodriguez shares images of his latest workout on Facebook.

A-Rod wants to pump you up.

The most highly paid Yankee on the disabled list resurfaced Friday on Facebook, where Alex Rodriguez posted photos of himself working out at an undisclosed New York City gym….

WHY MLB OPENER IS GREATEST SPORT’S KICKOFF

Why MLB Opening Day Is the Best Kickoff Event in Sports

By

(MLB Lead Writer) on March 31, 2013

143629899_crop_exact

Ah, Opening Day.

They’re not much on their own, but put those two words together, and you get my favorite phrase the English language has to offer. It has a rather beautiful ring to it.

There’s another thing about that phrase: It needs no introduction. Say the words “Opening Day,” and people know you’re talking about baseball. Say the words to a baseball fan, and they’re smiling.

For baseball fans, Opening Day is nothing short of a national holiday. It’s that special of an occasion, and certainly the best kickoff event the sports world has to offer.

How do I know that? Well, it helps that I’ve got a serious case of “the bias,” which I figure I should be upfront about seeing as how it’s not something I can hide. It says up there that I’m a baseball writer, after all.

And because I’m a baseball writer, you can guess which talking points I’m going to bring up in this manifesto about the splendor of Opening Day. It’s all about tradition and history with us baseball nuts, and Opening Day is when the tradition and history of the sport are front and center the most. Baseball writers have been remarking on that for a long time now.

To that end, well, here I am ready to add my words to the pile. As much as I wanted to come up with a fresh take on why Opening Day is so awesome, the usual sentimental rhetoric about Opening Day still rings true. Ever have history and tradition made Opening Day a special occasion, and they shall continue to do so for all eternity.

But let’s be clear on one thing. When I say Opening Day, I’m not referring to what’s going to go down between the Texas Rangers and the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park on Sunday night. Major League Baseball is calling it “Opening Day,” but realistically it’s more of an “Opening Night” affair.

And “Opening Night” is not a baseball thing. It’s just a concept that baseball borrows because other sports leagues in America have decided that the only time to open up a new season is in prime time.

Hi-res-138327373_crop_exact FOOTBALL!
Allison Joyce/Getty Images

The National Football League’s opener comes to mind. The NFL started kicking off its seasons on Thursday nights back in 2002, and the event promptly turned into a watered-down version of the Super Bowl.

It’s not so much of a celebration of football as a celebration of all things loud and obnoxious: football, for one, but also pop music by way of live performances and the great snarling beast known as television.

The idea the NFL is going for is to make the return of football a national party. That’s what MLB is going for with Opening Night games, though the league thankfully keeps the hype level somewhere below “unbearable.”

I wonder if (see “hope”) that’s because MLB understands that there’s only one real Opening Day, and it’s the first full day of regular-season baseball—the day in which many games are played starting early in the afternoon and continuing late into the night on the West Coast. That’s Opening Day.

You can take in all the games on your couch if you must, but that’s not the ideal scenario. Opening Day is best enjoyed at your local ballpark, and the experiences will differ depending on which ballpark you attend.

Some experiences are of the simple variety. Clubs will trot out their stars from years past. Other clubs will raise banners if they have banners to raise. There will be A-list celebrities there to sing the national anthem, as well as jets to perform flyovers.

It’s good stuff, but it’s not what makes Opening Day truly special. After all, they do stuff like this at NFL season openers too.

But then you have the other Opening Day traditions, the ones that scream those two words that baseball fans love so much. History! Tradition!

Hi-res-559908_crop_exact Mark Lyons/Getty Images

Case in point: the Findlay Market Parade. It’s been carried out every year for something like a million years in Cincinnati to celebrate the return of Reds baseball. It can be considered an annual reminder that the Reds have been playing America’s pastime for longer than any other club in the major leagues.

In St. Louis, another sepia-toned National League city, the Cardinals bust out the Clydesdales for Opening Day, and without that blasted Stevie Nicks song from that one commercial.

Hi-res-98264066_crop_exact Wild guess: President Obama can throw harder than Jamie Moyer.
Pool/Getty Images

It doesn’t happen every year anymore, but the President of the United States throwing out a first pitch on Opening Day is a tradition that dates back more than 100 years. William Howard Taft got it started in 1910, and Barack Obama officially made it a 100-year tradition back in 2010.

The NFL will have an answer to this tradition when the president takes care of the first coin flip of the season. The NHL when the president drops the first puck. The NBA when the president tosses the ball up for the opening tipoff. Good luck with that, guys.

Do these leagues and other leagues around the world have their own regional traditions to welcome in new seasons? Of course they do, and I’m not about to sit here and say that they’re all dumb traditions just because they’re not baseball traditions. I’m not that well-versed in all the different traditions, for one, but more importantly I’m not that curmudgeonly.

But let’s not kid ourselves. It’s hard for other sports to match the profundity of Opening Day’s individual traditions and the overall traditiony traditionness of the day itself.  Profundity is something that’s best accumulated over time, and baseball has a huge head start in that department.

People have been looking forward to new baseball seasons ever since the founding of the National League in 1876. By comparison, the NFL has only been around since 1920. The NHL is only three years older. The NBA has only been around since the 1940s.

The closest equal baseball’s Opening Day has on the ancient experience front is probably the opening ceremonies that come with the Olympic games. But those…

Well, OK, fine. Opening Day ceremonies may feel ancient, but Olympic ceremonies actually are ancient. The Findlay Market Parade, the St. Louis Clydesdales and the presidential first pitch can’t hold a candle to the Olympic torch. The first group honors the baseball gods, but the torch was conceived to honor the Greek gods. They draw a little more water in the gods community.

But even the Olympics can’t rival one thing about Opening Day. The arrival of a new baseball season is only part of the event’s significance. In addition to that, it heralds in the spring season.

Hi-res-142525403_crop_exact Also, it’s easier to play a game of catch in the spring.
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

And who doesn’t like spring? Spring is when we get to wave goodbye to cold, wet and gloomy weather and say hello to bright, warm and happy-go-lucky weather. Spring is when we get our shorts and sandals out of the closet. Spring is when we get to enjoy our cold beers in the great outdoors rather than on the couch.

Now think back to the three other major sports in America. The NFL kicks off its regular season in September, and the NBA and NHL get going in October.

So the coming of these seasons represents the coming of fall? Bah! Fall is a season we can all do without. The leaves turn pretty colors, sure, but raking them is a pain. The weather isn’t too cold yet, but it’ll be cold before you know it. Not long after the NFL, NBA and NHL seasons start, you’re out there shoveling your driveway.

Whatever the case, spring is a lot better, and baseball is kind enough to bring it to us by way of Opening Day.

You want further justification for my high regard for Opening Day? Well, too bad. I don’t have any, and I’m frankly not even sure that any further justification even exists. Discussions about what’s better than what and why are going to revolve around numbers and tangible evidence more often than not, but not this one.

No, this is an “eye of the beholder” situation, and I’ve always perceived Opening Day to be sort of like a vintage copy of a very old and very good book. I know it’s special simply because of its age and its rustic qualities, and these things lend a certain power to the story inside.

That’s Opening Day. It’s a most excellent relic from the days of yore, yet I believe I speak for all baseball fans when I say that Opening Day never, ever gets old.

 

A-ROD’S LEGACY IS AS ALL-TIME CHEATER

Klapisch: A-Rod’s lasting legacy is as an all-time cheater

Tuesday, January 29, 2013    Last updated: Tuesday January 29, 2013, 11:44 PM
By BOB KLAPISCH
RECORD COLUMNIST
A report published Tuesday connected Alex Rodriguez to performance enhancing drugs.

THOMAS E. FRANKLIN / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
A report published Tuesday connected Alex Rodriguez to performance enhancing drugs.

Say goodbye to Alex Rodriguez and whatever good memories you have of this disgraced slugger, assuming there are any left to conjure. A-Rod has been linked (again) to performance-enhancing drugs, as recently as last season, putting the finishing touches on his now-utterly trashed legacy — baseball’s all-time fraud.

This is our hunch about Rodriguez’s career: It’s over, and not just because of the severity of his recent hip surgery. Rodriguez knows his reputation has been shredded — no one believes his denials, especially the Bombers. Their lawyers are already crawling all over the language of Rodriguez’s contract, looking for ways to void that absurd $275 million investment, of which he’s still owed $114 million.

That would be reason enough to send A-Rod into hiding, but there’s an even more compelling reason to write him off now. It’s the psychological dependency on PEDs — he’s been hooked all along and was too weak to ever stop. Rodriguez may look like a bruiser, but don’t be fooled. He’s nothing without his syringes and pills and creams. He can’t compete without them.

There’s no way out — the relationship with the Yankees and their fans is too toxic. Rodriguez was reportedly dumb enough to keep breaking the rules, but he’s savvy enough to know he’s used up the last of his equity. Just wait and see, A-Rod will find a doctor to say he’s medically unable to keep playing, like Albert Belle, whose own career ended in 2000 because of hip problems. This convenient detour will allow A-Rod to pocket the rest of his money and give the Yankees 85 percent reimbursement from their insurers.

Dishonest or not, it would be the ultimate face-saver, and don’t think for a minute Yankee elders aren’t praying for this very road map. They’ve cursed themselves a hundred times over for that crazy contract, the one general manager Brian Cashman tried to block. Now, finally, there’s a way out.

Will ownership try to void the deal in the meantime? They’re already dreaming about it. But the process will be long and meticulous; it’s the commissioner’s office, not the Yankees, who’ll be investigating. The feds are involved, too, according to one person familiar with the day’s developments. The Drug Enforcement Agency is sniffing around Biogenesis of America, the Coral Gables, Fla., anti-aging clinic that, according to the Miami New Times, was more like a drug factory for athletes — an East Coast BALCO. A-Rod was listed among its clientele. The government will eventually learn if the published claims are verifiable, whether A-Rod was trafficking in controlled or illegal substances.

That would mean an immediate 50-game suspension per MLB’s drug policy, which could be actionable by the Yankees. So could proof that Rodriguez was being treated by a non-team physician without management’s knowledge or consent. That would be a loophole the Steinbrenner family would gladly blast right open.

There’s no hard proof — yet. But we all see the scaffolding of A-Rod’s cheating heart. He never trusted his own talent, despite being hailed one of baseball’s greatest five-tool players as a teenager. Somehow, A-Rod’s insecurity managed to overwhelm him — a need to be loved, to be hailed, which required a shot of steroids, a dab of HGH, something, anything to compensate for his neurotic fear of being ignored.

Now he has our attention as the ultimate snake, lying his way into the Yankees’ good graces in 2009. Remember that monster return from the first hip surgery four years ago — the real-life Roy Hobbs blasting a home run in his first at-bat off the disabled list? Rodriguez drove in 100 runs in just 124 games, but according to the New Times, that performance was phony as Rodriguez’s apology six months earlier, after he’d been caught by Sports Illustrated using PEDs in 2001-03.

The New Times’ three-month investigation revealed that A-Rod was a regular customer at Biogenesis; his name was found in the company’s records 16 times from 2009-12. The New Times relied on the information of two former employees, and included photocopies of handwritten notes about the clientele. Through his spokesman, Rodriguez vehemently denied the charges and disavowed any professional relationship with Biogenesis’ owner, Anthony Bosch.