Opening Day Trippin'

John Granato: Wake up baseball. Your Opening Day sucks

Justin Verlander vs Clayton Kershaw would be a great way to start the season. Houston Astros/Facebook

Last week I had a little Twitter battle with a guy about Astros Opening Day. I think it’s stupid that the Astros are opening the season on the road against a bad Texas Rangers team. I want the World Series champion Astros to play a good team at home to start the season. He said it was a foolish take. I accidentally called him an idiot. Well, maybe not accidentally.

He’s an idiot.

How great would it be to see Verlander vs Sale or Kershaw in game one? And why not? The model is there. Just look at the most popular league in the country and they’ll show you how to do it.

Here’s how the NFL kicked off the last three seasons:

2015  Pittsburgh at New England

2016  Carolina at Denver (Super Bowl rematch)

2017  Kansas City at New England

The Super Bowl champ AT HOME against a quality opponent four days before the rest of the league kicked off. What a novel concept: give your fans something to get excited about and look forward to the first week of the season.

Here’s how the NBA opened their 2017-18 season:

Boston at Cleveland

Houston at Golden State

Kyrie Irving returning to the city he spurned and the West’s two best teams going at it in the champ’s home city. Well done Adam Silver.

So how is baseball opening its 2018 season?

Houston at Texas

NY Yankees at Toronto

Minnesota at Baltimore

Boston at Tampa Bay

Chicago Cubs at Miami

Washington at Cincinnati

San Francisco at LA Dodgers

Cleveland at Seattle

Colorado at Arizona

The only playoff teams facing off in their opening series are the National League wild cards Colorado and Arizona. Otherwise, every playoff team is playing a team that finished last year with a losing record and all but the Dodgers are on the road.

Houston-Texas is a rivalry as is LA and San Fran and Kershaw vs Bumgarner is a nice matchup to kick off the season but any scheduling positive is purely coincidental.

You see, baseball has no way of knowing who or where their champs should play on Opening Day because their schedule comes out in mid-September, weeks before the previous regular season ends.

I’m sure there’s a good reason for that. There’s a lot of travel involved in baseball. Hotels and airlines have to be set up. I get that. But somehow the other sports manage to schedule all their hotels and planes even though their schedules come out well after their seasons end and they have less time to do it.

MLB schedule released: September 12

First pitch: March 29

198 days to get ready

NFL schedule released:  April 17-19

Opening kickoff: Sept. 6

About 140 days to get ready

NBA schedule released: August 14

Opening tip: October 17

63 days to get ready

How in the world does basketball do it? Their schedule comes out just two months before their opening games while baseball needs 6 and half months. Granted they play about half as many games as baseball, but they only play one game per city so they have a lot more travel to set up. The Rockets have to fly to 41 road games while the Astros have 26 city flights so this early schedule release is hard to defend.

Regardless, there really is no excuse for this anyway. On September 12th you know who the best teams are and you can guess who will be the best teams next year. Cincinnati? San Francisco? They won 68 and 64 games respectively last year, and they’re playing the two best teams in the National League on Opening Day.

Come on baseball. Wake up. If you wonder why there’s no excitement for your upcoming season it’s because you’re not creating it.

We’ve seen what the NFL does to start the season. It doesn’t really need to, the game sells itself no matter the date.

Basketball is a much better barometer. It wasn’t that long ago that the NBA was looking up at MLB in the popularity standings. Not anymore. Part of that was an aggressive marketing schedule strategy.

Let’s start with Christmas Day. The NBA sets up its Christmas Day television schedule with its best matchups and then fills in the rest of the schedule around it. It owns Christmas day.

What day does MLB own? You’d have to try to own something to actually obtain it. If the 4th of July falls on a Monday or Thursday, chances are your favorite team will have the day off. To me, that’s just ridiculous.

It should be all hands on deck for holidays and it should be a celebration of baseball.

Here’s how Memorial Day and the 4th of July should look:

Indians-Nationals at 11:00 AM Eastern

Cardinals-Cubs at 2:00

Yankees-Red Sox at 5:00

Astros-Dodgers at 8:00

Diamondbacks-Rockies at 11:00


All on ESPN and/or FOX all day long.

Hot dog deals and Coors Light specials at every park. Fireworks after the night games. You will own the day.  

Yeah, Memorial Day and the 4th of July are days America loves to barbeque.

I’m not sure if anyone knows this but Christmas used to be a religious day. Now it’s all about presents and the NBA.

If people want to barbeque let them tailgate. Baseball isn’t a tailgating sport you say? Well, change that.  Barbeque and baseball. They just might go together.

And good lord baseball when the best teams in the league are playing, schedule them on the weekends. The Astros and Yankees will play seven times this year and not once on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday. Those games should be on FOX on Saturday and ESPN’s Sunday night game of the week.

Come on baseball. We want to consume your product. It’s not that hard.

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Now my job: Texans feast on Lions

Photo by Getty Images.

Thanksgiving is full of tradition. There's the typical family gathering, large meal, and of course, football. Sometimes, new traditions are added and old ones are retired. I think the Texans did both in their impressive 41-25 win over the Lions in Detroit. Old traditions were carried on (Lions losing on Thanksgiving), some were put to rest (Texans not being able to get turnovers), and new ones were started (multiple passing touchdowns by Deshaun Watson in six straight games).

The fact that this defense got three turnovers in the game was unbelievable! They got all three in the first quarter within the span of eight plays. JJ Watt's pick-six was insane. He went for a batted ball, ended up catching it, and ran it in. They forced Jonathan Williams to fumble on the Lions' very next play from scrimmage and recovered it. On the Lions' next possession, the Texans recovered yet another fumble after the challenge was reversed. Great call by the coaching staff to challenge and win. The defense looked good. Tyrell Adams stood out because he was in on those two fumbles, made 17 total tackles with 14 of them being solo tackles. They also brought pressure that seemed to make Matthew Stafford very inaccurate and resulted in four sacks. I give defensive coordinator Anthony Weaver credit for knowing he needs to blitz to get pressure, but the run defense has to improve.

The offense kept the tempo up in this game as well. The spread and hurry-up were used to keep the Lions already staggered defense off balance. Knowing the Lions were without a couple defensive backs, I thought it would be the perfect marriage of their defense and the Texans' offense. A buddy asked before the game about the line (Texans -3.5) and the over/under (52.5). I told him bet the Texans and the over because neither team can play defense and both have good quarterbacks. Offensive coordinator Tim Kelly put together another good game plan and Watson executed it flawlessly. One route combo I saw later on in the game I particularly enjoyed. Two receivers were tight to the left side. Cooks ran a hook/curl and settled in the middle of the zone while Fuller ran a vertical route. Duke Johnson ran a swing route to that same side. It left Cooks wide open as the attention went to Johnson in the flat, Fuller deep, and the action to the other play side. Route combos are important because it gives the quarterback different reads as he goes through his progressions and lets him pick apart the defense based on what he sees. Combine that with Watson's play and the way Kelly has changed his play calling now that he's liberated from he who shall not be named, we're seeing a beautiful thing.

As good as things were, there's still room for improvement. The defense gives up way too many easy yards, both run and pass. They can't get pressure bringing only four and will often give up big plays if the blitz is picked up. Plus the run defense is still an issue as evidenced by the Lions' first possession of the second half. The Lions ran the ball 10 plays straight for a total of 58 yards on that drive. Utterly ridiculous! Watson was good (17/25 318 yards and four touchdowns), but he missed two more touchdowns with passes slightly off, and continues to hold onto the ball too long at times. The difference between these two issues I've presented here is the fact that Watson has so played well, his "issues" are minor and very correctable, while the defense is terrible and there's no easy fix in sight. But let Romeo Crennel and Anthony Weaver tell it, they're getting the most out of these guys and they're playing disciplined.

The thought that this team may actually creep into the playoff picture may take shape better after next week if they can beat the Colts. I doubt it, but it is getting interesting. Let's see what else happens around them because they need help getting there.

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