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.

Charlie Morton helped create a lasting memory. Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

By the time this story is out it will be a fact; Charlie Morton will have signed with the Tampa Bay Rays ending his tenure as a Houston Astro.

Going into free agency this off season, it was hard not to expect changes to come, especially with so many high profile Astros up for free agency. I fully expect Dallas Keuchel and Marwin Gonzales to be gone, but losing Good Ol Uncle Chuck was a little surprising.

All things considered, the Astros bringing back Morton seemed to make sense. Keuchel is due for a big pay day, and all signs point to that being with another team. Lance McCullers, of course, will miss the 2019 season to recover from his Tommy John procedure. With another year of Cole and Verlander, and a promotion to McHugh, it seemed like Morton would slide back into a solid rotation.

That, as we all know now, was not the case as CFM agreed to a two year, $30 million dollar contract with the Tampa Bay Rays.

……….

Maybe I'm a masochist, but I spent last night re-watching the 2017 World Series highlights, Game 7 to be specific. The Astros were in complete control, up 5-0 after the second. A platoon of McCullers, Peacock, Liriano, and Devenski got them through five. Morton entered the game in the bottom of the sixth. On his very first pitch, he gave up a base hit to Joc Pederson. He then proceeded to give up a walk to Foresythe and a single to Ethier, allowing the Dodgers to score their first run of the game, it was 5-1. After facing six batters in the sixth inning , Charlie reminded us why we added the F to his name as he retired the next nine batters in a row to win the game and the 2017 World Series.

Morton's post game interview with Buster Olney was as haunting, and prophetic, as it comes.

"All this (adversity) has made me a better person, a better ball player. I appreciate that as much as this ( winning the WS). This is the epitome of what you can do in this game. Look at us. This is crazy. To go from Fenway Park, to beat the Yankees and now the Dodgers. It's extraordinary. It hasn't sunk in but I'm so grateful for all these guys, for all the fans in Houston. I hope everybody enjoyed every second of this."

When the team who suffered through pitching ailments all of the postseason needed a stellar pitching performance the most, Morton delivered. When a city that needed something to believe in after a historical hurricane caused monumental damage, Charlie Morton did not falter. In a city where it's easier to find a reason why our teams won't succeed, Morton was not going to allow anything to take this moment away from him, away from us.

As iconic as Joe Bucks " ground ball to the right side could do it" call was, the moment in which McCann rushed a shocked Morton will live in my head forever. Finally, it was over. The Astros had their championship. Charlie Morton had his World Series win. Houston had its hero.

Growing up, my father had a plethora of stories about his favorite moments in sports. I have listened to more stories about Luis Hernandez than I care to ever have. It is funny looking back now because I will be doing the same thing to my eventual children. When it comes time for me to share why I love sports so much, it will be hard for me to not start with Charlie Morton's performance in the 2017 World Series.

Morton gave the best two years of his career to the Astros, and through that helped make this team a championship city again. He will, without a doubt go down as a hero in Houston sports. More importantly, to me at least, Morton will go down as a member of my favorite team of all time, the 2017 Astros.

Goodbye, my friend. Thanks for the memories that will last a life time.

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