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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Houston drops the game to Arizona

D-backs outslug Greinke and Astros to take series opener

Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images

With the series win over the Rangers by taking two of three games in the middle of the week, the Astros welcomed the Diamondbacks to Minute Maid Park for a three-game weekend series, Houston's final three regular-season home games. Here is how the opener unfolded:

Final Score: Diamondbacks 6, Astros 3.

Record: 25-26, second in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Zac Gallen (2-2, 3.00 ERA).

Losing pitcher: Luis Garcia (0-1, 2.53 ERA).

Houston scores first, but Arizona grabs a lead against Greinke

Houston would get on the board first on Friday night, with George Springer reaching base in the bottom of the first on an error, moving to second on a walk, then to third on a single, as the Astros loaded the bases with no out to threaten a big inning. Instead, they would come away with just one run, with Springer taking home on a wild pitch, grabbing the 1-0 lead, but leaving runs on the table.

They doubled their lead in the bottom of the third, getting a two-out RBI-double by Kyle Tucker to make it a 2-0 Houston lead. The D-backs responded in the top of the fourth, getting back-to-back singles to lead off the inning before a three-run homer by Kole Calhoun off of Zack Greinke would put Arizona in front, 3-2. Greinke would finish one more inning before Houston would move to their bullpen, striking out the side to bring his total to nine on the night, making the bad fourth inning the one blemish on his night. His final line: 5.0 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 0 BB, 9 K, 1 HR, 89 P.

Astros tie it, but D-backs take the opener

George Springer would get Greinke off the hook in the bottom of the fifth, leading off the half-inning with a solo bomb to tie the game at 3-3. Luis Garcia was first out of Houston's bullpen and retired Arizona in order for a 1-2-3 inning in the top of the sixth. He returned for the top of the seventh but would allow a leadoff single, RBI-triple, and wild pitch to bring in two runs. He would face two more batters, allowing a double and getting a strikeout, before Dusty Baker would come out to get him, now down 5-3.

Blake Taylor would make his return from the IL after Garcia, getting back-to-back outs to finish the inning. He continued on in the 5-3 game in the top of the eighth, but allowed a one-out solo homer to Calhoun, his second of the night and fourth RBI. That made it a 6-3 D-backs lead, which would go final as Houston would go scoreless after Springer's home run back in the fifth.

Up Next: The middle game of this three-game set will start Saturday at 6:10 PM Central. The pitching matchup will be Luke Weaver (1-7, 6.70 ERA) for Arizona and Cristian Javier (4-2, 3.22 ERA) for Houston.

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