Delayed, but not done, Opening Day still a treat to look forward to this year

When Opening Day gets here, baseball will bring the feels

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"Opening Day" Perhaps the two best words in all of sports, next to "Game Seven" This week Major League Baseball was scheduled to have "Opening Day" throughout the league, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the official start (like so much of our lives) remains uncertain. MLB is not foreign to having delays or disruptions to their season. In my lifetime, there have been multiple, not just in the aftermath of 9/11 either.

Does anyone recall 1981? That particular season was interrupted by a two month strike that ended just in time to award first half division titles while then playing a short second season to create the first three-tiered playoff format. This of course worked out fine for the Yankees and Dodgers, who ended up in the World Series, while the team with the best overall record that year, (The Cincinnati Reds) ended up completely out of the playoff picture.

In 1994, the final few months of the regular season, and ultimately World Series were canceled along with the start of the 95' season due to a labor dispute between the Owners & Players. In 95', the regular season was reduced to 144 games. Fast forward to 2020, and it's hard to imagine any games being played before Memorial Day. Some of the questions that MLB will encounter will be how far do they push games ? Will the World Series be played as families are sitting down for Thanksgiving Dinner?

My first "Opening Day" was at Old Comiskey Park in 1984, a loss to the Detroit Tigers with my Dad. How many of you have memories of skipping school in early April, to go with a Dad or Uncle ? The Tigers would go on to start that season with a record of 35-5, while easily capturing the World Series in the Fall. Throughout the years, it was "Opening Day" with family members, friends or work colleagues that made memories at the ballpark so special. The "New Comiskey" would open several years later in 1991, and the White Sox would lose again, to those same Detroit Tigers. All told, I've attended "Opening Day" as a media member (or fan) 17 times in my life. Every team has optimism and a "hope" on "Opening Day"



This year I couldn't wait to see "who" in the AL would challenge Mike Trout for MVP Honors. Could it possibly be his own teammate (fully healthy) Shohei Ohtani? I was planning over Astros HOF Weekend in August to seeing Vlad Guerrero Jr for the first time in person when they were slated to play, even purchasing seats down the third base line. Vlad having just turned 21 is one of the young ascending stars and "new faces" poised to dominate the game over the next decade. And of course, I was eager in seeing "how" Dusty Baker would navigate the stormy waters for the Astros amid trash cans and buzzers, and all of that mess.

I do know one thing, the game I love so much, cannot return soon enough. Baseball has played a vital role throughout time in "healing" the country, and providing entertainment, while also strengthening memories and family bonds. My Grandmother, Brother & Sister liked nothing more than going to baseball games with me. Occasionally, I'd drag my parents as well, like the time my Dad discarded all of his peanut shells into a guys cup of beer without knowing! Haha. I wouldn't trade those memories at the ballpark for anything. When MLB's season does return with "Opening Day" the worst will be behind us, and all of us can have optimism and hope return in our lives once again, just as the teams will for the 2020 seasonal pursuits.

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The media has mixed feelings about the James Harden trade. Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

James Harden was 100-percent exactly right earlier this week when he said the Houston Rockets were "just not good enough."

How could they be? Not when their moody superstar scorer, who makes about half a million dollars per game, shows up chubby, looking like a kielbasa about to explode in the microwave. Hey, some people eat when they're unhappy, it's a defense mechanism. In Harden's case, the only defense he's exhibited this season. At least he had a good excuse for missing pre-season training camp and alienating his teammates - he was busy partying with Cinnamon and Cherish in Atlanta and Vegas without a mask. Worst of all, he went into the tank his last four games in a Rockets uniform, standing around, arms folded, scoring fewer than 20 points each time, all Rockets losses. Fans in the front row were asking him to move, he was blocking their view of players who cared about winning. James Harden sabotaged his own team, a team that offered him $50 million a year to stay. Something that crazy could only happen in professional sports these days.

There's a saying that drives the American labor movement: "a fair day's wage for a fair day's work." It's the motto of the American Federation of Labor. The National Basketball Players Association is not a member. Harden's sulking on the court, cheating the Rockets and their fans, was unforgivable.

Harden, sitting out games while somehow being on the court, forced the Rockets to trade him - and quick - to Brooklyn. The trade, when you ignore the fine print and unindicted co-conspirators Cleveland and Indiana, sent Harden to Brooklyn in exchange for Caris LeVert (immediately flipped for Victor Oladipo), Jarrett Allen, three first-round draft picks and four swapped first-rounders. It's true, when you trade a superstar, you never get back equal value. The other team wins.

If it makes Rockets fans feel any better, the media in New York already has problems with their new problem child. I should say newest problem child. Kyrie Irving plays for the Nets.

"They (the Nets) gave up everybody! There's nothing left now. I just want to cry, It's awful," weeped WFAN Radio talk host Evan Roberts. For those who don't subscribe to weekly Arbitron ratings reports, WFAN is the most powerful, top-rated sports talk station in the Apple.

"You're leading down the road of doom. Harden and Durant could be gone in a year and a half. I'm not convinced this gives them a better chance to win a title. I'm living a nightmare again. They better freaking win."

Circle March 3 on your Rockets schedule. That's when the Brooklyn Nets, with their Big 3 of Kevin Durant, James Harden and possibly Kyrie Irving visit Toyota Center. I hear talk radio salivating over the record jeers that will cascade over Harden's name, although I'm not buying it. Fans don't think like the media does. I'm thinking that Rockets fans will welcome Harden back - one night only - with cheers.

Toyota Center public address announcer Matt Thomas: "Usually when former Rockets come to town for the first time since leaving, I give them a positive introduction. It's up to the fans how to react."

James Harden spent eight seasons with the Rockets. He is a spectacular player who watched other NBA players engineer trades so they could compete for a title. Harden didn't think the Rockets were good enough, and he's right. So he wanted out. We've all been there, a job we didn't like for a company we didn't like, for a boss we didn't respect. Harden wanting to be traded is understandable. How he went about it was deplorable. He hurt his co-workers.

Houston will make Harden pay for his disrespectful departure. He has an upscale restaurant set to open here. The name of the steakhouse will be "13." Harden's business partners may want to change that number ... before the restaurant's telephone number is disconnected. There are plenty of other restaurants in Houston. Rich people who can afford steakhouse prices hold grudges.

Rockets fans searching for a silver lining say, "We got two decent players and a whole bunch of precious first-round picks" for a malcontent who would rather be anywhere (except maybe Sacramento) than Houston." Yes, a bunch of first-round picks does bode well for the future. Anywhere, except maybe Houston.

Houston's draft war room isn't the most successful operation in the NBA. Over the past decade prior to 2000, under the direction of general manager Daryl Morey, the Rockets made 16 draft picks. Not one of them is still in a Rockets uniform, many of them have sought employment outside of America, some outside of basketball. Among their first-round whiffs: Nikola Mirotic, Terrence Jones, Sam Dekker - all out of the league. Best of all, Royce White, who played three whole games in his NBA career and finished with a scoring average of 0.00 points per game.

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