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

Houston Astros/Facebook

"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.

Most Popular

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome

Listen Live

ESPN Houston 97.5 FM
The Astros suffered a heartbreaking loss to the Yankees Thursday. Composite image by Brandon Strange.

After an impressive two-game sweep of the NL-best Mets at home earlier in the week, the Astros took to the road to begin a four-game series with the league-best Yankees on Thursday night. To little surprise, the series started with a bang (no, not a trash can bang) in more ways than one, confirming that this series should be a must-watch this weekend.

New York's comeback proves no lead will be safe

Right from the get-go, the loud Yankee Stadium faithful had their chance to rain boos down on Jose Altuve before showing some pleasure as he led off the series by being hit by a pitch. They were quickly, though only temporarily, quieted as Altuve would come in to score two batters later on a three-run blast by Alex Bregman.

Three-run homers seemed to be a theme, as New York would get one of their own to tie the game off the bat of Giancarlo Stanton to tie the game, then Yordan Alvarez continued his dominant June by pushing the Astros back in front by three with another three-run bomb in the third, making it 6-3. That lead held through to the bottom of the ninth, where instead of holding it, Ryan Pressly issued two walks to set up the fourth homer of the game to tie things again before Aaron Judge would get a walk-off single to complete the impressive comeback.

Not only will we get to sit back and watch the slug-fest between Yordan and Judge this weekend, but it looks like with Alex Bregman swinging well again to round out the top of Houston's order, the Astros may be getting closer to their full power. So far in June, these two teams sit third and fourth in on-base percentage, with the Astros at .351 and the Yankees right behind at .350. That means we should continue to see scoring opportunities on both sides that can tilt momentum one way or the other as these lineups try to battle against the opposing pitcher.

How will the aces fare

Verlander vs. Judge, and Cole vs. Alvarez, need I say more? Although we won't see Justin Verlander go up against Gerrit Cole in the same game in this series (they should go head to head next Thursday, however), they will pitch on back-to-back days, with Houston's ace going Friday night and New York's on Saturday afternoon. Verlander is coming off his worst start of the year, a three and two-thirds inning outing where the White Sox put up seven runs, four earned, against him and knocked him out early to give him his third loss and increased his ERA from 1.94 to 2.30.

The last time he faced the Yankees was in the Bronx in the 2019 playoffs, in ALCS Game 5, where he went seven frames while allowing four runs, all on two homers in the first inning, which is all New York needed to grab the 4-1 victory to make it a 3-2 Houston lead in the series, which the Astros would go on to clinch in Game 6. So, with the double dose of bad taste in his mouth, it will be interesting to see if he can use that as the fuel to get back to the phenomenal form he's had this year or if the Yankees try to jump on him early like they did nearly three years ago.

Cole, meanwhile, is fresh off of two quality starts in a row against the Rays, where he allowed just one run on six hits with nineteen strikeouts over 13.1 innings of work. He's had his share of strife this season, though, including a seven-run shelling by the Twins earlier this month, along with a start in April where he couldn't make it through two innings against the Tigers. He's had success against his former club, most notably a complete-game shutout in Houston last July with twelve K's and holding the Astros to just three hits.

If the series opener was any indication, we are in for the treat of a playoff-caliber matchup, if not a potential ALCS preview that we may see in October. The Yankees showed why they have the best record and are the hottest team in baseball on Thursday night, but the Astros were only a good outing from their closer away from having a relatively lopsided win. The rivalry is real; the competition is close, and we get to enjoy the show.

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome