Ahh, Opening Day has come and gone, and all the hope, carried in bushels for certain teams expected to make waves in 2011, has given way to total panic.
Such is the cycle of the season.
Four prominent teams who are expected to compete for a playoff spot, at the very least, already have three losses. It should be noted that three games makes up about 1.9 percent of the entire baseball season, that three-game losing streaks happen all the time, and that the 1998 New York Yankees, who won a record 125 games all told, also lost their first three games.
On top of that, I’m an optimist, and an unabashed one at that. So, fear not, Major League aficionados, there’s still plenty for which you can remain hopeful. Just follow me through the league.
Tampa Bay Rays
So, Tampa was swept by the (possibly) resurgent Baltimore Orioles, and franchise cornerstone, third baseman Evan Longoria, landed on the disabled list after injuring his oblique muscle in Saturday’s game. Amazingly, considering Tampa’s horrendous first decade in the majors, this is the first time they’ve started a season 0-3.
But there’s plenty to like. While the offense was anemic, the pitching held Baltimore to 3, 4 and 5 runs in the first three games. David Price still went seven strong and struck out seven against a tough lineup, James Shields lasted 7.1 innings on Saturday and Wade Davis, despite eight hits, showed enough promise. If the lineup comes around, Tampa should be there in the end.
Already noted that they’re without the services of ace Zack Greinke and outfielder Corey Hart, the Brewers started off 0-3, swept away by the hands of the Cincinnati Reds. The first two games were at least close (7-6, 4-2), but Sunday was a blowout (12-3).
That’s the pessimist’s view, though. Looking closer, Rickie Weeks is already hitting with authority, with two home runs and a monstrous .923 slugging through the first weekend, and Ryan Braun is being his typical Ryan Braun self, adding two home runs of his own and slugging .909. Factor in that Prince Fielder will hit and Greinke will be back, and Milwaukee is just as likely as Reds, Cardinals and Cubs to contend for the National League Central.
Side note: I’m playing fantasy baseball for the first time in a few years, so it’s mildly amusing to me that I lost my two best players, Longoria and Grienke, to the disabled list before April 4. C’est la vie.
San Francisco Giants
The defending champs dropped three of four games to their rivals the Los Angeles Dodgers, including the opener (where Tim Lincecum didn’t even give up an earned run) and the fourth game, where they allowed four runs in the seventh inning, blowing open a tied 3-3 game.
But fear not, San Franciscans. With the twin aces, Lincecum still looked solid after a couple of sketchy innings to start Thursday, and Matt Cain looked good in six innings of Saturday’s 10-0 win. As far as the shakey bullpen, closer and resident crazy person Brian Wilson should be back in the bullpen soon. The rest of the National League West will fear the beard again.
Boston Red Sox
I’ll wrap up with my personal darlings here.
Boston was swept in rather inglorious fashion by the Texas Rangers this weekend, with starting pitchers Jon Lester, John Lackey and Clay Buchholz knocked around the yard in Arlington. On top of that, Carl Crawford, one of the twin jewels of the Red Sox’ offseason, was bumped down to seventh in the batting order by manager Terry Francona.
But, there’s David Ortiz. In Friday’s loss, Ortiz made things interesting, tying it 5-5 with a solo home run before the bullpen exploded. On Saturday, Ortiz again went deep, taking advantage of Arlington’s friendly confines to hit another one out. Remember that, last season, Ortiz hit .143 with one home run and four RBI in April. Of course you remember — the Boston media practically choked on their panic-induced vomit last month. To have Ortiz off to a good start at least crosses one worry off the list.
The rest will come around. Calm down, Rays, Brewers, Giants and Red Sox fans. April is always weird, and your favorite team will be there in the end. Or, it’s all over and this is the beginning. Either way, the only way to know is to keep watching and obsessing.