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Posts Tagged ‘Opening Day’

(In addition to appearing at The Captain’s Blog, this post is also being syndicated at TheYankeeAnalysts.)

By going 0-5 with three double plays, Albert Pujols turned in one of the most forgettable Opening Days in major league history, which means it will likely be remembered for a long time.

Worst Opening Day Performances, 1957-2011

Player Date Tm PA H GDP WPA RE24
Paul Konerko 4/3/2000 CHW 4 0 2 -0.110 -3.23
Albert Pujols* 3/31/2011 STL 5 0 3 -0.430 -3.09
Josh Bard 3/31/2003 CLE 6 0 0 -0.414 -3.07
Vernon Wells 4/1/2002 TOR 6 0 0 -0.252 -3.04
Tony Horton 4/12/1966 BOS 6 0 2 -0.494 -2.98
Mike Bordick 4/2/1997 BAL 5 0 0 -0.194 -2.95
Trot Nixon 4/5/1999 BOS 4 0 1 -0.267 -2.91
Victor Martinez 4/5/2004 CLE 6 0 1 -0.274 -2.90
Glenallen Hill 4/3/2001 ANA 4 0 2 -0.546 -2.86
Mike Devereaux 4/26/1995 CHW 4 0 1 -0.147 -2.83
J.J. Hardy 4/7/2009 MIL 5 0 2 -0.229 -2.82

RE24 is defined as the number of runs that batter contributed during a game based on the base/out situations during his plate appearances.
Source: baseball-reference.com and (*)fangraphs.com

Tuffy Rhodes salutes the crowd after hitting his third home run on Opening Day in 1994. Rhodes would hit 10 more homeruns over the rest of his career.

Despite being only one game of 162, events that take place on Opening Day seem to have a much longer shelf life, especially when the player’s ability contrasts sharply with his performance. For example, 493 players have hit three homeruns in a game, including some of the game’s best all-time players. However, if you ask most baseball fans to rattle off a few names from the list, Karl “Tuffy” Rhodes is likely to mentioned, even before the likes of Willie Mays, Lou Gehrig and Mike Schmidt (who all hit four). Rhodes wasn’t the only improbable player to go deep three times in a game (Otto Velez, Tony Solaita, and Jeff Treadway all did it), nor was he the only man to accomplish the feat on Opening Day (George Bell and Dmitri Young also hit a game one trifecta*). However, Rhodes was the only forgettable player to record this memorable accomplishment in his team’s first game, a combination that has given him a slice of immortality.

*Interestingly, Bell, Rhodes and Young all accomplished the feat on the same date, April 4, in 1988, 1994, and 2005, respectively.

Unfortunately for Pujols, his 2011 opener falls on the other side of history. The Cardinals’ slugger isn’t the first person to hit into three double plays. In fact, almost 100 have. However, Pujols is the first to do it on Opening Day. If he was a lesser player, this poor timing would eventually be forgotten, but because of his historic stature, yesterday’s futility will likely remain a trivial footnote on his great career. If his sense of humor is as good as Joe Torre‘s, who credited Felix Milan with helping him ground into four double plays (a major league record), Pujols could point out that his “achievement” wouldn’t have been possible without Colby Rasmus, who was forced at second each time.

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For a few years in the 1990s, Opening Day wasn’t exactly a time of new hope and great expectations for Yankees fans. Younger followers of the team probably can’t fathom the idea of a season beginning with the Yankees staring down the barrel of last place, but such was the case two decades ago.

Considering the team’s extended run of success, it’s easy to lose perspective, which for today’s Yankee fan means overlooking a potent offense, deep bullpen and rotation fronted by a genuine ace to instead fret about the fifth starter. However, 20 years ago, the team’s Opening Day pitcher was a fifth starter, and it only went down hill from there.

TYA has a nice breakdown of the Yankees’ last 20 opening day games. Included on the list is a three year period in which the Yankees trotted out the likes of Dave LaPoint, Tim Leary and Scott Sanderson for the first game of the season. Clearly, optimism is a relative term.

Thanks in large part to a new young manager named Buck Showalter, 1992 would be the last time the Yankees started a year without a reasonable expectation for success. This year, Showalter will try to work the same magic for the Baltimore Orioles, who have suffered through an extended period of futility that makes the Yankees’ previous drought seem like a small island in the ocean.

So, in case you’ve forgotten what it was like to get ready for a season of discontent, here’s a friendly reminder from Dewayne Staats.

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Opening Day is always a joyous occasion, but if Jorge Posada’s afternoon is tinged with a touch of remorse, it’ll be easy to understand. For the first time in 12 years, Posada will be watching the first pitch of the season from the dugout instead of catching it behind the plate.

With Posada’s string of consecutive Opening Day starts at the same position coming to an end at 11, Bill Dickey can now rest easy because the Hall of Fame catcher’s franchise record of 14 is safe for the foreseeable future. Posada’s installation as the DH also prevented the Yankees from fielding the exact same starting nine on consecutive Opening Days for the first time ever, dating back to 1919.

If not for a strained thigh muscle in 2001, Jeter would be making history with his 16th consecutive Opening Day start at the same position. Instead, he’ll have to settle for matching Dickey for the second most Opening Day starts with 15. If Jeter cracks the lineup in each season of his new deal, the Captain would match Mickey Mantle’s franchise record of 18. Whether he can do that playing short stop remains to be seen, but it’s worth noting that the Mick’s last two openers came at first base.

Listed below is an assortment of team and player Opening Day facts and figures to keep you busy until the start of this afternoon’s game.

Yankees Opening Day Starters, 1919-2010

Most Opening Day Starts   Most Common Opening Day Lineup
Players G   Po  Player G
Mickey Mantle 18   C Bill Dickey 15
Bill Dickey 15   1B Lou Gehrig 14
Lou Gehrig 14   2B Willie Randolph 13
Derek Jeter 14   SS Derek Jeter 14
Bernie Williams 14   3B Graig Nettles 11
Willie Randolph 13   LF Roy White 9
Babe Ruth 13   CF Mickey Mantle 13
Yogi Berra 12   RF Hank Bauer 8
Graig Nettles 11   SP Whitey Ford 7
Jorge Posada 11   SP Ron Guidry 7
Phil Rizzuto 11   SP Mel Stottlemyre 7

Source: Baseball-reference.com

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