Another Opening Day has Arrived; Death of Staub A Black Cloud over Flushing no matter the weather

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Hi all.  Here’s how I see baseball on Opening Day, Thursday, March 29, 2017.

Baseball fans across this great land have circled Opening Day on their calendar every year since Time

Immemorial. The two leagues we know today, National and American have played steady schedules since 1901. Neither war nor economic collapse has stopped the game.  This is another Opening Day from Miami to Toronto, New York to Los Angeles and fans worldwide can watch and listen.

When the Mets start play in Flushing, they will pause to honor Daniel “Rusty” Staub who passed away this morning. He was  73.  When the Mets got him from the Expos in 1972, I hadn’t a clue he had nearly 10 years’ experience in the majors.  The facts show he broke in with the Houston Colt .45’s in 1963 and lasted until 1985. In that time he hit .279, with over 2700 hits and jolting almost 300 home runs. He was an All-Star 6 times over-steadily from 1967–71 and again in 1976, this time with the Tigers. He learned French during his stint with the Expos where he gained the nickname “Le Grand Orange” which he would later use on TV commercials. To get him, the Mets had to give up current Yankee broadcaster Ken Singleton among others.  My enduring memory of Rusty is an outstanding catch he made in game 4 of the 1973 NLCS against the Reds’ Dan Driessen.  With the score 1-1 and 2 men on, Driessen hit a tremendous shot on which Rusty had to crash into the wall, injuring his shoulder.  He was at his best in the World Series, shoulder injury or not.     the series went the full 7 games, during which Staub hit .423. He was the first Met to pass 100 RBIS, a feat no Met would equal until 1986. When he was done playing, he spent a decade broadcasting Mets’ games on TV.  He also opened two restaurants, neither of which exists today.  He died after spending two months in a Florida hospital.  R I P

When today’s game begins in Flushing, with the flag at half mast, the Cardinals will bring Carlos Martinez as their starting pitcher.  The Cardinals have just recently signed Greg Holland for their bull pen.  Noah Syndergaard will be “carrying the mail” as oldtime broadcasters said of starting pitchers.  He owes the fans a lot following the fiasco a season ago.

The Mets aren’t the first game to be played today.  The Cubs and Marlins meet in Miami.  Gone are the days when Cincinnati played the only game on Opening Day.  As a matter of fact, the Reds and Pirates don’t play at all today. The Pirates will open against the Tigers tomorrow. The Reds and Nationals also play their initial game tomorrow.    The Cubs go with John Lester, making his 7th Opening Day start.  The Marlins counter with Jose Urena who unexpectedly won 14 games a year ago. The Twins and Orioles meet in Baltimore.  The Twins hand the ball to Jake Odorizzi who they acquired from the Rays during the offseason.  Dylan Bundy has the task to start for the Orioles. Bundy was their ace a year ago, as a rookie. WHOA BUNDY! (take 10 points extra if you know what that means.)

The world champion Astros begin the defense of their crown in Arlington against the Rangers. This will be the 10th Opening Day start for Justin Verlander.  The first 9 were with the Tigers.  The Rangers’ starter is Cole Hamels who was last year’s initial starter.  5 times he was the first pitcher out of the gate for the Phillies. The Yankees begin the year north of the border, playing indoors at Rogers Center in Toronto.   Luis Severino starts the first game for the Bronx Bombers. He and his mound opponent J. A. Happ have never made an Opening Day start until today. The Blue Jays meant to start the year with Marcus Stroman but his shoulder injury left an opening for Happ. The Red Sox will set sail for the season with Chris Sale on the hill.  3 times before, he was the Opening Day starter for the White Sox.  The Rays counter with Chris Archer.  He has been the Rays’ initial starter the last 3 seasons and has had a losing record for all 3 of those seasons.  The Angels start the year in Oakland against the Athletics, who were nearly the worst team in the game a year ago.  Of the 2 starting pitchers, Garrett Richards and Kendall Graveman, none has a first name. Last year’s surprise team-the Brewers-open the year in San Diego against the Padres.  The Brewers open the pennant chase with Chase Anderson.  He wouldn’t have the nod today if Jimmy Nelson were healthy, but the Brewers’ ace is still recovering from shoulder surgery. Clayton Richard is the best the Padres can offer, which is as good a sign as any that they will be battling the Giants and Phillies for the worst spot in the NL.  Speaking of the Phillies, they open in Atlanta.  Aaron Nola goes for the visitors against the Braves’ best, Julio Teheran.  This is his 5th straight Opening Day assignment, which no other Atlanta Brave has done.  The White Sox and Royals meet at Kaufman Stadium in Kansas City.  The White Sox send veteran lefty James Shields, making his 8th Opening Day appearance spread among 4 teams. I covered his games when he was a teenager in the Devil_ Rays’ organization, and he will turn 36 this season.  Danny Duffy, who started the first game for the Royals last year will do it again today. The Giants start last year’s surprise rookie star Ty Blach against the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw. This will be 8 openers in a row for him, a Dodgers’ record. The Indians send out last year’s Cy Young winner, Corey Kluber to face the Mariners’ King Felix Hernandez. The last time the Rockies and D-Backs met, it was an insane wild card game last season. John Gray started that game which the Rockies ultimately lost. He starts today against Patrick Corbin. He put up a 14-13 record for the D-Backs a year ago.

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