2012 MLB Opening Day: Bold Predictions for Each Team's 1st Game
Forget about the nonsense that took place in Japan last week. No one considers the series between the Seattle Mariners and the Oakland Athletics in the Tokyo Dome to be Opening Day for the 2012 MLB season.
The real season gets underway this Wednesday as the newly branded Miami Marlins take on the World Series champs St. Louis Cardinals.
With the MLB season being the longest in professional sports, Opening Day has the least amount of impact on the standings. The way you get started will rarely influence the end result and serves more as a symbolic beginning of spring for the country.
But that does not mean we can't have fun with some predictions. Here are some things we may not expect as our teams begin their long march to a pennant.
Arizona Diamondbacks: Kennedy Yanked in the 3rd
The Diamondbacks open the season up playing hosts to NL West rivals San Francisco. Arizona was able to outlast the team that finished second in the weak division in 2011, bettering them by 8 games.
However, things will not start out as smoothly for them this year. Ace, Ian Kennedy is set to get the start and will wish he had not.
The Giants will send some bombs off the righty, one of which will splash down in the pool. Kennedy will be out of the game before he even retires nine batters.
Atlanta Braves: Jason Heyward Silences Critics
Heyward had a rough sophomore season. All of his numbers dropped considerably due to everything from injury to a philosophical change in the way he approached the game.
But I am not expecting any of that this year around, beginning with his first at bat against the Mets. It will be a hit for multiple bases and the first of the 3-4 day at the plate.
Not to mention a highlight play in the outfield. Perhaps robbing a David Wright homer?
Baltimore Orioles: Jake Arrieta Throws a Complete Game Shutout
There is not much to get excited about if you have been a Orioles fan for the past decade or so. It’s tough going 15 years without winning an AL East title, let alone being irrelevant for a majority of them.
But with the new beginnings comes new hope and that hope will resonate in a complete game shutout young ace Jake Arrieta.
The Twins come into Camden yards, a matchup that has little intrigue outside of the two fan bases, but it is exactly these kinds of settings that set up perfectly for an amazing performance.
Boston Red Sox: Bobby Valentine Gets Tossed
The biggest move the Sox made this offseason was in head coach, “dismissing” Terry Francona and hiring Bobby Valentine. The move was criticized and praised all at once, but the results will have to play out during the season.
However, we may not be able to judge its effect from the first day.
One of the marquee matchups of the opening games, Boston heads to Detroit to take on Justin Verlander and the Tigers. It will surely be a good tight game and one being played on high emotions.
Those emotions will get the better of the already tightly wound Valentine as he protests the potential home field advantage Verlander seems to be getting with the strike zone.
Chicago White Sox: Adam Dunn Hits Two Homeruns
The White Sox big signing for the 2011 season, never lived up to his huge expectations in his first season in the Windy City. But this Spring he has already shown signs of improvement.
A .438 OPS and four homeruns in 48 plate appearances could indicate a turnaround season for him.
That turn will start in Texas as he hits two dingers off the Rangers in their opening game.
Chicago Cubs: Theo Epstein Will Get More Coverage Than the Players
It is amazing what little things look like immense hope when you have been deprived for so long. The arrival of Theo Epstein to the Cubs was herald by Chicago fans as the biggest arrival since William Wrigley Jr. bought the team.
Barring my own opinion about how good he really is, you can almost be certain that not an inning will go by in their game against Washington where Epstein’s name is not mentioned.
Cincinnati Reds: Reds Lose by Double Digits
As one of the NL Central favorites, the Reds face a stiff opening day against the newly branded Miami Marlins.
The Marlins will be coming off an embarrassing opening day loss (get to that later) and welcome getting away from the pressure building on them in South Florida. They will find the trip to Cincinnati welcoming and the Reds will be left scratching their heads.
No need to worry Cincinnatti fans. It’s a long season.
Cleveland Indians: Justin Masterson Throws a No Hitter Through 7
The Cleveland Indians get their season underway hosting the Toronto Blue Jays.
Masterson is penciled in to get the start and will be happy he did. Toronto will get off to the worst possible start on the season, as Masterson has a career game, throwing a no-hitter through the seventh inning.
Staticians and commentators will scramble to find the last time someone was so close to perfection on opening day. And doesn’t it set up nicely that it was Cleveland’s very own Bob Feller in the 1940 opener against the White Sox?
Colorado Rockies: Troy Tulowitzki Beats Minute Maid Park Homerun Distance Mark
Tulowitzki was recently in the news for being on the wrong end of a Ubaldo Jimenez fastball in Spring Training that started a rare bench clearing brawl in Arizona. Apparently these two have the kind of beef you would expect in the plot of Mean Girls.
But nonetheless it has ticked off the Colorado star. He will be looking to take out that anger on Astros Wandy Rodriguez’s pitches as the Rockies travel to Houston for opening day.
The current homerun distance record is held by former Astro Lance Berkman at 464 feet, but if Tulowitzki gets ahold of one, expect it to go much further.
Detroit Tigers: Prince Fielder Announces Himself with a Walk off Homer
The Tigers scored big this offseason, nabbing one of the best deep ball hitters in the game. Prince Fielder will probably have a quiet day against a Jon Lester who will be pitching well.
But it will almost surely be a close game between two early American League favorites and come down to the wire. Fielder will take advantage of a still struggling Sox bullpen and make his first bomb at Comerica Park, the one that wins them the game.
Houston Astros: Get Their First Loss in Second Straight 100 Plus Loss Season
Houston wants to forget about last season. It wasn’t quite the ’62 Mets, but it also was not something they want to relive. Their 106 losses was worst in the league and made them the laughing stock of the MLB.
Sadly for Houston fans, not much will be different this time around. It will not be a blowout as they open up at home against Colorado, but it will be enough to foreshadow another tough year of things to come.
Kansas City Royals: Beat the Angels
The most practical prediction out of this whole list is probably the one that will have many scratching their heads the most. The Royals drew the short end of the straw as they open their 2012 season in Anaheim against the overnight World Series contender Angels.
The likes of Albert Pujols and Jared Weaver, set to start opening day, will not intimidate the team from the heart of the country. It will be close, maybe coming down to a key hit in a late inning, but the Royals will pull out the victory.
Side bet: odds that Baseball tonight pulls out the Angels panic meter after this result?
Los Angeles Angles: Pujols Hits Homerun in First at Bat
The biggest free agent move of the summer had the game’s greatest hitter trading in the Baseball crazy town of St. Louis for the warm sunshine of southern California. It surprised everyone as it looked certain he would either stay in St. Louis or possibly move to Miami.
Pujols will take his first at bat in an America League uniform against Royals lefty Bruce Chen. The crowd will roar as his name is announced at a decibel level perhaps never heard at Angel Stadium. That noise will double in volume as his very first at bat leads to a bomb over the right-center fence.
Los Angeles Dodgers: A “Magic” Chant Starts in the Crowd
With the $2 billion takeover of the Dodgers official, Magic Johnson has again pleased the sports fans of LA with a glimmer of hope. The city's most popular athlete was a small part of the purchasing group, but by far the biggest name.
The Dodgers themselves look strong this year and it will be fun to watch if Matt Kemp can’t reach his even bolder prediction of being the first ever player in the 50-50 club. But until he does he will only be a shadow of popularity in relation to Magic.
Opening day will belong to LA’s legend.
Miami Marlins: The Homerun Feature Will Not Work
The Miami Marlins have changed who they are. Spending money on new players, changing their name and a brand new state-of-the art stadium is all there to prove baseball can survive in South Beach.
Will it though? Only time can tell.
But for now, Miami fans have something to be excited about. Most notably the certain Miami flair that resides out in center field. Much like the apple at the old Shea Stadium, the Marlins have their own homerun feature, a laser and water sculpture by artist Red Grooms that comes to life with every Miami homerun.
It has been praised for it's originality by some and scorned for being “fruity” by others. But on opening day, when a Marlin gets that first dinger in the new park, all 20,000 eyes turn toward it in anticipation, nothing will happen.
What else would you expect from the Marlins?
Milwaukee Brewers: Ryan Braun Goes 0-4 and the Speculation Starts
Braun had a very tough offseason, having to deal with the fallout from his positive test for PEDs. The over ruling of his suspension by an arbitrator did little to quiet critics as he got off on a technicality more than anything.
Braun has declared all along that there is more to the story than everyone knows. Even teammates have come out to back the claim. But we still all wonder why one of the games most likable players doesn’t just tell the truth.
It will all boil over opening day as they take on NL Central rivals St. Louis Cardinals. A tough day at the plate will lead to increase speculation about the truth.
Minnesota Twins: The First Four Batters Strikeout
My hands were kind of tied by my prediction for Baltimore, Minnesota’s opponent opening day. So instead of being contradictory I am going to have to be negative towards the Twins.
A tough afternoon for the AL Central contender as they never seem like they have a shot, having the first six batters go down without putting a ball in play. Four strikeouts to start the game for Baltimore’s Arrieta starts him off on his career day.
New York Mets: Stadium Is Half Empty by the 6th Inning
Oh to be a Mets fan, always living in the shadows of their big brother in the Bronx. Like always, hopes are high that this will be the season where they are able to actually make a run. Opening day against the Braves will see the stadium packed with fans and expectations.
But as the Braves go up six or seven runs halfway through the game, the fans will start to empty. Tickets that were once going on Stuhub for three times their face value will drop below that. And the season will be over before the last pitch of the first game.
New York Yankees: Sabathia Gets Shelled
CC Sabathia was the only given the Yankees had in the starting rotation last year. That will probably hold true this season as well.
However, his start opening day in Tampa will be one he would like to forget. Joe Maddon will have his young team up and ready to play the big bad Bronx Bombers in the first game of the season. Evan Longoria goes deep twice early to help set the tone for run fest at Tropicana Field.
Oakland Athletics: Yoenis Cespedes Goes 4-4 at the Plate
I know the A’s game against the Mariners is not technically their first of the season, but we are ignoring that junk that took place overseas.
Oakland’s big winter acquisition was the Cuban center fielder Cespedes. The highly touted player already made an impression in Japan with a double and a homerun. Back state side at the O.co Coliseum, he will impress the home fans in person with a sensational day at the plate.
His four hits will lead the majors after day one, giving the fans something to be excited about.
Philadelphia Phillies: A Late Homerun Wins It for the NL Favorites
Philadelphia is still the strong team in the NL East and the one many will pick to represent the league in the World Series. But their first test at Pittsburgh will be a tough one.
For all the talent they are loaded with, Philadelphia will find themselves trailing late against an up and coming Pirates squad. Going into the late innings they will need to create something out of nothing as they look like they could lose their opener.
However, the heart of the order comes up and one of the crushers they have in the middle puts one out to secure the victory.
Pittsburgh Pirates: They Can’t Close It out
It is going to be remarkably similar to what happened last season and leave Pittsburgh fans with a horrifying case of deja vu. The Pirates, who played well at the beginning of the 2011 season, fell apart in the second half to drop them out of the playoff hunt.
Their opener against the Phillies will have a remarkably similar feel as the home crowd wills them on to an early lead. But it all collapses late as the power of Philadelphia is too much to withstand.
San Diego Padres: Cameron Maybin Steals Three Bases
As a long struggling Padres fan, I know how difficult it could be to watch some of their games. With no big power guys, a field that sucks up long balls and a pitching staff that is good, but not dominating, it could sometimes feel more like a stress test than anything.
The Pads will try to change that on opening day visiting Dodger stadium.
Cameron Maybin will have a good day at the plate, getting on base at least three times and taking second on each.
Speed is the one thing the Pads have to brag about. Why not make some entertainment out of it?
San Francisco Giants: Tim Linceum Goes the Distance
While it may be a tough outing for Arizona’s Kennedy, Lincecum’s opposition on opening day, The Giants ace will go the full nine.
Fresh off spring training, the wiry right hander will have no issue in a complete game as he easily routinely batters in five pitches or less.
Seattle Mariners: Ichiro Goes Hitless
Again, let’s pretend that opening day means for the States.
Ichiro may be leading the league right now in batting (.444), but he will still be a bit homesick upon returning to America. The Japanese batting legend performed excellently in front of his real home fans, but will struggle in Oakland as the Mariners take on the A’s.
Nothing to get worried about. He will probably go 5-5 the very next day.
St. Louis Cardinals: Lance Berkman Hits the First Homerun at Marlins Park
While some Marlin will hit a homerun for my earlier prediction, it will not be the first one hit at the new stadium. Lance Berkman and his manly beard will step up to the plate in the first or second inning and hit an absolute shot that takes the air out of the building.
It is only fitting for Fins fans with all the controversy and debate surrounding this stadiums development, that the first awe moment of it comes off the bat of an opposing player.
Tampa Bay Rays: Shields Gets Shelled Too
Don’t think that I have some kind of anti-Yankee bias from my prediction for them. James Shields will find it an equally frustrating day on the mound for Tampa.
I see this being a double digit run game for both teams, where the combined run total reaches 25. Both sides will be looking to get the upper hand in the division and play aggressive ball to intimidate their rivals into knowing that this is their year.
It will be the best game to watch on opening day.
Texas Rangers: Surprisingly Get Shut out
For one of the best lineups in all of baseball, the Rangers will struggle to get players across the plate opening day. This does not mean they will not get players on base, but their trips will end before they cross home.
Do not worry Texas fans, this is not indicative of your season. It will just be a meaningless blip where things just don’t go right. Bad hops, great defensive plays and a strong outing by White Sox John Danks keeps the goose egg on the home team’s half of the scoreboard.
Toronto Blue Jays: Blue Jays Get the Win
Now, this may not seem very bold as is, but read in relation to what I have predicted for their opponents, the Indians.
After Masterson gives up a hit, Indian’s manager Manny Acta pulls the starter for the relievers to close out the game. That is where the bats of Toronto take over.
Big innings in the eighth and ninth help the Jays overcome a small deficit and what looked to be a terrible way to start the season, leaves the fans and players elated with joy.
Washington Nationals: Strasburg Strikes out 14 Batters
The Nationals are trying to do everything right. They are not spending big in the offseason. They drafting some good talent and are not pushing them along too fast. They may be two or three years away from being contenders, but their opening day game in Chicago will show the league what the future holds.
Stephen Strasburg is still coming into his own, and though Tommy John surgery has delayed his arrival, it was more precautionary than anything.
He will get his first big time start opening day and show everyone why he was the no. 1 overall pick in the 2009 draft.
And the Boldest Prediction of All…
Sports Center will have baseball in the A-block!!!
Could you imagine that?! What a world that would be where the nation’s biggest sports media outlet actually decides to talk about the opening day of America’s pastime!
I know it is highly unlikely though. I don’t know how they can possibly risk bumping Jon Gruden’s Quarterback camp down on the list. I too see a difficulty in going a whole day without being told Andrew Luck will win the Colts 14 Super Bowls. Or how Robert Griffin III is the Vick, Brees and Brady all wrapped into Usain Bolt’s legs.
But hey, it would be nice if they actually reported on what’s happening in sports once in a while. A guy can dream can’t he?
What Are Your Predictions for Opening Day?
Now before I get hounded for making the atrocious assumptions, let me remind you these are meant to be “bold”. Obviously there is a fine line between bold and stupid, something the fine intellectuals of Spinal Tap ponder on.
If every single one of these instances were to occur, it could go down as the most exciting day in baseball history. But odds are only a few if any will take place.
So with that in mind, which do you look forward to most? Do you have any bold predictions yourself?
As always, please leave your comments below and thanks for reading!
Follow me on Twitter: @thecriterionman