Who could ever have imagined such a thing?
With a Tuesday 0300 PDT start, the Aâ€™s—my sort of hometown favorite—will play the World Champion Red Sox who are verging on surpassing the New York Yankees as the sportâ€™s most obnoxious team. More on that in a few paragraphs.
Readily acknowledging that I am completely out of step with todayâ€™s baseball scene, I nevertheless recall with fondness that opening day, when I was a young man starting his professional career in New York, meant Yankee Stadium sitting in the spring sunshine, eating hot dogs and peanuts.
Had you told me forty years ago that baseball would throw its first pitch of 2008 in an indoor stadium in a foreign country with takoyaki (battered octopus nuggets) as the featured snack, I would have recommended you take a long rest.
The opening day mania centers around one of baseballâ€™s most overrated and overpaid players—Japanese hero Daisuke Matsuzaka, the $100 million pitcher who failed to get past the fifth inning in four of his five post-season starts last fall. And in his fifth appearance, Matsuzaka could only went 5 1/3.
Enthusiasm for the local hero is understandable but any rational fan would have to admit that Matsuzakaâ€™s rookie season in the U.S. fell far short of expectations.
Despite his obvious shortcomings, the local media refers to Matsuzaka as a â€?national treasureâ€? and some reporters predict that the â€?gyro-ball expertâ€? may no-hit the rebuilding, starless Aâ€™s. But baseball is a funny game. The Aâ€™s starting pitcher, Tennessee-born Joe Blanton, had a better 2007 than Matsuzaka, with his 14-10, 3.95 ERA (Matsuzaka, 15-12, 4.40) And the Aâ€™s, predictions of doom aside, won twice as many games as the Sox during spring training.
Wouldnâ€™t it be wonderful if the Aâ€™s pull off a surprise victory? The Red Sox deserve to be embarrassed.
Even though the Red Sox has fifteen players who earn more than $2 million annually and has the second highest payroll in baseball, the team tried to cut the players, coaches and trainers out of a $40,000 bonus—chump change to them—they insisted upon for themselves as inducement to go to Japan.
This chintzy behavior from the same Red Sox that gave the overweight and over-the-hill Curt Schilling a $2 million â€?weight incentiveâ€? on top of his $8 million contract if he can keep his bloated bodyfrom ballooning out of all proportion.I havenâ€™t figured out how fans can actually root for these guys—and the hundreds of major league players like them.
Most of you wonâ€™t be watching or listening to tomorrowâ€™s game. But coincidentally Iâ€™ll be making a long drive to and from the airport early tomorrow morning so Iâ€™ll be following the action live. And my fingers will be crossed that the youthful and rebuilding Aâ€™s bomb Dice-K.
That might bring the Red Sox down to earth, at least for a few days.