At last. It's finally here. Even with the postseason, and then (here in Arizona, anyway) the Fall League, it still seems like long time since there's been "proper" baseball. And yesterday hardly counts. There's no longer any reason to like the Red Sox, since they've cast off the mantle of lovable losers: they're now just another team with a lot more money than AZ. So having them go up against the Evil Empire is like watching a fight on Jerry Springer - it's fun, but whoever wins, humanity loses... [And I'd just like to say, Alien vs. Predator pretty much sucked]
There were a number of ex-D'backs involved though, with three of our former roster in action. Johnson got the win, of course, but another old snake was rather less successful: Matt Mantei, whose Red Sox debut was not one he'll remember fondly. 2/3 of an innings, three walks, an unearned run and a two-run homer, the first of the 2005 season, to Matsui [who also posted the first contender for defensive play of the year]. As for Mantei, he burned a lot of bridges here with his whiny, prima-donna attitude, and I think I speak for a lot of fans when I say: "Hah!" Tony Womack did a lot better, going 3-for-5, though did hit into a double play.
With that little sideshow passed, it's onto the real thing, with the first game for the Diamondbacks this afternoon. Unfortunately, I'm working, so while I'll get to see the first pitch, I won't be able to watch the rest of the contest. This will be the first time I haven't seen it live since 2000: then, it was for the rather good reason that I was living in the UK. On Athletics Nation, Blez makes a very good case for making Opening Day a national holiday. Instead, I will just have to see if I can keep a very small window tucked away on my console somewhere, for monitoring purposes. ;-)
Over at Cub Town, Alex and Jim were kind/bored/deluded enough to ask me my opinion about the upcoming series against the long-suffering Chicago blue crew, so I pontificated. [Can you still pontificate when, as at this moment, there isn't actually a pontiff? Discuss...] Zambrano vs. Vazquez should be a good match-up, but I think we've got the edge today.
Over the past couple of weeks, over at the right, been asking for people's opinions and predictions on various (un)important questions about the imminent season. Here's a quick swing through the answers:
1. Season record
Ooh. Very even. Exactly even, in fact, with precisely half the responses going for below .500, half for .500 or better. Only two went for less than 70 or more than 90. The specific figures mentioned in the comments average out at 79.5. How accurate these figures are, remains to be seen. You could argue we are better informed than most casual observers; or you could argue we, as fans, will invariably be more optimistic than an unbiased neutral.
2. Player with best BA
We're letting history be our guide here, with Chad Tracy - who has the best BA among the current roster last season - getting 40% of the vote, more than twice as much as the next player. Gonzo, Glaus and Jose Cruz also made it into double digits.
3. Slugger with most HR
In the biggest landslide among these polls, Troy Glaus got more than three times the votes of everyone else combined, with 76%. And I think most of these were actually cast before Thursday's 2-homer, 5-RBI game against the World Champions (or a facsimile thereof). But it's hard to argue; Glaus has looked remarkably good in spring training, and fingers crossed this will carry over.
4. Starter with most wins
Almost as big a landslide here, Javier Vazquez being the popular choice of 7 out of 10 on the voting panel. But where's the love for our alleged #2 starter, Russ Ortiz? Nobody voted for him at all? Hell, even Shawn Estes got picked...and I'd like to thank Mrs. Estes for taking the time to stop by the board. ;-) Brandon Webb was runner-up, and if his sinkerball sinks well, is certainly a viable dark horse.
5. Reliever with best ERA
Brandon Lyon's phenomenal spring training swayed a lot of voters, gaining him a clear majority of all ballots. The rest were evenly spread around our relievers, though no-one expects Greg Aquino to repeat his strong performance from last year. Nor has Randy Choate impressed anyone, and the opinion of the panel suggests perhaps that Shane Nance should not sign a long-term lease in Tucson. [Please note: the second half of our reliever (neo-)preview will follow tomorrow. Probably. :-)]
And with that, I can only echo Stefan's sentiments on Random Fandom, where he expressed the perfect sentiment for the day with his typical eloquence: