MLB: Biggest takeaways from Opening Weekend
The first weekend of baseball is in the books, and this season is going to be a fun ride.
The first weekend of MLB Opening Weekend is in the books, and what a weekend it was. Star players had great performances, new managers experienced the usual growing pains, and some teams even surprised everyone with their performance. It’s just one weekend, but parts of it certainly set the tone for what to expect for the rest of the season.
Did Giancarlo Stanton live up to the hype in his New York Yankees debut? Will one seemingly boneheaded manager learn from his serious mistakes? Will one team everyone has given up on so far actually be, well, decent?
There were a lot of things to take away from this first weekend of baseball, so let’s jump right in and get at the biggest ones.
The Stanton hype is real
Reigning NL MVP Giancarlo Stanton’s first days as a New York Yankee were just as advertised. The 6’6″ power hitter picked up right where he left off with his 59 homers last season and slugged two in his Yankee debut against the Toronto Blue Jays. Once teammate and reigning AL Rookie of the Year Aaron Judge gets his wheels under him and finds his stroke after slugging 52 home runs in 2017, this lineup is going to be fun to watch.
And Stanton didn’t just impress at the plate, where he posted an impressive line of .286/.444/.857 with two homers and four RBI to start the year. Early injuries to outfielders Aaron Hicks and Billy McKinney pushed him into his first career start in left field yesterday. Stanton answered the bell and recorded his one putout via a long fly ball from the powerful Kendrys Morales.
It’s a small sample size, but everything Stanton showcased implies he will be a strong fit on his new team.
Managers’ growing pains
A new manager will always have growing pains that they eventually overcome, as Yankees skipper Aaron Boone learned yesterday when opting to intentionally walk Josh Donaldson and have his pitcher take his chances with Justin Smoak, who already had a home run in the game and then hit a go-ahead grand slam. The growing pains showcased this weekend, however, take the proverbial cake to a new degree.
First-year Boston Red Sox skipper Alex Cora saw his team blow a 4-0 lead because of his refusal to use closer Craig Kimbrel outside the ninth inning despite Cora’s saying he would experiment with such. It was a tough loss, but Boston at least recovered to win its next three games.
The same cannot be said for Philadelphia Phillies first-year manager Gabe Kapler, whose over-managing drew a great deal of attention over the weekend. First, he pulled ace Aaron Nola from a game after 5.1 innings and just 68 pitches on Thursday even though Philadelphia had a 5-0 lead. Atlanta later came back against the Phillies’ bullpen and won 8-5. Kapler made another big mistake when he walked to the mound in the third inning and signaled to the bullpen, only Philly didn’t have an arm warming up to replace starter Vince Velasquez and that triggered a controversy all its own.
Look, I get it. New managers, especially ones serving in such a role for the first time and with zero to limited experience, will have growing pains that cost their team some games. While we as fans should have faith in guys like Boone, Cora, and Kapler to navigate bumps in the road, one thing is certain. If these habits continue to cost them games throughout the season, don’t expect ownership to stay silent on the matter.
Whose Miami Marlins are these?
Remember how everyone expected the Miami Marlins to do absolutely nothing after another offseason fire sale? Well, if the first four games are any indication, the Fish aren’t going down without a fight. Miami split its first four games with the Chicago Cubs who, in case anybody forgot, won the World Series two years ago and still have most if not all of that team’s core intact.
That didn’t deter the Marlins one bit. Two of those four games went into extra innings, including an epic 17-inning marathon on Friday night which Miami won on Miguel Rojas’ walkoff RBI single. The Marlins also shut out the Cubs 6-0 yesterday thanks to six shutout innings from lefty Dillon Peters. There’s a long way to go before the end of the season but if Miami can keep up the fighting spirit exhibited over Opening Weekend, maybe those who criticized the fire sale will be forced to eat their words.