Monday, April 2nd, 2007
3:10 pm - Opening Day  
Okay, technically Opening Day was yesterday, with the Mets at the Cardinals, but 'most everyone else is starting today (except the Giants and the Padres who will wait until tomorrow). The Mets looked good last night, cuffing around the World Series champs with timely hitting, aggressive base-running, and Tom Glavine's crafty¹ pitching. The Cardinals did not look as good, running into outs with over-aggressive base-running and timely strikeouts. What in the name of the Wide World of Sports is Tony LaRussa (The Smartest Manager in Baseball™) doing batting Yadier Molina (.216 avg/.595 OPS) fifth? If Molina's the best hitter he has for that spot, the Cardinals are in a heap o'trouble.

The Dodgers open in Milwaukee with Derek Lowe making his third straight opening day start versus Ben Sheets. Vin Scully is actually making the trip (he usually only goes on the road for division rivals these days), so Gameday audio will have Vin today for three innings anyway, Whoot! Lowe and Jeff Kent will be the only players starting this year's opener who started for last year's.

LA went into the spring with only two main questions to be resolved, who would be the fifth starter, and would James Loney make the team. For the first, Bret Tomko got the job almost by default when Hong-Chih Kuo (the favorite) came up with a sore shoulder, and Chad Billingsley was sent to the bullpen to work on his command.

As for the second question, the answer was one that almost nobody expected. Going into the last weekend of training, it had come down to James Loney versus Larry Bigbie. Loney led all the minor leagues last year by hitting .380, tied a Dodger record by getting nine RBI in a single game once he was called up, and hit .405 for the spring. Bigbie, in camp as a non-roster player, is a guy with talent, but he also has a history of injury which has kept him from becoming the player many had predicted. Loney is by far the better hitter of the two, but he plays first base, a position currently occupied by Nomar Garciaparra. They tried playing Loney in the outfield, but he was very good. Bigby is a decent outfielder, and has an escape clause in his contract that allows him to become a free agent if he doesn't make the team, so it looked like, barring a trade, he would make the team to avoid the chance of losing him.

Then Grady Little surprised everyone Saturday night by announcing that neither player had made the team. Instead the Dodgers kept Matt Kemp, a terrific, albeit somewhat raw, young power-hitting outfielder. The Dodgers don't have a whole lot of power in their lineup, particularly in the outfield, so Kemp should help with that. He is an exciting player. Unfortunately, this means Loney will open the season chasing fly balls in Vegas, which is a shame because he has nothing left to prove in the minors.


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¹ The adjective "crafty" as it applies to pitchers is almost exclusively used for left-handers, and only those with less than first-rate stuff. Randy Johnson, although a lefty, would never be called crafty. For that matter, Glavine wasn't usually referred to as crafty when he was younger, but at age 41 he relies more on guile and smarts than he had to back when he was winning Cy Young awards in the 90's, much like his old friend Greg Maddux, who has always been the smartest pitcher on the planet. Maddux, however, is right-handed, so would never be called crafty.
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