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By Ernie Palladino
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After a training camp of angst and anguish, we’ve made it to Opening Day.
With it come the old emotions of youthful renewal, mental replenishment, and the other joys of baseball. But the best part if you’re a Yankees or Mets fan is that each team is 0-0. Which means they’re both very much alive in the divisional picture.
Oh, sure, that’s going to change in about, oh, a week. But let’s not throw the buzz-kill out there just yet. When CC Sabathia rears back for that first fastball of 2013 at 1:05 at the Stadium versus the Red Sox and Jon Niese throws that first pitch, hopefully a strike, against the Padres at 1:10 at Citi Field, it’ll be just fine if fans of either team let some optimistic thoughts creep into their heads.
Perhaps that Mets rotation of Niese, Matt Harvey, Dillon Gee, and Jeremy Hefner really will survive despite the bitter farewell they bade over the weekend to ace Johan Santana. It was great having him here, watching the big guy cut himself a little slice of history with the Mets’ first no-hitter last year. But bad things happen to good people sometimes, and Santana will perhaps never pitch again.
Life goes on. Today, the Mets get to put a shiny new light on that. Even David Wright (and his strained ribcage) will take the field after playing in his first major league exhibition game Friday. Today, he has a chance to be introduced as the Mets’ captain, and that should bring a smile to the attendees even as the darkness of the Santana situation hovers over the pitcher’s mound.
Maybe Niese, Harvey and Gee will, after all, provide the kind of pitching the Mets need to make that long-awaited run at a playoff spot. Maybe the offense, that slept its way through the second half of 2012 will come alive behind Wright, Lucas Duda, Daniel Murphy and Ike Davis and actually produce consistently. Perhaps Zack Wheeler and Travis d’Arnaud will burst into instant stars once they arrive from Triple-A. Maybe Ruben Tejada will turn into an All-Star shortstop.
Big maybes, all. But that’s what Opening Day offers — hope.
All is possible over at Yankee Stadium, too, especially now that Vernon Wells will be firmly entrenched in the outfield. Derek Jeter’s ankle, Mark Teixeira’s wrist, and Curtis Granderson’s forearm can be afterthoughts for today. This is about CC throwing BBs to Chris Stewart, and Eduardo Nunez playing a competent shortstop, and Kevin Youkilis swinging an aging but still effective bat around.
Those reports of the Yankees’ demise? Premature, for a while, anyway. Maybe that makeshift bottom half of the lineup ends up proving there is nothing to fear about that $189 payroll ceiling Hal Steinbrenner imposed on his club for 2014. Maybe they wind up winning it all, or at least going deep into the playoffs in defiance of the gloomy spring training predictions.
Lots of maybes, but that’s what Opening Day is all about. They’re all the same, really. Fans in Kansas City get to think about the Royals the same way, just like the gang in Baltimore did at the beginning of last year when a playoff spot seemed almost unthinkable. Same for the Marlins fans, who saw their team dismantled, or the Cubs fans who faithfully continue their Brooklyn Dodgers-type wait for “next year.” Today, they’re saying “Maybe this year” around Wrigley Field.
Texas and Houston opened it up last night, the Astros for the first time as an American League team. They had their good time. Now it’s the rest of Major League Baseball’s turn.
Around here, people should make the most out of Opening Day. The hard realities of age, injuries, and talent levels can wait. Today, just knowing that baseball season has begun should suffice.
In other words, don’t worry. Be happy.
What’s your favorite team, and how do you feel about your club going into the season? Tell us in the comments!