Livebloggin’: It’s Opening Day Somewhere
Posted by Andrew Unterberger on March 25, 2008
Admittedly it’s been a while since I cared enough to notice, but I don’t necessarily remember the MLB season starting at 6:05 in the morning in years past. However, in their ongoing attempts to go worldwide (one too many cracks about how arrogant calling a national series the World Series is?), the league has situated the christening series of the ’08 season in Japan, a far away land where apparently morning is night and hamburgers eat people. Last year’s reigning champs, the Boston Red Sox, take on a bunch of scrubs you’ve never heard of, called the Oakland Athletics, for a two-game series televised in the wee small hours of the morning.
Lest I spend the entire season like the guy who comes into a movie ten minutes late and spends the next two hours trying to catch up with what he missed, I’m setting my alarm clock early to check out the season opener. But if I have to sit through it on three and a half hours’ sleep, then you have to sit through me sitting through it on two and a half hours’ sleep, and I will be liveblogging. Will the Sox start off on the road to a second straight title, on the back of starting pitcher and hometown hero Daisuke Matsuzaka? Will the A’s begin the long and arduous process of rebuilding by shocking the world champs? Will I ever forgive the Sox for reminding me why underdogs are underdogs for a reason with their depressingly abusive dispatching of the Rockies last October? Will Matsuzaka and Manny Ramirez justify their auto-draft positions on IITS’s first ever Fantasy Baseball Team, the Ottawa Obfuscators? Stay tuned…
Oh, and I have a 10:00 start at Sirius today, and it takes me about 50 minutes to get down there, so let’s hope the game don’t go extra innings.
6:08. No JD Drew this morning, apparently. Looks like the Sox are gonna have to go without Grand Slams for a few games.
6:09. Ouch, Eric Chavez is injured? The A’s are gonna be like the Indians in Major League this year.
6:10. First pitch of the season, courtesy of Joe Blanton (who looks exactly like the ’08 A’s ace should look like like). It’s a strike! Well that’s it, the Red Sox are done for this season.
6:11. Pedroia singles up the middle. Never mind, they’re going all the way again.
6:12. Shit, I turn away for one pitch and I miss whether Kevin Youkilis’s beard has grown back yet or not. Games in Japan already look like they’re going to take about half as long as US ones.
6:14. Hey, the A’s catcher is named Suzuki! How come he’s not getting a standing ovation?
6:15. Ortiz and Manny fly out back-to-back. Soon enough, my pretties.
6:16. Daisuke Matsuzaka gets his Big Ovation. I dunno, I’m sort of underwhelmed–the way they were hyping this I was expecting nothing shorter than a minute of defeaning enthusiasm and no less than a dozen bras on the playing field. They do have bras in Japan, right?
6:18. Matsuzaka retires the leadoff A (missed the name–Ruiz, maybe?) on a first-pitch ground ball. “That’s what they want,” the announcer says, “They want efficiency.” Hey, that’s some borderline commentary right there.
6:19. Well hey there Mark Ellis–a rocket over the left field wall gives the A’s (and Major League Baseball) the first Home Run of the 2008 season. Ellis hit 19 dingers last year, he keeps this rate up, he should hit about 530 more this year. “Sayanora!” the announcer yells. Think they were hoping for that one sooner rather than later.
6:22. Dice-K walks batter #3 (missed the name again, dammit). Does it effect the national economy in Japan if he gets taken out before the 5th inning?
6:23. Jack Cust! I’ve actually heard of this guy a bunch of times. 26 homers in less than 400 at bats last year, .408 OBP…not too bad. Dice-K goes a little wild and hits him. Then another wild pitch to Emil Brown, and we’ve got two in scoring position. Put a leash on that puppy, Jason.
6:29. Yikes, is Dice crying already? Nah, he’s just sweating a whole lot and sniffling a little. Still, not exactly a face to inspire terror in the opposition. Not like Matsuzaka’s baby-face and quivering demeanor ever really should–dude could really use some lessons in stone-facedness from Okajima and some in Al Pacino from Papelbon.
6:30. Sac grounder Bobby Crosby, run scores, 2-0 Oakland.
6:32. Dice-K strikes out Chavez replacement Jack Hannahan swinging, third out. Big K for the Dice Man, and if memory serves from the World Series last year, the Sox score (on average) approximately two runs an inning, so they should get about four now to make up for the goose egg in the first. So I wouldn’t worry if I were him. I just pray for my fantasy stats.
6:35. Series MVP Mike Lowell lines into center, base hit. The Phils almost got this guy in the off-season! Can’t say I don’t blame him for staying in the town where he’s a guaranteed legend forever (in the town that guarantees legend status forever), but seriously–Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins and Mike Lowell. Tell me that there’s ever been a better offensive infield than that one. (Apologies to Pedro Feliz, I’m sure he’s the next best thing).
6:37. The A’s get Lowell on a force from Drew’s replacement Brandon Moss, then a very old-looking Varitek grounds into a double play. Well, the Sox got the leadoff thing down, #2 and #3 could use a little work.
6:39. I missed this Lou Pinella commercial during the off-season! Does this mean the Loren Wallace ads are gonna be making a comeback soon?
6:42. Suzuki / Matsuzaka showdown. SUZUKI WINS!! Blooper single into center. Suzuki apparently is the Hawaiian born second-year catcher Kurt Suzuki, so that explains the lack of homecoming support I suppose.
6:50. Varitek is really earning his keep with all these breaking-breaking-breaking balls and supersliders. Matsuzaka, on the other hand, is not earning his keep on my Fantasy team, leading off with a 10.8 ERA and a 3.00 WHIP. Maybe it’s not too late to swap for Tim Wakefield.
6:58. Dice-K gets himself out of a bases-full pickle by striking out Jack Cust for out #3. Phew.
6:59. You know, I really like these MLB 2k8 commercials (you know, the “I wanna…” ones), up until the point where it comes time for the “I SAID 2K. K?” catchphrase. LAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAME.
7:01. Jacoby Ellsbury whiffs in the first at bat of his supposed Rookie of the Year season. I’m amazed pitchers can ever get by this guy without getting distracted staring into his eyes. Those arching eyebrows? Them shits is hypnotic.
7:02. Julio “Monkey Man” Lugo singles. This guy sure is fast for a heroin addict.
7:05. All right, I got a pretty good look at YOOOOOOOOOOUUUUUUUUUUUKKKK this time around, and it looks like the beard/moustache combo has indeed returned. Not quite up to the majesty of last season’s yet, but the fact that I don’t have to see what this guy looks like as a fresh-faced Greek, Jewish (!!) behemoth means that there is still some sense of sanity in the world.
7:07. Big Papi saunters to the plaet with two on, and the crowd goes nuts. Sox fan or no–is there a sweeter sight in all of pro sports? Grounds out to second, though, and the Sox go scoreless in three.
7:18. The Monkey Man saves the day (and Dice-K’s scale-tipping third inning) on a leaping grab of Kurt Suzuki’s high liner. Flashback to Game 3 of the Series. Goddamn Lugo.
7:23. 0-2 for Manny. Not the most promising start for the Obfuscators.
7:25. Three up, three down for the Sox. This is gonna be about the point where I run out of any even remotely interesting things to say if the game keeps up the slow pace, so let’s hope for some good commercials at least.
7:28. Bud Selig says the league is making “Very Good Progress” with regards to steroids abuse. The problem with this guy is that he doesn’t take this stuff nearly personally enough. Come out swinging! “ROGER CLEMENS, YOUR DAYS ARE NUMBERED!”
7:30. Wait, the inning’s over already? Damn, I thought we were still on the leadoff hitter. Meanwhile, my bed is starting to coo to me, softly, gently. This is going to be a very long day.
7:39. Bottom of the Sox lineup retired in order. Well, at least we’re looking at a reasonable end time.
7:42. Shots of Cherry Blossoms and sounds of briskly plucked strings to remind us where the game is taking place (New Zealand, I think?) Unfortunately, I’m unable to ascertain the most important cultural difference of all–how the stadium Muzak compares to that in the US. I can hear the chintzy organ sound, but I can’t make out any of the familiar melodies. Hopefully they’ll do a little profile before the night’s over. Do they have “We Will Rock You” across the Pacific?
7:46. Matsuzaka retires the side in the bottom of the 5th, presumably his last appearance. The Dice Man finishes with two hits, two earned runs, five walks, six Ks and decent enough fantasy numbers. Ended a whole lot better than he started, so good for him. I imagine Japanese baseball fans aren’t any more forgiving than American ones, so it’d have been a shame to see their hottest recent export in a complete hometown meltdown.
7:53. Pedroia doubles, YOOUUUUUUUUUK walks, and we’ve got the scariest heart of the lineup in Pro Ball up with 0 outs and a very flustered-looking Joe Blanton. Ahhhh, so this is why it’s been such a long five months…
7:57. AAAAAAAAAAANNNNNNND WE’RE ON THE BOARD!! Not just the Red Sox but my Obfus as well, as Manny hits an line drive into the corner in left, scoring Pedroia and YOOUUUUUUUUUK. Ramirez and Dice-K point at each other like Liam and Jesus in The Big Lebowski. Ladies and gentlemen, the ’08 season has begun.
8:01. After Lowell goes down swinging, Brandon Moss earns his start by singling up the right, scoring Manny (looking somewhat unManny barreling around third) and giving Matsuzaka the chance at the Win. Things are suddenly looking very bright in Ottawa. Blanton gets pulled after five very impressive innings and one that might make them all for naught.
8:06. Alan Embree bails out Blanton by KO’ing Varitek, but the damage is done–3-2 Boston.
8:13. Well, so much for the win–the replacement players are getting it done tonight, with Chavez sub Hannahan hitting a towering two-run blast (possibly the most important of Hannahan’s four clobberoos to date, though I can’t necessarily vouch for the timeliness other three) to make it 4-3 A’s. Sorry, Dice, I’m sure you’ll get us a bunch in time.
8:19. “Matt, you might wanna stick to passing.” Fuck you, Stacy, I happen to think Mr. Hasselbeck uprocks as well as any white boy should.
8:24. Red Sox go down in the Top of the 7th without much noise. I’m taking a shower break now, so keep an eye on the game while I’m gone and make sure that nothing important happenz, K? K.
8:34. Aside from a pitching change, looks like I missed absolutely nothing. Good work, guys.
8:36. Keith Foulke is back! Not like I ever knew him in his prime, but it seemed like he was a pretty solid dude back in his day, and I was wondering where he had ended up. Good to see the A’s still have one established guy in their line-up, even if it is an injury-plagued, possibly washed up reliever.
8:37. YOOUUUUUUUUUK flies out to deep, deep, tantalizingly deep center. This might be the most obvious observation I make all article, but if they don’t play the beginning of “Crank Dat Soulja Boy” when he comes to bat in Fenway this year, it’ll be a waste of tragic proportions. A close call fly ball for Ortiz, and a called third on Manny, and the clock is ticking on the Sox’s season opener.
8:47. I said goddamn! Ellsbury makes a jumping, backwards grab of a deep Emil Brown fly ball. If Coco Crisp’s calling card in his fight with Ellsbury for Center Field has been his defense, his case certainly ain’t being assisted muchly by plays like that. A couple meek grounders later and the Red Sox have one more chance to get back in the race here. As Izzy Mandlebaum would say, it’s go time.
8:50. “Hey Papi, why do we always have to have BP out here?”
“‘Coz thees the only place I know the Green Monster in right field.”
I still don’t really get it.
8:54. Huston Street (not to be confused with Houston Street, one of my favorite stretches in downtown Manhattan) comes in to close the door on the Sox. He gets one in Lowell’s CF fly out, but then KABLOOIE–Brandon Moss, of all people, has been The Guy for the Sox today, officially earning Temp of the Week honors by hitting a one-run solo shot that ties the game and pretty well guarantees that I’m not gonna get to see the end. Thanks a lot, motherfucker.
9:00. Ellsbury teases with a clocker that looks gone but hooks foul, then actually lines out to left. I’d like the Sox to win, but if the A’s can wrap this up in the next ten minutes so I can at least have seen the whole game, I can live with that too.
9:02. I think the crowd actually digs Okajima, brought on to end the 9th for the Sox, more than Matsuzaka. Can’t say I blame ’em–outside of almost letting game three slip to the Rox, the guy was a stud in middle relief last year, and makes Dice-K look like Shelley “The Machine” Levene by comparison with his stone-cold killer glare on the mound.
9:09. Travis Buck hits a long, long flier to center that looks like it might put me out of my misery, but no such luck. One away from extra innings.
9:14. Ellis hits a chopper to Okajima for out #3, and that’ll do it for me. Hell of a game so far, but not quite good enough to start myself on the slippery slope of forced lateness and absence excuses from the workplace. In any event, a great way to start what should be a mad fucking exciting season of Major League Baseball.
Let me know how it ends. Oh, and Brandon Moss for Rookie of the Year–remember, you heard it here first.