Thrill of Victory

Random thoughts on baseball's opening day

Since I was about eight years old, baseball’s opening day has been one of my favorite days of each year. So, in celebration of that, here are some random thoughts going through my head as the season begins.

• How strange is it to see an opening day without Chipper Jones or Derek Jeter in the lineup? Atlanta’s Jones, of course, retired after last season, and Jeter starts the season on the disabled list with an ankle problem. Jones had been a starter ever year of his career since 1995, and Jeter, since ’96.

• Jones’ retirement has left the National League with as few great players as I can ever remember. I’m not sure that the N.L. has a single player who, if he retired today, would be a sure-fire selection to the Hall of Fame, though Colorado’s Todd Helton and Philadelphia’s Roy Halladay would certainly draw a lot of consideration.

• Speaking of Jeter, when the MLB Network had its “Face of Baseball” competition over the summer, how was Jeter not the guy? I’m no Yankee fan, but you’ve got to respect his body of work and the way he plays the game and conducts himself. It almost seems as if Jeter has been baseball’s only star who hasn’t drawn negative headlines for one reason or another during the span in which he’s played.

• MLB seems to get more things wrong than it gets right, but moving Houston to the American League should be a good thing. Astros fans don’t have a lot to cheer for right now — they’re the worst team in baseball — but moving to a new league, coupled with a newfound divisional rivalry with the Rangers, at least gives them some cause for excitement.

• This is the first time since 1993 that baseball has had an equal number of teams in each division. Because of the new division realignment that’s left 15 teams in each league, there will be at least one inter-league series at all times this season.

• Speaking of the Astros, I love the new classic-look uniforms and the rebirth of the old “star-H” hat logo. The Astros had one of the more classic logos in sports, and I’m glad they brought it back.

• The best story of the spring has to be that of Atlanta’s Evan Gattis, a surprise addition to the Braves’ roster. Gattis quit college baseball before his career started, turned to drugs to deal with anxiety issues, spent most of his twenties traveling out west working odd jobs, and finally getting drafted in 2010. Gattis nearly got cut three years ago, but persevered and made the big-league club at age 26 this spring.

• Almost as big a surprise as Gattis making the Braves was Jose Fernandez’s making the Marlins. Fernandez is a 20-year-old pitcher who’ll start Miami’s game with the Mets on April 7. Some think he was the best pitcher in the minors last year, but I’m not sure it’s a good idea to rush him this quickly. As one of my friends pointed out today, Fernandez will also become a free agent more quickly now that he made the Marlins’ roster this season. That’s not a good idea for a franchise that’s nowhere near being competitive.

• The guy in the minors I’m most excited to see upon his promotion is the Reds’ Billy Hamilton, who stole an incredible 155 bases between A and AA last year (he was caught 37 times). He’ll start this year at AAA Louisville. Some say he’s the fastest man in the history of baseball.

• Lest we get too excited about a particular player who has a huge opening day, remember Tuffy Rhodes in 1994. The Cubs’ outfielder belted three homers on opening day of the 1994 season, but hit just five the remainder of the year and lost his job.