One of the old arguments I used to have with my girlfriend was about whether following sports was somehow better than following celebrities, or being a hardcore movie buff, or whatever. It wasn't contentious or anything like that, just something that became a discussion. In defense of sports, which actually most of the time I find to be quite boring and even annoying, I trotted out the standard line that the games, unlike a television show, aren't scripted, which always brings us back. In this case, I consider that to be a cliche that happens to be true. And it's hard to find a more random game, at the microlevel, than baseball.
We got a taste of that yesterday.
Opening Days are funny because you really can't help but over-analyze them. If your team has a great Opening Day, then goes onto have a winning season, it remains this shining moment in your mind, when the tone was set, or a new attitude established, or a message delivered, or whatever. If you lose 13-2, then go on to lose 90 games, the same happens in reverse. Most of the time however, try as we might, there really is no message, no precedent, no keys to anything revealed. As analysts and fans, it's almost impossible to resist this temptation. Thus, hours after yesterday's game ended, a story like this was posted. Our beloved Posnanski essentially commits this crime every year, and today it was no different, they won Hillman's way, just like in 2006, they showed they were Buddy-fied, and no messin' around, and competent. Not that many of us are immune, last year, after the Royals Opening Day victory over the Red Sox, some random blogger suggested the Royals might be en route to a surprise season, and that the Red Sox had problems. In a way, that happened, at least the Royals part, but the surprisingly good play wouldn't manifest itself for another three months. In between, the Royals were unbelievably terrible.
Still, even if it was only one game, it was a good game, and that, finally, is the point of all this (waves arms around the expansive Royals Review World Headquarters), isn't it? Even if it was only 1/162nd of the season, the Royals got an early jump on playing spoiler, and posted an exciting, come from behind win. Good stuff.
Things I Liked:
- Alex Gordon hit a home run, off an elite pitcher. We don't know if he'll struggle again early. We don't know if this signals anything. Nevertheless, a no doubt homer in a tough park off Verlander is a platonic good.
- Grudzielanek got on-base five times, stole a base, drove in a run, and setup the winning score in the 10th. Just when I start to sour on Grudz, he has a game like today's.
- I still haven't learned to love it, but Gil Meche was Gil Meche, laboring through six innings, with men constantly on-base. He wasn't efficient, but somehow only allowed three runs to a good Tigers lineup. Banny gets all the attention for being hit lucky, but in a different way, thats precisely Meche's issue. He gives up hits. Deal with it. I'm loath to make a moral or emotional judgment about a physical performance, but perhaps you can say it was a gritty performance and he gutted it out without his best stuff. Or, he made pitches when he had to. Or, the Tigers missed chances. Or, we just don't know. Anyway, Meche endured, ate innings, and avoided disaster.
- Who expected Brett Tomko as the first man out of the bullpen? I vaguely remember seeing something about him maybe missing his first start, and thus, available as a reliever, but I assumed it would be as a mop-up or 12th inning guy. Nope, he faced Sheffield/Mags/Cabrera with the Royals clinging to a 4-3 lead. Umm, Ok. Wouldn't have been my first choice, but it worked. Hillman then sent him out again for the 8th, another definite, "ok?" moment, and it wasn't half bad. He allowed a homer to a good hitter, which sucked, but also, has been known to happen. Essentially, I hated the actual decision, but liked Hillman's semi-randomness, err, flexibility, in making it.
- We may need to come up with some nickname for Nunez & Soria. I couldn't watch the game, but Leo's numbers look good, and multiple commenters mentioned his "stuff" looking fly, or cool, or good or something. Soria, was Soria, of course. And combined they went three innings, struck out four, and allowed a walk and a double. With fervent hope, we can look forward to a very nice bullpen this year. Based not on those three innings, of course, but on what we already know. Well... hopefully.
Things I Didn't Like:
Hackfest continued, especially early. The Royals seemed to be swinging early a lot, and only drew three walks in twelve innings. Non-Teahen players only managed one. Overall, the Tigers threw 173 pitches yesterday, but 38 of those were Bautista's in the 12th.
- Being merely an informed outsider, it's hard to make sense of the situation with DeJesus, who left early due to tightness or soreness or whathaveyou. Maybe he absolutely begged to play against the Brewers on Saturday. Maybe he promised a sick boy he'd hit a homer for him. Maybe it was fine then, but wasn't later. That happens. Who knows. The easy thing to say was that the Royals botched the situation. As of last night, we seem to be in a wait and see holding pattern.
- The Royals won, gloriously won, on a bloop single in the 12th inning off of Detroit's fifth or sixth best reliever. The offense wasn't a display of the beauty of small-ball so much as a display of not many good hitters. I think Pena got two at bats too many yesterday, and somehow German ended up playing the bottom of the 12th in the field. Those were mistakes, so keep that in mind when you have JoePo's pixie dust sprinkled on you.
It was a nice win, and there is no shame in enjoying it. To make too much of it, however, would be like defining true love by watching thirty minutes of Grey's Anatomy or by thinking that Tom and Katie say something profound about something. They don't, and neither did yesterday.