Opening Day, and it was the Dodgers vs. the Padres. Vin Scully was behind the mike and the smell of the first Dodger Dogs of the year was in the air. Dodger Stadium was all dressed up in Opening Day bunting, and the the boys looked dazzling in their home whites. What a glorious day!
I originally conceived of this column as ten observations, but there are nine innings in a ballgame, so let’s roll with nine. Here we go:
1. It was wonderful to hear Vin Scully calling another home opener. We here in L.A. are blessed to have the greatest baseball voice EVER calling our games for one more season. We think we’re the lucky ones, but Vinny made this observation in true Scullian fashion: “Nobody’s more thankful to be here than me. I should call this game on my knees.”
2. Before the first pitch, which was tossed out by a trio of ex-Cy Young winners – Don Newcombe, Eric Gagne and Fernando Valenzuela – I was touched by George Lopez leading the crowd in a chant of “Hall of Fame! Hall of Fame!”, for Fernando. Hall of Fame indeed, for El Toro.
3. Kershaw seemed to be missing high often today, and he generally pitched too high to Kemp. I would have preferred he pitch Kemp low and away, which had been Kemp’s Kryptonite for the past few seasons.
I think Don Mattingly misjudged and gave too much credit by shifting the infield defense on Kemp’s first at-bat. The scorebook will award Kemp a base hit and RBI on a slow roller that I could have made the play on, but nobody was home.
4. After Kemp’s hit, my twitter feed blew up with people declaring San Diego the winner in the Kemp trade – a full 20 minutes into the season!
Most of those folks are missing the big picture of the trade that opened up spots for Joc Pederson and Yasiel Puig in the every day lineup; all without a prima donna complaining in the dugout or in the locker room.
5. Speaking of young Joc Pederson – he tore it up in his first Opening Day. He had a double and a stolen base, a very mature walk in the 8th, and a magnificent circus catch in the 6th. Here’s my out-on-a-limb prediction: Pederson hits 20 homers and steals 20 bases in 2015.
6. As for the guy whom Pederson beat for the CF position, I really felt for Andre Ethier riding the bench today. Both Red Turner and Van Smasher got into the game as pinch hitters in key situations before Ethier did. I can’t imagine what was going through his head as he rode the pine for most of the game after 8 consecutive Opening Day starts.
7. Although Yasiel Puig didn’t do much of anything with the bat today, he showed great maturity in his at bat that immediately followed Jimmy Rollins‘ three run-homer.
Everyone in the park knew Puig wanted to go back-to-back homers with Rollins, and he swung at the first two pitches like he wanted to hit the ball to the moon, quickly putting him in the hole 0-2.
At that point, Puig chilled and worked the count all the way to a walk, setting up Adrian Gonzalez for another potential RBI. Last season, that would not have happened.
8. Juan Uribe had a slow spring at the plate and it continued today, but he hasn’t missed a step on the field with the leather, as he made several dazzling plays, showing off his laser beam arm.
And perhaps the best one of all:
9. I absolutely love hearing “I love L.A.” on Opening Day. Let’s hear it again tomorrow night.