Opening Day is great. Compared to all of those Cardinals Spring Training games, it definitely matters more. The thing is, it doesn’t matter much more than any other regular season game. Some people forget that, and tend to jump to ridiculous conclusions.
Let’s rewind one year back to Opening Day 2016. Expectations were equally as lofty, if not loftier than they are this season. The Cardinals squared off with the Pirates in the very first MLB regular season game of the season.
All eyes were on Pittsburgh as Adam Wainwright and Francisco Liriano went head-to-head to kick things off. What happened this day garnered a lot of attention, but practically none of the results meant anything significant.
For starters, the Cardinals lost and the Pirates won. Oh no! Nobody likes to start the season in the loss column, but as it turns out, the Pirates found themselves marking down an “L” more often than the Cards did in 2016. Moving on!
If you’ll recall, Opening Day 2016 was the beginning of Jedd Gyorko’s audition as the starting shortstop. We all know how that ended up, with Aledmys Diaz bursting on the scene and making a case for Rookie of the Year before an injury put a damper on those plans.
Gyorko, though, went on to have a career year with 30 HRs filling in amicably all around the infield. If you watched him on Opening Day and saw him go 0 for 3 stranding five runners on base, you probably wanted to jump out a window and proclaim the season was over.
Seung-Hwan Oh, in his first regular season appearance in an MLB game, uncharacteristically issued two free passes in his inning of work. We can say that was uncharacteristic with confidence, but only because we saw him perform the rest of the season with impeccable control: only a total of 18 walks in 79.2 innings pitched.
And I know this is a Cardinals blog, but it’s pretty funny to look across the isle at some of the overreactions to the Pirates’ performance, too. All things considered, Francisco Liriano threw an absolute gem that day: 6 IP 3 H 0 R 10K.
Everybody collectively lauded legendary Pirates pitching coach Ray Searage for “fixing” the enigmatic Liriano. Once again, we can look back with 20-20 hindsight and chuckle at Liriano’s 5.46 ERA with Pittsburgh before being shipped off too Toronto for pennies.
On the other hand, it would only be fair to acknowledge a couple of performances last April 3 that were somewhat in line with a player’s performance the rest of the way.
Kolten Wong, for example, struck out twice and went hitless while leaving six runners on base to kick off a season that resulted in a trip to the minor leagues for a one-time top prospect. And on the plus side, Yadier Molina went 2 for 3 with a run scored and a pickoff in the first game of one of the most productive seasons of his career.
So what does all of this mean? Well, it’s pretty clearly inconclusive. Sure, it’s lots of fun to watch each individual pitch intently, hoping to draw some sort of important information out of it. It’s hard not to, honestly, after struggling through six weeks of baseball that everyone has figured out LITERALLY DOES NOT MATTER ONE BIT.
But then you have to reel it all in and remember that while Spring Training certainly doesn’t matter, neither does one game in the scope of 162. There’s a reason nobody replaces their closer after a single blown save, or fires their manager after a one game losing streak. Everything deserves some sort of context, and with Opening Day, we don’t yet have that.
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