Monday, April 03, 2006

Time for the annual tradition: Missing Opening Day because you're stuck at work

That's right. Everyone talks about the tradition of skipping work to go to the ballpark for Opening Day, or even skipping work just to watch opening day on TV.

Sorry, that's not reality.

America, the land where baseball is the national pastime, where people grow up knowing there's nothing quite like a hot dog and a pretzel at the ballpark, and where people love nothing better than to shirk away the work day... is also the land of the stickler boss who won't let you dip out early, and the land of being anal retentive about every last minute of available leave, clutching it until the death throes of your career have you being pushed out the door to retirement.

Besides, I'm guessing a lot more people now skip work to watch the first Thursday and Friday of the NCAA Tournament than to watch Opening Day. Hmm... skip work to see the first in a long and seemingly never-breaking string of 162 nine-inning games, or skip work to see a highly-seeded college -- potentially a highly-seeded college that you hate -- get beat at the buzzer by Podunk Athletic Association champion Western Ozark Hicktown State?

But don't get me wrong, I looove baseball, and I'm completely bitter about the fact that I'll be sitting in my office staring at my computer screen while the Orioles and Nationals bring baseball back to the area for the first time in five months. So just when you thought this post was going to be funny, here's a quick Orioles and Nationals season preview!

The Nationals open year two of the "forgetting Montreal" process today at 1:10 p.m. at Shea Stadium in Queens, where they will face the New York Mets.

The lineup:

1. Brandon Watson, CF
2. Jose Vidro, 2B
3. Nick Johnson, 1B
4. Jose Guillen, RF
5. Alfonso Soriano, LF
6. Ryan Zimmerman, 3B
7. Royce Clayton, SS
8. Brian Schneider, C
9. Livan Hernandez, P

(Cristian Guzman should replace Royce Clayton once he gets healthy.)

The rotation looks like this:

Livan Hernandez, RHP
John Patterson, RHP
Ramon Ortiz, RHP
Tony Armas Jr., RHP
Pedro Astacio, RHP

The real problem with the Nationals is that, beyond several pretty good players in both the lineup and the rotation, both are pretty average compared to other teams. The good news is that they have a good core with Hernandez and Patterson in the rotation, Johnson, Guillen, Soriano and Zimmerman in the batting order and Chad Cordero closing games. If they ever get an owner and a real general manager (sorry, Jim Bowden does NOT count), they may actually get to keep some of these good players and build around them. So the playoffs aren't likely this year (although the NL East seems pretty wide open), but the future does look bright if Major League Baseball can get their act together.

ESPN's Nationals Preview.

The O's get started at 3:05 this afternoon at Camden Yards, where they will take on their AL East cellar-rivals, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.

The lineup will be:
1. Brian Roberts, 2B
2. Luis Matos, CF
3. Melvin Mora, 3B
4. Miguel Tejada, SS
5. Jay Gibbons, RF
6. Kevin Millar, 1B
7. Jeff Conine, LF
8. Javy Lopez, DH
9. Ramon Hernandez, C
SP: Rodrigo Lopez

(But I don't really think this is representative of what we'll see all year because Nick Markakis is probably going to get most of the at-bats in left field and Matos and Corey Patterson should do a lot of switching off in center.)

The rotation will go:
Rodrigo Lopez, RHP
Erik Bedard, LHP
Kris Benson, RHP
Daniel Cabrera, RHP
Bruce Chen, LHP

I'm a ridiculous homer optimist loser when it comes to the Orioles, and when they go into a season where there's so many questions it's hard for me not to just say, "All these things are going to go right and the Orioles will win 95 games!" But I try not to be too crazy in my dreams of Orioles success, mainly because they haven't had any in eight years. But the big reason for some optimism is the big addition in the off-season, pitching coach Leo Mazzone. We have absolutely no idea what to expect of this staff, A) because the most talented pair, Bedard and Cabrera, are so young, and B) because Leo Mazzone has such a great history of getting the most out of older pitchers who haven't been so great in the past. Do the O's have any 20-game winners? Not this year, barring something spectacular, and the playoffs are just a dream because we're still playing in a division with the Yankees, but I don't think .500 is too unrealistic a goal.

ESPN's Orioles Preview.

So enjoy Opening Day and enjoy the season! I'll be trying to make do today with ESPN GameCast...

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