Not The Weekly Mailbag: Opening Day Impressions
By Andy Singer July 24, 2020
I don’t know about all of you, but after last night, I’m all-in again. I recognized the void left by baseball in my life, but I don’t think I really understood it until I watched the Yankees play last night. My wife even looked at me and said, “I missed Yankee games.” Baseball is always on TV in my house in the summer, so I admit that this summer has been made even stranger without it. I bought a new TV for the family room around the holidays at the end of last year, and my primary motivation was to enjoy Yankees baseball. Watching Opening Day was satisfying on so many levels.
No Mailbag this week – don’t by shy, though. Send in your questions to SSTNReadermail@gmail.com by 8:00 PM Thursday night, and I’ll answer them in the Weekly Mailbag each Friday. For this week though, I have a lot of thoughts about Opening Day. In no particular order, here they are below:
Let’s start with the most important development of the evening from a baseball perspective: Gerrit Cole was everything the Yankees wanted him to be, and then some. On a night when I don’t think Cole had his best command, he zoned in and went toe-to-toe with one of the best pitchers in the sport and won. Cole’s fastball was buzzing, and his slider looked almost unhittable when he located it down in the zone. Many of us have wanted to see Cole in pinstripes since 2008. It was worth it.
I said on the Bronx Beat Podcast the other night that I thought Stanton would lead the team in RBIs this season. With 3 RBIs last night, he’s well on his way. Stanton looks really locked in at the plate, more so than I’ve seen him look in a Yankee uniform to-date. Very few players in baseball are capable of putting together the kind of run Stanton can produce when he’s locked in. The 2020 season is the length of some of Stanton’s previous prodigious stretches, so we could be in for a real treat this season. According to Statcast, Stanton’s ball left the yard at 112 MPH. While not Stanton’s best work, it still was a no-doubter into the bleachers in left field. It’s fun to look at Exit Velocity and other advanced stats, but sometimes, all that matters is that the ball clears the fence. I’m glad Stanton got off to this kind of start, and I can’t wait to see what the year will bring.
How about Tyler Wade?!? I’ve been predicting a Tyler Wade breakout for too many years now, so I’ve kept my mouth shut coming into this year as an offering to the Baseball Gods. A drag bunt behind the runner for a base hit may be old school, but if you get on base, that’s all that matters. Sure, he bunted it right at Starlin Castro, who is not exactly the smoothest defender at 2B, but Wade made a judgement based on scouting, and it worked. I generally hate bunts, but bunting for a base hit is a totally different animal. At 1B, Scherzer kept a really close eye on Wade given the base stealing threat he presents. Wade gives the Yankees another dimension, and I love what he brings to the table. DJLM will take Wade’s spot shortly, but Wade will make an impact this year.
How about Judge ripping balls all over the field last night? He may not have put together as loud an appearance as Stanton, but Judge had an equally impressive night. Judge hit the ball as hard as I’d hope all night. Most importantly, he’s healthy. Let’s keep it that way.
And now, to the ugly. Let’s start with the broadcast team. Did anyone else come close to muting the TV last night? Matt Vasgersian isn’t my favorite under normal circumstances, but I also don’t particularly mind him normally. He had a really tough night last night, made so much worse by just how insufferable A-Rod proved to be as the primary color commentator. If ever there was a shill for Major League Baseball right now, A-Rod is it. Frankly, until his bid to buy the Mets ends, his conflict of interest runs too deep to allow him on national broadcasts. His interview with Manfred was disgraceful, and his baseball commentary was shallow and uninformed. I liked A-Rod when he first jumped into the studio a couple of years ago, but Opening Day was a bad spot for this crew.
Speaking of terrible, Angel Hernandez continues to be one of the worst umps in the big leagues. Check out this called strike 3 to Brett Gardner last night:
Image Courtesy of Baseball Savant (Click to Enlarge)
The pitch in question is the one 6 inches off of the outside corner. This is just one pitch, but they were everywhere last night. I shouldn’t be surprised, but it disgusted me all the same. How does Angel Hernandez’s crew pull Opening Day with the premier match-up? I just don’t get it.
Gary Sanchez had a really tough night. Not only did he score the strikeout hat trick, but I was not impressed by his ability to frame high strikes with his new stance behind the plate. I know that the new stance is meant to help him frame balls in the dirt, but he looked jerky at balls up in the zone setting up low. Admittedly, having Angel Hernandez behind the plate didn’t help at all, so it will need to be monitored over the long haul, but Opening Day was not Gary’s best.
Was anyone else annoyed that Hernandez suspended play only after allowing Scherzer to throw the first pitch of Wade’s at-bat. The broadcast showed that it was raining with really dark clouds rolling in. Maybe I’m biased, but that was another really bad umping decision. Wade would have come out of the break in the middle of an at-bat had the game continued, and it was completely unnecessary.
In any event, the Yankees are undefeated after Opening Day, and they looked good doing it. Baseball is back, and I feel like a kid around the holidays. All may not be right with the world, but it looked OK on a baseball diamond last night.