To paraphrase the great Bart Giamatti: “The game begins in the middle of summer, when everything else is closed and you feel iffy about leaving the house.” I’m pretty sure that’s how it goes, anyway. Regardless of my constant return to that well-known font of baseball writing, baseball is finally here. The season rests upon an unstable precipice, and with a backdrop of an ongoing pandemic which will bring us empty stands and piped-in crowd noise. I’ve had extremely mixed feelings on whether the season should actually happen this year, but I would be lying if I said that watching the exhibition games, or even the intrasquad games wasn’t amazing. Apparently, you really forget how much you miss 450 foot home runs until you see them.
I suppose I really am a simpler creature.
Giancarlo’s Historic Dinger
We’ve known it was coming for a while now, and it’s probably due to the fact that the Yankees/Nats game was an interleague affair, but this has to be one of the most under-the-radar milestones in recent memory. When he stepped into the box in the top of the first inning last night, Giancarlo Stanton made (regular season) baseball history:
Giancarlo Stanton is the first designated hitter in an NL-hosted game in MLB history
— Jeremy Frank (@MLBRandomStats) July 23, 2020
I’ve always been a fan of there being a material difference in the rules between the leagues, while also very happy to be a fan of an AL team. But at this point, it seems like the entire DH debate is academic, as I think we can all agree the rule is likely here to stay. Stanton definitely didn’t waste his chance to make, as Michael Kay has put it, “history with an exclamation point!” He utterly annihilated a poorly placed Max Scherzer fastball, sending it deep into the barren left field bleachers.
— New York Yankees (@Yankees) July 23, 2020
This one is kind of a twofer, too, since you get the bonus of hearing Mad Max cursing at himself as soon as G makes contact.
Cueto Brings Back Slow-Pitch
The West Coast season opener seemed a little less star-studded on paper, especially once the Dodgers placed Clayton Kershaw on the IL (although getting to watch Dustin May work is nice on its own), but I contend that Mr. Johnny Cueto is not getting the respect he deserves. His last couple of seasons have been marred by bad performance and injuries, but:
3.06 ERA in the 2010s, better than Verlander and Bumgarner.
— Foolish Baseball (@FoolishBB) July 24, 2020
And he’s always been a fan of mixing up his deliveries, with his long pause and quick pitches. Here’s a great example of the former courtesy of our own Alex Fast:
With Marcus Stroman injured and Nestor Cortes in the Seattle bullpen, we’re likely to once again face a dearth of funky windups and deliveries this year, so it’s important to appreciate each time we get one. I have a feeling it won’t be the last time we see him in this column.
Anthony Fauci Needs Some More Time In Camp
The last time a ceremonial first pitch got thrown in DC was 270 days ago, by chef José Andrés in the World Series. Dr. Fauci getting the call tonight is an earned honor, as much as we would probably all prefer it wasn’t the case.
Dr. Anthony Fauci threw out the first pitch before the Nationals-Yankees game. pic.twitter.com/04Tbkh7Voa
— ESPN (@espn) July 23, 2020
I was considering leading with this, and almost assuredly would have if the good doctor had fired a strike, but I think he could use a little more seasoning before they call him up to the big club. You always get bonus points for wearing a mitt out there, though.
Eaton Gets Curved
I’d like to think Hale ran his hand through his hair just out of frame here, since Eaton clearly went down low, too slow, and you gotta style on ‘em when that happens.
Yaz Has A Ball
In the top of the first inning on Opening Night, Giants outfielder Mike Yastrzemski ran himself into one of the rarer outs you can make on the field. Taking off from first base on a Pablo Sandoval grounder, Mike managed to kick the live batted ball.
The ESPN booth tried to turn it into an intentional, heads-up moment to avoid a double play, and sure, let’s go with that. I wonder how many WAR it’s worth? Maybe we can just count it as a sick hackysack tip.
Judge Is Still Making Enormous People Look Small
This is going to be a dry well very soon (I’m sure some of you are already groaning), but I personally am still entertained when Aaron Judge makes other very large men look tiny when he casually stands next to them. Keep in mind that Eric Thames is listed as 6’ 0”, 210 pounds. And that 210 is pure muscle.
Eric Thames is one of the largest humans I've ever stood next to and Judge makes him look tiny pic.twitter.com/mx5xQEy1F2
— Céspedes Family BBQ (@CespedesBBQ) July 23, 2020
LA Floats On
When the stands are full you expect to get some foreign objects blowing onto the field from time to time, but I’m not sure how a cardboard cutout managed to smuggle a balloon into Dodger Stadium last night…
This will be the biggest mystery of the 2020 season pic.twitter.com/A9qnpKK8kM
— Blake Harris (@BlakeHarrisTBLA) July 24, 2020
I hope you enjoyed this Opening Night edition of The Best Things You Missed, but if you’ve read this far let me ask you for a favor: If you’re watching a game this season and you see something weird, wacky, fun, or that just plain makes you go “Man, I love baseball,” please let me know by tweeting @low_rax with the details. Happy baseball, everyone!