Each new baseball season brings optimism for dazzling young stars, players coming back from injury, and teams who last season said “wait till next year.” There is excitement over exceptional player performances. Unfortunately, Opening Week also spawns disappointment and discouragement over players who got off to a bad start, experienced early season-ending injuries, or abandoned their loyal fans from last year. The new season ushers in some new contenders and pretenders in the division races. And, it even shapes a few new characters that capture everyone’s attention.
I know the season is only one week old, but I’ve fashioned some interim “awards” to illustrate some of the highlights and reactions of early season results from Opening Week:
Baltimore Orioles’ Chris Davis became only the fourth player in history to hit a home run in each of the first four games of the season. He had 17 RBI to go with the home runs in the first week. Last year, Chris had 12 RBI in the entire month of April.
Best Pitching Performance
Yu Darvish was one out away from a perfect game on Tuesday, when the Astros’ Marwin Gonzalez hit a ball through Darvish’s legs to ruin his chance at immortality. Along the way, Darvish struck out 14 Astros batters. In a look back in history, Hall of Fame pitcher Bob Feller hurled an Opening Day no-hitter for the Cleveland Indians in 1940.
Most Despised Team
Many fans were thrilled to see The Evil Empire finally get some humility. Red Sox fans got to thump their chests as the their team handily thumped the New York Yankees in the first two games, the first time since 1982 that the Yankees have lost their first two home games at the beginning of the season. The Yankees had six new players in the Opening Day lineup. They finished 2-4 for the week.
Most Despised Player
The Angels’ Josh Hamilton was booed mercilessly on Thursday when he made his return to Dallas (yes, that “football town”) to play his former team, the Texas Rangers. Ranger fans took great pleasure in seeing Hamilton go 0-for-4 with two strikeouts.
Best All-Around Player
In the 8h inning of the Opening Day game against the San Francisco Giants, Dodgers hurler Clayton Kershaw hit his first major league home run, which was the go-ahead run, in his 4-hit, complete game shutout performance. Hall of Famer Bob Lemon was the last pitcher to do this on Opening Day, in 1953.
Most Likely to Repeat Performance of Last Year
Bryce Harper slugged two home runs on Opening Day. Mike Trout, Robinson Cano, Giancarlo Stanton, and Josh Hamilton have not carried over their 2012 performances yet. (Unfortunately for me, Cano and Stanton are on my fantasy baseball team.)
Most Dubious Record
In Roy Halladay’s first start, he struck out 9 batters in 3 1/3 innings pitched, the most in the first 10 outs of a game. However, he gave up 5 runs on 6 hits and 3 bases on ball, and took the loss against the Braves.
Best Feel-Good Story
Evan Gattis of the Atlanta Braves made his major league debut on Tuesday and hit his first major league home run on Wednesday. At age 19, he had given up playing baseball and had given up on life in general. Now 25, he’s had a most improbable rise to the major leagues.
Most Talked About New Player
Jackie Bradley, Jr. of the Boston Red Sox was the talk of the town after Opening Day. He made the jump from Double-A to the Major Leagues after only two minor league seasons, playing only 61 games at the Double-A. He drew three walks and scored a run in his major league debut to help defeat the Yankees.
Most Likely Cellar Dweller
Despite an impressive (and surprising) Opening Day win over the Texas Rangers, the Houston Astros showed their true ability with 43 strikeouts in their opening series with the Rangers. For the first six games, Astros batters have 74 strikeouts and 39 hits. They may ultimately challenge the 1962 Mets team for most losses in a season.
Best Comeback Performance
After missing most of last season due to knee injury, Mariano Rivera got a nice save for the Yankees against the Red Sox. His outing gave hope that he can have a productive year in his already announced last season. By the way, he recorded his 69th save for teammate Andy Pettitte, the most wins-saves by any combination of pitchers in history.
Most Home Runs by “U”
Dan Uggla, Justin Utley, and Chase Utley each hit home runs in Monday’s Phillies-Braves contest. It was the first time in history three players with their last name starting with “U” hit home runs in the same game. Betcha you didn’t know they collected stats like that!
Most Likely to Turn into “Wolf Man”
Josh Reddick of the Oakland A’s gets this designation, with his outrageous beard and hair length. What the heck is he trying to prove? He makes Jayson Werth look relatively clean-cut.
In a really classy gesture, Seattle Mariners pitcher Felix Hernandez presented catcher John Jaso with a new Rolex watch for his role in King Felix’s perfect game last August. However, Hernandez could certainly afford it, since he recently signed a deal with the Mariners worth $175M over seven years.
Newest Family Act
The Upton brothers stole the spotlight for this year’s Opening Day family act, as they both joined the Braves during the offseason. They hit the tying and go-ahead home runs in the 9th inning of a game against the Cubs on Saturday, the first time since 1996 that brothers (Cal and Billy Ripken) homered in the same inning. B. J. and Justin were among 63 players and 25 managers/coaches on the Major League 40-man rosters who had a relative who has also played in the Major Leagues. Go to the “Articles” page of this website to see the complete list.
Do you have a nomination for another award?