The Braves and the Phillies got the 2009 MLB season started in the early hours of the morning (British time) in a game brought to us by a revised ESPN commentary team andÂ without Jonny and Josh, for reasons well documented.Â
With the marquee opener over, we can now turn to the real opening day.Â Nothing makes you realise baseball is back quite like a schedule of eleven games to follow, either as they happen or in the game reports, highlights and box scores published the next day.Â
Opening Night (didn’t quite feel right)
The Braves and the Phillies started the 2009 MLB season last night with a well-played, enjoyable game.Â The defending World Series champs lost their opener 4-1 as Derek Lowe impressed on his debut for the Braves.Â His opposite number Brett Myers made some mistakes early on and McCann, Francouer and Schafer made him pay, the latter doing so with a home run in his first Major League at-bat.
MLB.tv worked a treat and it was a lot of fun ‘tweeting’ along with fellow baseball fans (at home and abroad) on Twitter in the early hours of the morning.
However, every advert break felt like a dagger to the heart.Â We sat there watching promotional pieces for MLB.tv when we should have been listening to Jonny and Josh explaining the game, bursting with excitement about MLB being back with us again.Â ‘Chickenroyale’ and I both tweeted a “last chance saloon” message before the bottom of the ninth in honour of JG, but it wasn’t the same.
As I was moved to write at 01.06 in the morning: “Shame on Five”!
New ESPN team
The Sunday Night Baseball ESPN coverage has been altered slightly this year with the addition of former Mets GM Steve Phillips to the traditional pairing of Jon Miller and Joe Morgan.Â Although I was sceptical before the broadcast began, I actually thought they worked well together.Â There was a little bit of repetition here and there between Joe and Steve, but other than that it was a successful debut for the new format.Â
As we didn’t have Jonny and Josh doing the pre-game build-up, we did have to put up with an annoying trait of US sports presenting.Â When Jon asked Joe or Steve a question, they answered by looking squarely at the camera rather than by looking at Jon: the person they should have been addressing.Â It just looks wrong to me.Â
Oh, and I’m a big fan of Jon Miller’s commentary, so I’ll forgive his ‘Logan’ Schafer slips even though it left some Braves fans in a state of anger.
A host of opening games today
Fans of four teams (Royals, White Sox, Rays, Red Sox) have the ultimate disappointment of seeing their scheduled season-openers postponed due to the threat of bad weather today.Â They will begin their 2009 campaigns tomorrow, as will the Brewers and the Giants.Â All of the rest start today and most of the games are at a convenient time for us.Â Here’sÂ a fullÂ list of today’s games with the timesÂ stated in BST:
18.10 – Mets against Reds. Johan Santana goes for NY and Aaron Harang looks to recover from a disappointing 2008 season.
19.05 – Indians versus Rangers.Â Reigning AL Cy young winner Cliff Lee squares off against Kevin Millwood.
20.40 – Rockies versus D-Backs. Any worms who have got comfy popping their heads up on the infield grass at Chase Field are going to be in danger today.Â Groundball specialists Aaron Cook and Brandon Webb are on the mound so the infielders will need to have their gloves at the ready.
21.05 – Yankees versus Orioles.Â Fans of the Indians and the Brewers will be averting their eyes from this one.Â CC Sabathia will be donning the pinstripes for the first time here against Jeremy Guthrie.
21.10 – Nationals versus Marlins with John Lannan and Ricky Nolasco toeing the rubber.Â
21.15 – Pirates versus Cardinals.Â Paul Maholm, the one pitcher who wasn’t terrible for the Bucs last year, matches up against Adam Wainwright.
00.05 – Two NL games begin just after midnight and both provide the prospect of great pitching contests.Â Carlos Zambrano and Roy Oswalt are the starters at Minute Maid Park for the Cubs-Astros game, while Hiroki Kuroda and Jake ‘it’s a wonder he’s still in San Diego’ Peavy start for the Dodgers and the Padres respectively.
00.15 – Tigers versus Blue Jays; two teams who could struggle this year.Â Justin Verlander and Roy Halladay are two of the few bright spots on these rosters and theyÂ come head-to-headÂ at Rogers Centre.
01.10 – Mariners versus Twins in what should be an excellent pitching duel between two top young hurlers: Felix Hernandez (easy to forget how young he is: the King will turn twenty-three years old on Wednesday) and Francisco Liriano.
02.05 -Â Finally, it’s a battle from the AL West as the A’s take on the Angels.Â Dallas Braden and Joe Saunders are two unlikely opening day starters, but they get the nod here.
Enjoy the games.Â I’ll be dipping in and out of several via MLB.tv and posting my thoughts on Twitter.Â Please feel free to join in.