The Royals are 1-0: lots to get excited about from Opening Day.

Aside from the clouds, a few moments of spitting rain and a 10 minute panic attack after Yordano Ventura grabbed his right wrist, Opening Day went swimmingly.

The Royals won 10-1 and Ventura was the dominant pitcher we need him to be. The bats were hot as Jeff Samardzija was introduced to the Royals high contact bats. Every Royals hitter reached base but Omar Infante, and even he hit the ball hard on Monday and deserved a better line than he ended up with. Mike Moustakas and Alex Rios homered. Morales drew three walks. Ryan Madson threw his first inning of professional baseball in 4 years in the 9th. It was a fun game.

But it’s just one game, and we can’t thump our chest too much. Just like last year’s Opening Day loss to the Tigers, we can’t jump to conclusions about this team based on one game. It’s a 162 game season, and this one game – despite it being a stellar performance – only counts for 1, and the Royals magic number is 162. So, there’s still a lot of work to do.

That said, we can pull a few nuggets of speculation out and celebrate the signs of what may (or may not) be to come. Let’s get to it.

Moose’s first career opposite field home run.

Yes, you’re reading that correctly. Monday’s home run off Samardzija was Moose’s first ever to the opposite field. Here’s his HR chart via ESPN Stats & Information. i Three things stand out here.

The first thing that stands out is that one lone red dot in right field that is way further than all the others. That one came off of Lance Lynn on June 24, 2012. Recorded at 464 feet.

The second thing that stands out is the home run the farthest left, which is the one Moose hit on Monday. It’s obviously a rare scenario for Moose to hit anything to the left side, so to see him hit for power the opposite way is something to celebrate. I think if Moose can get it into his head that he can have success without pulling the ball, we could be in for a decent season from Mike Moustakas. Which would also be rare.

But then the third thing that stands out is that the home run wasn’t to left field at all. “Opposite field” is technically based on splitting the field right down the middle. As you can see, Moose’s homer barely qualifies. If you asked what part of the field that HR went to, you’d say it went to center field, not left. So technically, it was opposite field, but it wasn’t THAT opposite field. So let’s keep our emotions in check here because it wasn’t like he sliced one into the bullpen in right. So lets not get carried away and start talking like Moose now hits with power to all fields.

But still. It’s something.

The newcomers do not disappoint.

Did any Royals hitter walk three times in a game last year? I could probably look it up, but it’s easier to speculate that it never happened in 2014. Somebody prove me wrong.

We’re one game into the 2015 season and it’s already happened. Kendrys Morales walked three times on Monday. One of them was intentional. Last year the Royals finished dead last in all of baseball with 380 walks. Their team OBP still managed to end up middle of the pack aided by their high batting averages, but if we can work the count and get on base more, this team is going to be extremely dangerous on offense. With three yesterday, Morales is currently on pace for 486 walks. Obviously he’s not going to do that, but it’s fun to say. He also doubled. I still like this signing.

Alex Rios was even more impressive. He went 3-4 with a home run and a stolen base. In the 7th inning with the Royals already up 6-1, Rios got the pitch he was looking for on a 3-1 count and deposited it in the right field camera booth. Along with walks, the Royals also lacked power last year finishing dead last in MLB with only 95 big flies. People weren’t happy with the Royals gave Rios is $11M deal for the 2014 season, but if this is a testament of what’s to come, then we’re in for a treat this year.

And Ryan Madson, the last player to make the Royals 25-man roster, pitched the 9th inning. He gave up a hit and a walk, but induced a double play and ended the final frame with no damage. Madson hasn’t pitched since 2011 with the Phillies but has already managed to comeback and make a MLB roster after being out of the game so long. He has upside as a veteran in the bullpen, and it’s good to get him some work in a stress-free situation like Monday was.

Yordano good.

Ventura looked like an ace on Monday, yes? His stuff was working, he looked comfortable. He only gave up 1 run – an absolute monster home run to suspected robot, Jose Abreu – and he was only at 78 pitches when he left the game with a thumb cramp.

When I saw Yordano slumped on the grass holding is arm and writhing in pain, I panicked. I thought that was it and that the season was already over after just 6 innings of baseball. Kauffman Stadium was silent and suddenly the cheering subsided. Herrera came on to pitch the rest of the 7th.

It looked serious in the moment, but quickly it was speculated and confirmed on twitter that it was just a thumb cramp.

But it highlights this truth: if the Royals are going to succeed in 2015, their two young starters, Ventura and Danny Duffy, are going to have to stay healthy and carry this team. Both have a history of scaring us. Duffy had Tommy John surgery two offseasons ago and was the Royals best starter last year coming back from surgery, and Yordano had multiple moments in 2014 where he left the game early or missed a start with fears about his arm/elbow. We need these guys to throw a combined 380-400 innings.

I cried again.

This is becoming a theme, I suppose, but the AL championship ring ceremony and postseason video montage got the water works flowing again. I couldn’t help it. I’ll probably always cry when I think about that 2014 run. The Wild Card game. All three ALDS games. The ALCS clincher. Game 6 of the World Series. They all brought tears of joy to my eyes.

I’m not even embarrassed about it anymore.

There weren’t any clips from Game 7 in the montage. I expected it to end with some “unfinished business” tag at the end, but it didn’t. It just buried the sadness and highlighted the celebrations. Fair enough.

Bruce Chen was back and got a ring. He may have received the loudest cheers. Billy Butler, James Shields and Nori Aoki were not in attendance because they were playing baseball elsewhere. Louis Coleman, recently placed on waivers, got a ring too and it was awkward. Aaron Brooks got a ring for his single miserable performance. Ned Yost told the team physician not to lose his ring doing rectal exams.

***

I’m supposedly heading back out to the K tonight. We’ll see if the game happens or not with the rain we’re supposed to get. Danny Duffy gets the ball either tonight or for the first part of a double header tomorrow.

Good to have the Roys back in town and off to a good start. I’m still convinced that this team is better than last year’s team. I expect the playoffs…then who knows.

-apc.

Cincinnati: Opening Day is in 2 days

hwl

I woke up this morning and flew to Dayton. Rented a “Kia Rio or similar” – which turned out to be a Toyota Yaris – and drove the hour south to Cincinnati this afternoon. My friend Chris and I are here for the weekend getting amped for Opening Day on Monday night. I Thought I’d take a moment to fill you all in on what’s happening in the Queen City…

1. I am the proud owner of the ball cap above.

It took me a long time to find a Reds cap that I liked. I’m not a huge fan of the simple “C” logo (I prefer Mr. Red), but he was a little too obnoxious to have on a hat. If I’m going to root for the home team everywhere I go, I mean, we gotta look legit man.

2. Dayton just lost to Florida.

We ate lunch at the Buffalo Wild Wings just off the Dayton campus this afternoon. The place was bumpin’ with Flyers fans. Mostly college students. There were giant banners hanging from all the fraternities and student houses. Super bummed they couldn’t finish off the Final Four run.

3. It’s cold and sloppy and snowing today.

It’s way too cold for Opening Day today, and I’m really thankful it’s not today.  The moment we landed it was sleeting and gross. It’s currently 33 degrees. It’s miserable. But apparently Cincinnati weather is just like Kansas City because…

4. It’s supposed to be 70 degrees and mostly sunny at game time.

But Opening Day is going to be perfect. Which is a relief. Baseball in March is always a risk*, and I’m so thankful it’s going to be beautiful out for the launch of this Tour.

* – Unless the March games are exhibition games in Montreal, in which case it will be nothing but a smashing success and draw nearly 100,00o fans to Olympic stadium over two days. Brilliant move to bring baseball back to French Canada…even if it’s not in the form of the Expos.

5. Gotta get some Skyline Chili.

If you’re not familiar with Skyline Chili, it is a combination of 5 different ingredients: beef, beans, onions, cheese…and spaghetti noodles. It’s unique to Cincinnati, and it’s pretty dang delicious. It’s not easy to shelve my preconceived understanding of what chili should  be like, and allow it to be something entirely different.

Also, the cheese coney dog was delicious too.

6. Opening Day Itinerary

Monday is going to be an incredible day, and the entire thing will be spent right around Great American Ballpark. Here’s what’s on the schedule for Opening Day (all times Eastern)…

  • 10 AM – Reds Hall of Fame
  • 11 AM – Opening Day Block Party
  • 12 PM – 95th Opening Day Parade
  • 2 PM – Gates Open
  • 4 PM – Dave Concepcion & Barry Larkin Throw First Pitches
  • 4:07 PM – STL (Wainwright) @ CIN (Cueto)

7. Hope.

I don’t want to pick a theme for every game on my itinerary, But this one seems too obvious to overlook. Opening Day is all about hope, and I fully expect this portion of my book to be focused on that theme.

I’ve written about the hope of Opening Day before. In that post, I touched on Pete Rose somewhat, and I think the stars are beginning to align for him to be reinstated. Between Bug Selig’s retirement, the Steroid Era players lining up for the HOF, and Barry Bonds’s gig as a hitting instructor at the Giants’ Spring Training, it sure seems like Rose’s reasons to hope are increasing.

That’s just one way I see the theme playing out. Obviously Opening Day is all about hope in general – new beginnings, level playing field, springtime, etc. – but I’ll be searching for more connections this weekend. Feel free to let me know where you see this theme playing out too.

That’s the landscape here in Cincinnati. So amped for this season to begin, and I can’t wait to begin sharing this experience with all of you. Thanks to all who helped me get here. It’s going to be a crazy summer!

-apc.