Opening Day always a Useless holiday

Originally Published: April 22, 2005
By Jayson Stark | ESPN.com

If the Yankees have a worse record than the Diamondbacks, Brandon Lyon is leading the league in saves and Gustavo Chacin has more wins than Randy Johnson, we all know what that means:

It sure isn't last year anymore.

So we'd like to wish you another Happy Useless New Year by supplying lots more evidence that 2004 is just as long gone as Joe Charboneau:

• The Yankees scored nine runs for Randy Johnson on Opening Day. The Diamondbacks scored nine or more for him twice all last season.

Dmitri Young hit three home runs Opening Day – one more than he'd hit in his previous eight opening days put together. Last year (thanks to a broken leg), he didn't get his third hit of the year until May 31.

Joe Randa
David Maxwell/Getty ImagesJoe Randa came out of the gates swinging this year for the Reds.

Joe Randa homered in each of his first two games with the Reds. Last year as a Royal, he never hit a homer in back-to-back games.

Pedro Martinez made 33 starts for the Red Sox last year and struck out 12 hitters in none of them (or in any of his final 56 starts with the Sox, for that matter). Naturally, he whiffed 12 in his first start with the Mets.

Derek Lowe, meanwhile, made 66 starts for the Red Sox over the last two years and threw no shutouts. So it's amazing it took all the way until his third start this year to throw his first shutout as a Dodger.

Johan Santana gave up two runs in the entire month of September last year (in 40 innings). He gave up four in his first inning this year.

Dontrelle Willis threw no shutouts last season in 32 starts. So of course, he threw shutouts in his first two starts this year.

• The Reds committed an error last year on the fourth fly ball hit to them. This year, no team in baseball went deeper into the season without making an error. It took them 69 innings and eight-plus games – the third-longest errorless streak ever at the start of a season.

• The Dodgers, on the other hand, had fewer multi-error games last season (12) than any team in baseball. So how many E's did they put on the board Opening Day? Two, of course.

Michael Tucker hit no grand slams in the first 10 seasons, 1,256 games and 3,759 at-bats of his career. Then he hit two slams in eight days against the Rockies.

• The Cubs never scored more than 13 runs in any game last season. They scored 16 in their first game of this season.

Cesar Izturis had a 60-game homerless streak after being installed as the Dodgers' leadoff hitter last year – and never once led off a game with a homer. So was there any doubt he'd lead off their season with a home run this year?

• The great Mariano Rivera blew exactly one save in his first 36 opportunities last year. Yep, he blew two in a row to kick off this year.

• Your new Indians shortstop, Jhonny Peralta, committed four errors in his first four games. Your old Indians shortstop, that sure-handed Omar Vizquel, committed three all season in 2000 – and never, at any point in his 1,478-game Indians career, had four E's in four games.

• No player in the National League got an extra-base hit in nine straight starts last year. Reds behemoth Wily Mo Pena then did it in his first nine starts of this year.

• The Blue Jays and Mariners didn't spend a single day over .500 last season. Both won on Opening Day this season.

• The Devil Rays didn't win a game in Yankee Stadium all last season. So obviously, they were destined to beat Randy Johnson in their second game in Yankee Stadium this season.

• The Reds hadn't ended a game with back-to-back, game-tying and game-winning homers in nine years – and no team had ever won like that on Opening Day. But that's exactly how they beat the Mets this Opening Day.

• After Carlos Beltran arrived in Houston last season, he stole 28 bases and never got caught. He got thrown out this year on his first attempt as a Met.

• And the White Sox didn't win a 1-0 game all last season. So what happened this year on Opening Day? What else? White Sox 1, Indians 0.

Useless Washington Information
• Those pesky Washington Nationals went out and won their first three home games of all time. Their most recent predecessors – the 1961-72 Senators – never won their first three home games of any season.

So when was the last time before this year that a Washington team started a season by going 3-0 at home? Would you believe 1958?

President Bush
AP Photo/Evan VucciThe Nationals might want to consider a Republican for every Opening Day.

That year, Pedro Ramos, Tex Clevenger and Bud Byerly beat the Red Sox for the original Senators. But those three games were interrupted by two road games in Baltimore. So it wasn't quite the same thing.

That means the last time a Washington team before this one had won its first three games as part of the same series was actually 1938 – when Wes Ferrell, Monte Weaver and Dutch Leonard beat the A's. Frank Robinson was 2 years old at the time.

• But the big news on the Nationals front was that, after their home opener, they were in undisputed possession of (gulp) first place. Last time any D.C. team owned that distinction that late in a season (10 games), according to SABR's David Vincent: May 3, 1951 – when Clyde Kluttz's Senators were a heady 10-3 after 13 games, and holding off the 11-4 Yankees by .036 percentage points.

But this team was still tied for first after 16 games. And the last Washington team that could say it held a share that late in a season was Zeke Bonura's 1938 Senators, who were 16-9 after 25 games on May 13, 1938.

In other words, the two Washington franchises before this one then played another 5,278 games without ever having a team in first place more than two weeks deep into a season. Then the current Washington team found itself in that position in its first season. Amazing.

• When Zach Day and his bullpen combined to shut out the Braves on Wednesday, it was the first shutout spun by a Washington team in D.C. since Aug. 14, 1971, when the immortal Mike Thompson and his bullpen blanked the Angels by the same score. We bet Zach Day doesn't want to know that Mike Thompson never won another game.

• Nationals media-relations whiz John Dever reports that in the Bipartisan League, the Nationals' opening-day win – kicked off by a high, not-so-hard one from President Bush – raised the record of Washington teams to 13-10 when Republican presidents throw out a first pitch, versus 11-13 after Democrats take the mound.

• Bush, by the way, has now thrown out a first pitch for five different teams – the Nationals, Brewers, Cardinals, Orioles and Yankees. For what it's worth, the only state he carried in 2004 after throwing out a first pitch there was Missouri.

The Sultan's Corner
• There's a pretty good chance that Braves rookie Ryan Langerhans will always remember his first career homer -- since it was a 12th-inning game-winner Monday to break up a 0-0 game in Houston.

TRIVIALITY
In all four years of his American career, Ichiro Suzuki has had a batting average higher than .310. But three other active players also have done that all four years (all of whom would have qualified for the batting title in all four seasons). Can you name them? (See the bottom of Really Useless Info for the answer.)

According to the Sultan of Swat Stats, SABR home-run historian David Vincent, only two other players have ever hit their first career homer to win a 1-0 game in extra innings:

Old Hoss Radbourn -- Aug. 17, 1882 (18th inning)

Bill Taylor -- June 10, 1954 (10th inning)

• Bet you didn't realize what a historic figure Padres utilityman Geoff Blum is. He hit home runs from each side of the plate April 13 -- for his third different team. (He also did it for the Devil Rays and Expos). The Sultan reports that just seven other players have done that with three teams:

Roberto Alomar (Orioles, Indians, Blue Jays)
Chili Davis (Angels, Royals, Giants)
Eddie Murray (Orioles, Indians, Dodgers)
Ruben Sierra (Yankees, A's, Rangers)
Mickey Tettleton (Orioles, Tigers, Rangers)
Carl Everett (Red Sox, Astros, Mets)
Tony Clark (Tigers, Yankees, Mets)

• Thanks to Joe Randa (Reds) and Clint Barmes (Rockies), this was only the third season in history in which two different teams won Opening Day games on walkoff homers. The other two, according to the Sultan:

2004 (Shannon Stewart, Carlos Beltran)
1960 (Chuck Essegian, Minnie Minoso) *
(* -- not on same day)

• The Padres did something Opening Day you sure don't see much: They hit back-to-back homers twice in the same game -- and still lost. The Sultan reports that only six other teams have done that in the last 48 seasons:

April 24, 1994 -- White Sox vs. Detroit (Julio Franco-Robin Ventura twice).

May 9, 1994 -- Rockies vs. Giants (Andres Galarraga-Charlie Hayes, Roberto Mejia-Howard Johnson).

Aug. 5, 1994 -- Angels vs. White Sox (Tim Salmon-J. T. Snow twice).

June 11, 2000 -- White Sox vs. Cubs (Frank Thomas-Magglio Ordonez, Ray Durham-Jose Valentin).

June 18, 2000 -- Reds vs. Padres (Dante-Bichette-Dmitri Young, Ken Griffey-Dante Bichette).

April 14, 2001 -- Cardinals vs. Astros (Jim Edmonds-Bobby Bonilla, Albert Pujols-J.D. Drew).

April 4, 2005 -- Padres vs. Rockies (Brian Giles-Phil Nevin, Ramon Hernandez-Xavier Nady).

• A reader from Los Angeles who gave only his first name (Matthew) reports that Milton Bradley's first three homers of the year all came at the back end of back-to-back homers. So how many players have ever started a season like that? None, reports the Sultan.

• Finally, the Indians won one of their wildest games ever April 7 -- because they won in extra innings after hitting three solo homers (by Casey Blake, Coco Crisp and Ron Belliard) in the bottom of the ninth to tie the game.

Last team to trail a game entering the ninth and then hit three solo homers, according to the Sultan: the 1999 Phillies (trailed the Rockies, 8-7, and won, 10-8).

Last team to trail by three and then tie it with three solos: the 1980 A's (trailed the Indians, 4-1, then won in the 10th, 6-4).

Jayson Stark is a senior writer for ESPN.com.

Jayson Stark | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com

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