The Rundown: Cubs Win, Happ Trending Up, Cards Trending Down, Rizzo Has Out-Of-Body Experience

Ian Happ — he’s good, right? You go, we go, son. Dwight Evans of the Boston Red Sox homered on the first pitch of the 1986 season against Detroit’s Jack Morris at Tiger Stadium. He was the only player in history to accomplish that feat until Happ matched him yesterday.

Seriously, was it Opening Day or did baseball stage its annual Home Run Derby yesterday? Besides Happ’s historic (opening pitch of the season!) tater, World Series MVP George Springer connected; Adam Jones and Nick Markakis hit walk-off winners; Matt Davidson, Giancarlo Stanton, and Tim Anderson had multi-homer games; and Anthony Rizzo delivered the most emotional drive of the day.

Eduardo Nuñez hit an inside-the-park job that I believe still actually counts as a home run in this era of juiced baseballs. The White Sox hit six home runs yesterday, tying the MLB record for the most homers on Opening Day.

The Cubs? They’re good too, though Jon Lester was marginal at best, walking three batters — albeit [Ed. note: You’re welcome, Mike] with a very tight strike zone — and giving up four runs. But the bullpen shut down the Marlins across 5 2/3 innings and we all got to sing “Go, Cubs, Go.” Good day all around because the Cardinals lost to the Mets, too.

Marlins fans be like…

And speaking of the Cardinals…

The team that perfected playoff appearances at the start of this decade has a patent on .500 baseball these days. I don’t care what any of the analytics sites say, this team will finish worse than any predictions painting the interwebs this season. Like the Brewers, the Cardinals punted on free agency this year, signing Luke Gregerson to close, and then signing Greg Holland yesterday because Gregerson is injured. Holland will get about nine innings of pitching in the minor leagues before being called up in about a week.

They did trade for two-time All-Star outfielder Marcell Ozuna, who put up a line of .312/.376/.548 with 37 homers and 124 RBI with the Marlins last season. He won’t come near that this season. Having Giancarlo Statnton protecting you in the lineup lends itself to seeing much better pitches than when that shield becomes minor league journeyman Jose Martinez.

Paul DeJong is happy with his $26 million contract. Tommy Pham isn’t nearly as excited about his $570,100 contract, which equates to about $96K per win against replacement. Yadier Molina turns 36 this season and will earn $60 million across the next three seasons. Cardinals fans still see Molina as the 7 WAR player he was in 2012. If he is worth seven wins over the next three seasons, it will be nothing short of a miracle.

The rotation needs a number one starter, and though the team has plenty of tradeable assets, the Cardinals rarely trade anybody from their farm system. Adam Wainwright will serve as the team’s ace for now, though he is currently 36 years old, injured, and earning just shy of $20 million himself.

And let’s not forget the team has a number of defensive shortcomings, and chemistry seemed to be missing through most of last season. The bottom line is this: You usually never count the Cardinals out, until this season. They added Ozuna in a trade with Miami, but not much else. It may be years before this team is playing at the same level as the Cubs, and it may take regression on the part of Chicago for that to actually happen.

Cubs News & Notes

Chris Coghlan signed a minor league deal with the Cubs yesterday.

Kyle Schwarber made an error yesterday. That does not mean he belongs in the American League as a designated hitter.

The Marlins and Cubs are wearing Marjory Stoneman Douglas patches during this weekend’s four-game, season-opening series. The patches have the school’s colors and initials as well as 17 stars, one for each of the victims in February’s Parkland, FL shooting.

How About That!

White Sox slugger Matt Davidson hit three home runs as Chicago destroyed the City Royals 14-7 yesterday.

Giancarlo Stanton hit two home runs in his debut with the Yankees.

The Astros threw a four-man outfield at Joey Gallo yesterday. Yes, that was Joe Maddon saying “Hold my beer!”

Mike Trout went hitless in six at-bats for the first time in his career. Meanwhile, Shohei Ohtani got a hit in his first major league at-bat.

Blue Jays 3B Josh Donaldson is dealing with a dead arm.

One AL executive believes that Bryce Harper will get his $400 million contract next season and the team that will be paying him all that money will be the Nationals.

Until yesterday, the Rays had lost 70 games in a row when they trailed by four-plus runs — the longest such streak in MLB — and were the only team not to win a game last season after trailing by at least four runs. They beat the Red Sox on Thursday after trailing 4-0 in the 6th inning. New year, new me.

Baseball icon Rusty Staub passed away yesterday morning at the age of 73. A six time all-star, Staub played from 1963 to 1985 and finished 284 hits shy of 3,000

If you are into baseball card nostalgia, you need to check out this blog, though it hasn’t been updated since 2015.

Hot Takes & Syrup

  • Here is the Cubs’ 2014 opening day lineup: Emilio Bonifacio, Junior Lake, Starlin Castro, Anthony Rizzo, Mike Olt, Welington Castillo, Nate Schierholtz, Darwin Barney, and Jeff Samardzija.
  • Dear Marlins fans: I punch you. I kick you. I adore you. I appreciate you. I challenge you. Signed, Derek Jeter
  • Dear Kenyan Middleton – What in the name of Raggedy Ann were you thinking? Did you lose a bet?
  • Dear Jake: what in the name of Donald Trump’s combover were you thinking when you threw a challenge at Noah Syndergaard? FWIW, Thor has averaged at least 10 strikeouts per nine innings in all three of his major league seasons.
  • Dear Michael Cerami: what in the name of Gertrude Ederle were you thinking when you threw a challenge at Ian Happ?

They Said It

  • “I’ve hit a lot of home runs – that was probably the most out-of-body experience I’ve had hitting a home run, probably in my life. It just felt really good. Obviously my emotions on opening day usually are pretty high, but with all this, you can’t really put it into words.” – Anthony Rizzo
  • “I thought we swung the bats well the whole game. Obviously a leadoff home run doesn’t hurt, very first pitch of the game. But up and down the lineup, good quality at-bats. Jonny Lester was not on top of his game, that was obvious. But how about the bullpen? [Steve] Cishek got the game right, and everybody that followed pitched extremely well, too.” – Joe Maddon

Friday Walk Up Song

Jesus Built My Hotrod by Ministry. Like watching the Cubs offense.

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