It's the most wonderful time of the year
Suggested Soundtrack: “Talkin’ Softball”
Hello and welcome to the most joyful thing I’ll write all year: IT’S OPENING WEEK OF MAJOR (AND MINOR) LEAGUE BASEBALL!
After two jam-packed rounds of offseason moves with an extended lockout crammed in-between, the sprint-version of spring training is over and there’s actual baseball to be watched.
One bit of business before I get to this year’s Opening Days guide: this week, for RIYL Mag, I wrote about Homer, the Miami Marlin’s surreal, wrongfully maligned moving sculpture that captivated the baseball world until Derek Jeter banished it.
Also, if you missed reading it — and me sharing it a million times on social media — I wrote this fun piece last summer for the New York Times about Brandiose and their work on many unique team names and logos peppering the minor leagues.
Ok, time for the games! Since MLB is just picking up the 2022 schedule wherever it’s set for April 7 — thanks to the lockout — not every team is actually playing on “Opening Day.” But between Thursday, April 7, and Friday, April 8, all 30 teams will take the field to open the season so we’ve got ourselves an “Opening Days” situation and, reader, I am not mad about it.
[Note: The current weather forecast DOES NOT LOOK FRIENDLY to games in the Midwest and Northeast. Thursday’s Red Sox-Yankees and Mariners-Twins games have already been postponed and more could follow suit, so consider the below schedule very much subject to change. Alas. Here’s Thursday’s updated schedule and here’s Friday’s if you want to keep track of shifting, weather-impacted games.]
All listed times are ET. Deal with it.
Houston Astros @ L.A. Angels, April 7, 9:38 pm
With my two other must-watch Thursday games (BOS-NYY, SEA-MIN) already postponed, this game is the one to definitely make time for on April 7. The Astros look to stay atop the division while the Angels look to finally make a run at the top after years of mediocrity. Besides, it’s worth finishing your night with this game for two simple reasons: Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani.
Boston Red Sox @ New York Yankees, April 8, 1:05 pm
Both teams are going to be in the mix in the NASCAR race that is the AL East and both had interesting offseasons. The Sox signed Trevor Story in the offseason while the Yankees missed out on the big-ticket free agents. Their biggest pick-up was probably Josh Donaldson, who also happened to have a beef (now allegedly over) with new teammate Gerrit Cole. Still, they’re the Yankees and they’re still formidable enough to make some noise.
Seattle Mariners @ Minnesota Twins, April 8, 4:10 pm
This game wouldn’t deserve a second look a few years ago. But in 2022, both teams are super exciting. The Mariners were a scrappy surprise in 2021, nearly clawing their way into the playoffs on a wave of Ted Lasso-inspired hope. The M’s open this season with a pair of high-ceiling prospects (Jared Kelenic and Julio Rodriguez) and several offseason acquisitions that give them a big boost, Adam Frazier, Robby Ray, and Jesse Winer chief among them. Meanwhile, the Twins are GOING FOR IT under Phish Fan/Manager Rocco Baldelli: Besides acquiring Sonny Gray from the Reds and signing Chris Archer to shore up a rotation in need, they also landed arguably the biggest free agent of the offseason in Carlos Correa. Both of these teams are bandwagon follows for me this year and even if the typically cold Twin Cities air puts a damper on the offensive output, it’s still a fun match-up to open the season.
Los Angeles Dodgers @ Colorado Rockies, April 8, 4:10 pm
Okay, this might seem like too big of a mismatch to be a “must watch” but hear me out. The Dodgers are hella good again and, in fact, got better by adding Freddie Freeman to the mix. This team might score 5,000 runs this season. Meanwhile, the Rockies have been a wacky tire fire, like if a college improv troupe were to set fire to a petting zoo. From trading away Nolan Arenado to letting Trevor Story walk away and getting nothing in return to shocking the baseball world by paying Kris Bryant a boatload of money, Colorado is certainly not boring. When you pair the league juggernaut against the league’s agent of chaos, things are gonna get WEIRD. Case in point: Last year’s Opening Day between these two teams featured Cody Bellinger being called out despite hitting a home run. Here’s hoping they find a way to top it in Coors Field on Friday.
Texas Rangers @ Toronto Blue Jays, April 8, 7:07 pm
Another tale of two teams: the Blue Jays used a stellar farm system to help grow a contender while the Rangers spent Scrooge McDuck money this offseason to buy one. Toronto is my other bandwagon follow and with good reason: the young talent on this team makes them fun as hell to watch and despite being in the wild AL East that could send four teams to the expanded playoffs, they’re also my pick for AL champs. Meanwhile, the Rangers famously spent over half a billion dollars on four players in 48 hours before the lockout (Corey Seager, Marcus Semien, Kole Calhoun, and Jon Gray). Insert some tired Texas poker joke here but, seriously, that’s a bonkers amount of money to finish third or fourth in the division so the pressure is on. It’s going to be a fascinating team to watch in the coming years: Can they actually win? Will Seager actually be there for 10 years? Will anyone come to that giant Costco of a stadium to see a team that has 3 players (Seager, Semien, and Gray) make up over half the team payroll for 2022?
Catch If You Can
New York Mets @ Washington Nationals, April 7, 4:05 pm
This game was a “must watch” until the Mets’ top aces Jacob deGrom and Max Scherzer went down with injuries (deGrom worse than Scherzer, who reportedly will start at some point this weekend). The Mets still have a solid lineup and are still worth watching if only for the chaos factor. Meanwhile, the Nationals might be more interesting than they’re getting credit for between young stars (Keibert Ruiz, Josiah Gray) and some veteran pickups (Nelson Cruz, Conference On The Mound Patron Saint Sean Doolittle).
Chicago White Sox @ Detroit Tigers, April 8, 1:10 pm
While the AL East gets all the attention, the AL Central might wind up being a pretty tight race, too. The Tigers are reloaded with Spencer Torkelson and (the currently injured) Riley Greene joining a talented young rotation and free agent signing Javy Baez. Meanwhile, the White Sox added Kendall Graveman and traded for AJ Pollock this offseason, shoring up a pretty solid 2021 squad that ran away with the division. These two teams will probably battle it out all season with each other and the Twins for the division so it’s worth keeping an eye on this underrated contest.
Oh, and the Tigers now have El Mago starting at shortstop and if there’s one guarantee, it’s that he’ll always do SOMETHING to make watching him worth it.
Florida Marlins @ San Francisco Giants, 4:35 pm
Another underrated match-up. The Marlins have a young core that could make some noise in the NL East while the older Giants were last year’s surprise — and best — team and hope to take the division again. Worth keeping an eye on just to watch a great duel between young pitchers, the Marlins’ Sandy Alcantara and the Giants’ Logan Webb.
Hey, It’s Baseball
Milwaukee Brewers @ Chicago Cubs, April 7, 2:20 pm
The Cubs are my team and they made some interesting moves this offseason, including signing Marcus Stroman and Japanese superstar Seiya Suzuki. That said, it’s likely William Contreras will be traded and the pitching still stinks. Milwaukee starter Corbin Burnes is one of the best pitchers in the league and the Brewers have to be the favorite to win a lackluster division. I’ll have an eye on it, especially with other early Thursday games already postponed, but it hardly gets my blood going.
Cleveland Guardians @ Kansas City Royals, April 7, 4:10 pm
The Royals may be really fun this year, especially with prospect Bobby Witt, Jr., starting the season with the team. As for Cleveland, the new name is fine, the new logos are fine, and the team actually managed to spend money before the season by finally extending their best player, Jose Ramirez. The Guardians did so little otherwise this offseason, though, that it’s no wonder they haven’t yet sold out their home opener. The Imagine Dragons-esque new team theme song, though, is… something.
San Diego Padres @ Arizona Diamondbacks, April 7, 9:40 pm
The Padres bombed out in the second half of last season but there’s still promise, even with superstar Fernando Tatis, Jr. opening the season on the injured list thanks to a broken wrist suffered in a motorcycle accident. Meanwhile, Arizona is… not good. They’ll have some bright spots — Ketel Marte, Daulton Varsho — but they will only — maybe — be a hair better than the squad that lost 110 games last season.
Oakland A’s @ Philadelphia Phillies, April 8, 3:05 pm
Oakland is reloading as Oakland does every few years. They’ll be competitive again soon enough, but not this season. The real draw here is a reloaded Phillies offense that adds Nick Castellanos and Kyle Schwarber to the outfield with Bryce Harper. There won’t be many Gold Gloves won in that outfield but it’ll be fun as hell to watch them hit.
Background White Noise
Baltimore Orioles @ Tampa Bay Rays, April 7, 3:10 pm
The Rays will surely be good again and in the thick of it in the AL East while the Orioles have a promising farm system but will still be bad this season. Background noise is the perfect description of this game.
Pittsburgh Pirates @ St. Louis Cardinals, April 7, 4:15 pm
The Pirates have some promising young players and the Cardinals are saying goodbye to some legends this year: Yadier Molina, Albert Pujols, and (probably) Adam Wainwright. So I guess there’s a reason to watch this but it’s the Cardinals sooooo nah.
Cincinnati Reds @ Atlanta Braves, April 7, 8:00 pm
Yes, Atlanta is the defending champ and they should get so much more respect than this in a viewer’s guide. But this is, rather, an indictment of how clearly the Reds are giving up on 2022 by unloading everyone worth a damn on the roster. Good thing tanking was totally solved by the new CBA!
Enjoy the games, everyone!