Horse racing might be the sport of kings, but baseball is the sport of accountants. We count the days until pitchers and catchers report. Then we count the days until Opening Day. And then we start counting down our favorite team's Magic Number to clinch a title. Or, at least, we do if we don't live in Pittsburgh or Kansas City.
Some of the numbers we'll be counting this season
.580: The Dodgers' expected winning percentage on Sept. 29, the last day of the regular season. Also the amount of dollars left in Magic Johnson's bank account after his ownership groups pays the Los Angeles players for 2013 and also extends Clayton Kershaw's contract for another seven years and $200 million.
2.17: Felix Hernandez's final ERA, which might be good enough for him to also win 12 games. Well, at least 10.
5: The maximum number of Astros whom Buster Olney, Peter Gammons and Tom Verducci can name. Which is to say, at least three more than anyone else, including, possibly, Houston manager Bo Porter.
6: Attendance at this year's Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremony. (Those six will be a family lost on vacation who briefly stop in Cooperstown to ask for directions to Saratoga.)
17: Number of times Nolan Ryan will suggest this to Rangers general manager Jon Daniels: "How about you and me go settle this on the mound?"
25: Membership in the Yankee Stadium clubhouse chapter of the AARP. (Not counting the coaching staff, the front office or stadium workers.)
30/30: The new club Kershaw will join as he becomes the first pitcher to win 30 games and hit 30 home runs in the same season.
33: All-Stars in the Mets clubhouse on July 16 (when the 2013 All-Star Game will be played in New York), or 32 more All-Stars than there will be in the home team clubhouse at Citi Field on any other day of the season.
42: (A) The top-grossing movie for the weekend of April 12-14; (B) the number that will be worn by an active player (Mariano Rivera) for the final time this season; and (C) the price for a 20-ounce beer and a hot dog at a Giants game.
81: The elusive holy grail of total wins for the Pirates. And they won't finish at or above that total unless the answers are yes, yes and no to these three questions: 1. Can Andrew McCutcheon win the MVP? 2. Are God's favorite colors black and yellow? And 3. Do games played after Aug. 15 count in the standings?
118: The over/under for the highest game-time temperature in Arizona this summer. Also, the low estimate for the Astros' loss total.
162: The Cubs' magic number to clinch the NL Central after their season-opening win over Pittsburgh. It will not shrink any lower.
173: Number of possible no-hitter alerts we'll get, some of which won't involve the Astros. Twitter is going to be busy from the seventh inning on.
364: New, shortened distance to the right-field power alley in San Diego's stadium. (Still 20 feet too deep for any member of the Padres to hit home runs now that Chase Headley is on the disabled list.)
558: Days since Oakland's Josh Reddick last shaved. I mean, really. As others suggested in tweets during Monday's opener, is the Athletics' payroll really so limited that Reddick is homeless and living under a bridge? Or is he just hoping for a cameo on "Portlandia"?
33,000: Average number of empty seats at Marlins Park for each game after Miami trades Giancarlo Stanton at the end of July.
23 million: Angry phone calls per summer month placed to New York sports talk radio to complain about the Yankees last-place season. After August, that number declines as Yankees fans lose interest and concentrate on their fantasy football teams.
CSI: Box Score
Each week, I provide a fragment from an old box score and challenge you to determine what game it is from and why it's significant. The challenge for you is to figure out why. I give this one a difficulty rating of 9. Answer below:
Baseball Card of the Week
We continue our trip into the time capsule that is the 1988 Topps set
Cleveland finished in sixth place in 1988. The club was such an established punch line by then that it was the only logical choice when Hollywood started filming "Major League" about a hopelessly inept team that same summer. The franchise's fortunes drastically improved with American League pennants in 1995 and 1997, but it still has not won the World Series since 1948.
That 1988 team, however, did contribute to the end of the Red Sox world championship drought. That's because Terry Francona, manager of the 2004 Red Sox (and current Cleveland manager), played for Cleveland in 1988, though he is pictured in his Topps card that year wearing a Reds uniform. Francona wasn't the only future manager on the team. Ron Washington, who managed the Rangers to their first World Series, played for Cleveland that year as well, as did current Boston manager John Farrell and San Diego manager Bud Black.
The only future manager Cleveland was missing from that 1988 team was Lou Brown.
Box Score Line of the Week
Cleveland's Brett Myers got in so much work in during a spring training appearance last week (3 1/3 IP, 14 H, 10 R, 10 ER, 1 W, 2 BB) that he should apply for workmen's compensation.
But this week is about real games. Such as Stephen Strasburg's opening day line (7 IP, 3 H, 0 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 3 K). Or Chris Sale's (7 1/3 IP, 7 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 7 K). Or Jeff Samardzija's (8 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 9 K). Or Madison Bumbarner's (8 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 6 K). Or Yu Darvish's near perfect game (8 2/3 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 14 K).
But as great as Darvish's game was, this week's winning line has to go to Kershaw for one of the greatest opening day performances in baseball history. After Sandy Koufax opened the day at Dodger Stadium by throwing the ceremonial first pitch, Kershaw topped him. Not only did he throw a complete game shutout, he hit the first home run of his career. His line:
9 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 7 K and 1 HR
On the other hand, Kershaw did throw a wild pitch. So clearly, he's still rounding into form.
Yeah, Well, That's Like, That's Just Your Opinion, Man
The Maddux Brothers Were More Even. Over the weekend, I wrote that the Giants-Dodgers rivalry was baseball's best, most even and most consistent. I get why many fans contend the lopsided Yankees-Red Sox rivalry is better, but I cannot understand fans who claim the Cardinals-Cubs rivalry ranks with either. This alleged rivalry is even more lopsided than the Yankees and Red Sox. The Cardinals have been to the World Series 18 times and won 11, while the Cubs have been to it 10 times (all before 1946) and haven't won it in more than 100 years. Worse, since the Cubs last reached the World Series in 1945, there have been only five seasons in which one of those two teams finished in first place while the other finished within 10 games of the top. By that criteria, the two went almost four decades (1946-1983) without playing a September game against each other that had any real impact on the standings.
They Probably Will Get Better Ratings Than The Marlins. Can't get enough international baseball after the WBC? Well, you can follow the Yomiuri [Tokyo] Giants on ONE World Sports, which is available on DISH, Optimum TV from Cablevision and Mediacom. ONE World will show 72 of the NPB champion Giants games live in North America this season.
April MadnessThe Mariners and Marlins play their home openers next Monday night, up against the broadcast of the NCAA men's basketball championship game. I know union rules regarding game times after a travel day play some role in this, but exceptions should be made. Have some consideration. Do not force your fans to choose between two games they want to see equally as much.
CSI: Box Score Answer
This was a tough one, even if you spotted the biggest clue: the pitching line for Virgil Trucks. This box score fragment is from the May 9, 1952, game that Trucks started and allowed 13 hits. He threw a no-hitter in his next start, six days later. He also threw another no-hitter later in the season. And he also allowed13 hits in another game that year. Two no-hitters and two 13-hitters in a career is difficult enough. But to do it in the same season? Amazing. Then again, so was his 5-19 record with a 3.97 ERA that year.
Sadly, Trucks passed away last week at the age of 95. Rest in peace, Virgil. May you get better run support up there, big guy.