Thursday, April 05, 2012

Take The Afternoon Off

Red Sox at Tigers, 1:05. Lester/Verlander. The Opener. (Outside NESN land you'll get Tito on ESPN2.)

For those stuck at work, I will be posting some updates here.

I'll never forget what happened the last time we opened the season in Detroit. It was 1986. I was in 5th grade, and as usual pissed that I'd have to miss the start of the game because I was in school, then run home when I got out to catch as much as possible. That day, I got home to find out from my mom that Dwight Evans had hit the first pitch of the game--and of the entire baseball season, as our game started even before the Reds' game did--for a home run. We lost the game but it was the start of a magical season that turned sour only at the very end. That moment is currently on my fridge, too, as I made a magnet out of the '87 Topps Record Breaker card commemorating the earliest-ever home run.

The only other times we started the year in Detroit were 1972 (in which we'd lose the division to the Tigers by a half game) and 1968 (when the Tigers would go on to win the World Series). So watch for some crazy shit to happen to either the Tigers or Red Sox or both in 2012.

A little more on that 1986 opener: Interestingly, the AP article about that game started like this:

Exactly two years before, April 7, 1984, Detroit right-hander Jack Morris guaranteed himself a spot in the Hall of Fame by pitching a no-hitter against the Chicago White Sox.

A bold prediction considering '84 was only Morris's 7th full season. They had the right idea anyway. He almost made it to the Hall in 2012 and has a couple chances left. That writer must be biting his nails. "Trust me, that '84 no-hitter guaranteed it. I never said when!"

As for Evans, who's now a shocking 60 years old, part of what made the leadoff homer special was the fact that Dewey was in the leadoff spot to begin with. Looking back, I see he was in that role for the second half of '85, too, but in all the years before and after, he was never a leadoff guy, and I never thought of him as that type, even at the time. It is interesting to see his splits in terms of batting order position. He hit everywhere. With most guys you see a bunch of zeros, in either the power spots if he's not a power guy, or in the non-power spots if he is a power guy. But Dewey had plenty of at bats in every slot. He had 2534 plate appearances in the 2-hole, and in all the other positions it ranges from 1731 (6th) down to 434 (9th). By comparison, Jim Rice batted 1st, 2nd, 8th, or 9th a combined 21 times. Wade Boggs hit 1st, 2nd, or 3rd almost 10,000 times total, while hitting 4th, 7th, 8th, or 9th less than 100 times each.

I wonder if that's some kind of record--biggest batting order position spread. Or maybe he's the only guy with at least 350 at bats in every place in the order. Or at least 50 runs. Or something. Bill Buckner is in the "3+ intentional walks in every spot in the order" crowd while Dewey is not, though. But his "earliest home run" record will never be broken. It can be tied, but never broken. In a thousand years, when someone asks who hit the earliest dong in a season, one of the answers will be Dwight Evans. Can you think of a better guy for that to happen to?

And with that, it's definitely time for me to stop looking up weird baseball stats and go to bed. What am I doing up so late on Opening Eve? I think I hear cleats on the rooftop!

No I can't think of a better guy. Thanks for another great post & GO SOX!

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Location: Rhode Island, United States