The MLB season has already begun, albeit somewhat confusingly in a 2-game series in Japan between the Oakland Athletics and the Seattle Mariners. The A’s and Mariners have since returned to US soil, and resumed playing exhibition games, which is illogical, but that is neither here nor there. For the Texas Rangers, the season doesn’t begin until Friday, April 6th, in what will be the team’s fourth straight year to open the season at home. In case you don’t remember, here is how the last three seasons began for the Rangers.
April 1, 2011 – Boston Red Sox @ Texas Rangers
The Red Sox entered this game, and the 2011 season as perhaps the most hyped team after their offseason acquisitions of Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford. The Rangers were attempting to kick off their season without any effects of a World Series hangover after their loss in the Fall Classic to the San Francisco Giants in 2010. It didn’t get off to a great start for the Rangers, with this happening on the very first batter of the season:
As far as deflating starts to a season goes, that may rank up there as number one ever when your center fielder and right fielder collide on a routine fly ball. You can only imagine the reaction of Ron Washington, and outfielders coach Gary Pettis, at seeing Julio Borbon and Nelson Cruz pull a 2-man Three Stooges routine on their first opportunity of the year.
However, the Rangers did end up rallying and winning the game 9-5, thanks to home runs by Ian Kinsler, Nelson Cruz, and Mike Napoli. Kinsler and Cruz would go on to homer in each of the Rangers’ first 3 games, becoming the first teammates to ever accomplish that feat.
April 5, 2010 – Toronto Blue Jays @ Texas Rangers
The characters in the script of the 2010 season for the Rangers held no consistency from start to end, despite the season bookends being the jubilee of a 5-4 Opening Day walk-off victory and the franchise’s first ever World Series appearance. Two of those characters which saw dynamic changes were the Opening Day starter – Scott Feldman, who went 7 innings and gave up 3 runs – and the starting catcher – Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who was the hero of the day with a walk-off hit. Feldman would finish the season with a 5.48 ERA and off of the Rangers postseason roster. Saltalamacchia would finish the season with the Red Sox, and his Opening Day walk-off single would be the only hit he would record with the Rangers in 2010. Also providing the heroics of the day was Nelson Cruz, who appears to have a knack for the game one home run, with a 3-run blast in this contest.
April 6, 2009 – Cleveland Indians @ Texas Rangers
Kevin Millwood shut down his former team for a decisive 9-1 victory for the Rangers. The Rangers roughed up Cliff Lee, of all people, touching him for 7 runs in 5 innings. Of course, the Rangers would finish 2009 in second place in the AL West, 10 games back of the Angels, while Lee would finish the season by winning two games in the 2009 World Series as a member of the Philadelphia Phillies. Appearing in this game, but no longer a part of the Rangers were Saltalamacchia, Hank Blalock, Marlon Byrd, and Chris Davis.
The Rangers, and especially their fans, have been extremely fortunate that 2012 will be the fourth straight year to have a home opener to kickoff the season. If the past three years tell us anything, it would be to not bet against a Rangers victory on Friday against the Chicago White Sox. It also tells us that the way that a season starts by no means is an indication of how it will end. The players and teams and outcomes may all be extremely different at the season end than its beginning. But come Friday, Opening Day will be the only game that we have, and so it will be the only game that matters.