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Friday Bird Droppings: Where baseball should have started yesterday

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March 26 was supposed to be Opening Day for the 2020 MLB season. As you may have heard, that didn’t happen.

MLB: New York Yankees at Baltimore Orioles
Two Orioles fans stand outside a vacant Camden Yards, and...wait a minute, those are my parents! Hi, Mom and Dad!
Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

Good morning, Camden Chatters.

So, how did you all endure Non-Opening Day yesterday? I have to admit, I found it a little rough.

In my household — as I’m sure it is in many of yours, too — Opening Day is a holiday. It’s a glorious celebration of baseball’s return, a day when the sun seems to shine a little bit brighter and there’s an extra pep in everyone’s step. Even in years that we know the Orioles will be in for a rough season, nothing can replace the magic and joyous optimism that comes with that inaugural game. Seeing the Orioles take the field for the first time, knowing that we’ll be spending our spring and summer together on a glorious (and sometimes inglorious) six-month adventure, is a feeling that just can’t be replaced — and never should be.

Our usual Opening Day routine consists of getting downtown by noon, enjoying a delicious crab cake lunch at Faidley’s in Lexington Market, then strolling to the ballpark to take in the sights and sounds in and around Camden Yards. (It’s usually a sea of orange outside Pickles and Sliders, where fans are packed in like sardines.) We get to our seats in time to watch the pregame ceremonies, as the Orioles’ players and coaches are announced one by one while jogging in from center field on the ever-recognizable orange carpet, cheered by a large and boisterous Baltimore crowd. Then it’s a rousing rendition of the national anthem, punctuated by fireworks, before the teams get down to business to play game No. 1 of 162.

That’s what should have happened yesterday. Instead, in this coronavirus-afflicted world, the ballpark gates were closed. Players are at home, with no idea when they’ll return to the diamond. Instead of a Faidley’s crab cake, my lunch was a turkey sandwich that I lazily threw together at home. There was no live baseball anywhere, and I couldn’t even watch MASN’s rebroadcast of Cal Ripken’s 2,131 game because my 2-year-old insisted on Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood (although she was later enthralled by seeing the Delmon Double for the first time).

A part of me was hoping yesterday would be rainy and gross so I could at least say, “See, Opening Day would’ve had to be postponed anyway.” But no, it ended up being sunny and pleasantly warm. Curse you, gorgeous weather!

I know, I know. My problems pale in comparison to those whose lives have been devastated by COVID-19. Millions of people have loved ones who have died, been hospitalized, or gotten seriously ill from the virus. Businesses have been destroyed, and many, unlike Major League Baseball, will never be able to return. Doctors, nurses, and other health care professionals have been doing incredible, courageous work amidst impossible circumstances. So when it comes right down to it, missing some baseball games is a pretty trivial consequence.

But this is a baseball blog, so for now, my focus is on baseball — or the lack thereof. For the next few weeks and months, while the sport is shut down, we can only imagine what would have happened if coronavirus hadn’t reared its ugly head.

Say, let’s do that right now! Time to introduce a new Bird Droppings feature:

Meanwhile, in a parallel universe...

In a universe where COVID-19 doesn’t exist, Orioles Opening Day yesterday was a massive success.

John Means, making his first Opening Day start following a breakout rookie season in 2019, picked up where he left off by stymieing the Yankees. Against an injury-depleted lineup that lacked righty power bats Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge, Means worked 6.1 strong innings, giving up five hits and just one run. Gleyber Torres homered, because of course he did.

On the other side of the mound, Gerrit Cole’s much-anticipated Yankees debut delivered in the strikeout department — he racked up 14 of them in seven frames — but he was tagged for an Anthony Santander two-run homer and a Rio Ruiz RBI double. Chris Davis, coming off a red-hot spring, received a standing ovation during pre-game celebrations and another one after drawing a walk in his first plate appearance. A Birds late-inning trio of Miguel Castro, Richard Bleier, and Mychal Givens held the line at the end, securing a 3-1 O’s victory.

“LUMP OF COLE!” screamed the headlines in the NY dailies this morning. “300 million dollar man bested by 100-loss Baltimore.” The talk shows were in a frenzy, with every Lenny from Brooklyn and Mike from the Bronx registering their disgust at the Yankees’ opening loss. “Buncha bums,” they spewed, predicting a disastrous season to come.

Links

Remembering past opening days while 2020 stays in shutdown mode - School of Roch
Roch Kubatko reminisces on past Orioles openers, including the infamous Snow Game in 2003 and the Birds’ three straight walkoff wins from 2016-18. Another one I enjoyed: 2009, when the O’s crushed the Yanks while local guy Mark Teixeira (who spurned the Birds for New York in free agency and was booed mercilessly all game) went 0-for-4 in his Yankee debut.

Some things that could be part of a reduced baseball schedule - Steve Melewski
Baseball could consider a few out-of-the-box ideas if and when a shortened season eventually starts. I like some of them (seven-inning doubleheaders) more than others (a free baserunner in extra innings).

Five Oriole questions from four weeks of spring training - BaltimoreBaseball.com
One of the questions is, “Do the Orioles have enough starting pitching?” I think I can venture a guess on that one.

Orioles birthdays and history

Is today your birthday? Happy birthday! You have two O’s birthday buddies: 1987 catcher Dave Van Gorder (63) and 2015 outfielder Junior Lake (30).

On this day in 2013, the O’s signed veteran right-hander Freddy Garcia to a minor league deal. Garcia ended up making 10 starts for the Birds that year and was mostly terrible (5.77 ERA), but somehow he threw eight shutout innings against the Nationals in a game I attended. Also he ended up starting a postseason game for the Braves later that year, after the O’s had released him, then never pitched in the majors again. What a weird season.