OBSERVATIONS: Shortstop can be hard to play on Opening Day

By Hal McCoy

UNSOLICITED OBSERVATIONS from The Man Cave, perusing some highlights/lowlights around baseball on Opening Day.

—Two errors in two innings by Cincinnati Reds ‘new’ shortstop, Eugenio Suarez, led to three runs in the team’s 11-6 Opening Day mishap against the St. Louis Cardinals.

As bad as it looked, it wasn’t the worst Opening Day glove work by a Reds shortstop.

Pokey Reese, one of the classiest guys ever to slip into a Reds uniform, uttered a classic line after Opening Day, 1998.

Reese, a wizard with the glove, uncharacteristically made four errors that day. Before the game, owner Marge Schott paraded elephants from the Cincinnati Zoo around the field.

Said Reese after his unfortunate day, “Instead of playing shortstop today, I should have been behind the elephants with a trash bag, but I probably would have missed.”

Meanwhile, Jose Iglesias, the slicker than an oil slick shortstop the Reds let walk after the 2019 season, made an ESPN Top Ten play for the Los Angeles Angels. And former Reds shortstop Didi Gregorius, whom the Reds unsuccessfully tried to sign this winter, mad a Willie Mays back-to-the-infield over-the-shoulder catch for the Philadelphia Phillies.

—The Reds’ miserable record during spring training (8-19-2), and the insertion of Jeff Hoffman and Jose de Leon into the rotation, caused Las Vegas to lower the team’s win expectations by two games.

Before spring training, BetOnline.com listed the over/under on Reds’ wins at 83 1/2. Now it is at 81 1/2. I’ll still take the under at 78.

Before Opening Day, Reds third baseman Mike Moustakas said, “You’ll see that our pitching is better than adequate.” Now there is a positive, supportive endorsement, right?

By the way, while the Reds plugged up their rotation with Hoffman and de Leon, the San Francisco Giants Opening Day starter was Kevin Gausman. The Reds released him after the 2019 season and the Giants signed him.

He held the Seattle Mariners to one run over 6 2/3 innings, but the Giants blew a five-run lead and lost in 10 innings. Gausman must have felt he was still with the Reds.

—The odiferous performance by Cincinnati’s Luis Castillo wasn’t the only losing performance by a team’s so-called ace.

Clayton Kershaw of the Los Angeles Dodgers was roughed up for five earned runs in 6 1/3 innings in an 8-5 loss to the Colorado Rockies. Cleveland’s Shane Bieber struck out 12 Detroit Tigers, but lost, 3-2. New York Yankees rich-boy Gerrit Cole was handed a no-decision in his team’s loss to the Toronto Blue Jays.

—Did somebody say the baseball’s were somewhat de-activated this year? Then how could the Arizona Diamondbacks hit four home runs in one inning? And they still lost to the San Diego Padres, 8-7.

The Texas Rangers tied a franchise Opening Day record by scoring 10 runs. And they lost, 14-10, to the Kansas City Royals. No, the star of the game for Kansas City was not Patrick Mahomes.

Analytics maven Theo Epstein is proposing that the pitching rubber be moved back to 60 feet, 6 inches to 61 feet, 6 inches.

Opening Day Rangers pitcher Kyle Gibson has a different idea after he survived one-third of an inning and gave up five runs, four hits and three walks: Move the pitching rubber a foot closer to home plate at 59 feet, six inches.

—Speaking of home runs, Paul Goldschmidt drove one off the top of the wall in the first inning against the Reds. He stopped at second base. The umpires signaled home run and Goldschmidt trotted home.

A review, though, revealed that the ball hit the yellow line atop the wall and did not clear the wall. Goldschmidt was sent back to second base. He knew all along that it was a double.

But, in Detroit, in a swirling snowstorm, Miguel Cabrera hit one into the right field seats. . .and slid into second base. Umpires told him to dust off his pants and continue his journey homeward.

Most likely, the Venezuelan-born Cabrera isn’t used to watching home runs through a blinding snowstorm.

—Oakland fans haven’t forgotten the 2017 Cheatin’ Astros. When the Houston team was introduced before the game, Oakland Coliseum fans booed non-stop.

And shortstop Carlos Correa, one of the last Astros to play on the sign-stealing Astros, was hit by a pitch thrown by Chris Bassitt. And the crowd cheered as if they were watching The Bash Brothers hit home runs.

Nevertheless, the Astros prevailed, 8-1. It was Houston’s ninth straight Opening Day victory, one short of the all-time record of 10 straight by the Boston Beaneaters (1887-1896). The Cincinnati Reds also won nine straight from 1983 through 1991.

—Did anybody notice the shoes worn by St. Louis starting pitcher Jack Flaherty? They were tributes to two Cardinals legends who dies since last season. One shoe was a tribute to Bob Gibson and the other was a tribute to Lou Brock. A nice touch.

—And here we go again. Opening Day between the Washington Nationals and New York Mets was postponed because five Nationals players tested positive for COVID-19, plus other plays and a staff member were placed in quarantine.

It isn’t clear when the Nationals will be cleared to play. . .but this won’t be the last time this season for a pandemic postponement.

—Gee, I wonder why the Reds didn’t sign free agent Francisco Lindor? The New York Mets gave them 341 million reasons why. They signed him to a 10-year $341 million contract. And the net baseball owner who cries poverty should be made to stand at attention for 300 days on the steps of a Bank of America branch.

—And for the rest of the season, just remember the words of Pete Rose: “There’s no base like home.”

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