Opening Day Fantasy heroes of the past
With the season mere hours away from the real Opening Day, we take a look at some of the great season debuts of years past.
Ignoring the pesky fact that the season technically started already, we're itching to finally see some games that actually matter. Spring training is nice if you live in Arizona or Florida, but those games, featuring Double-A relievers and 38-year-old journeymen, hardly get the blood going.
And, of course, those games don't count for Fantasy purposes. Unless you play in a Rotisserie league -- or have an evil commissioner -- the truncated opening series in Australia served as little more than glorified exhibition games, albeit ones with neat sightlines at a historic cricket pitch. The games that count for the team you've spent weeks meticulously preparing are about to begin, starting with Sunday's primetime matchup between the Dodgers and Padres.
Adam Aizer, Scott White and Jon Heyman went over some of the main Opening Day storylines on Friday's Fantasy Baseball Today show, so we have little left to actually talk about until the first pitch twirls off the fingertips of Andrew Cashner Sunday evening. So, we'll look back instead. Using Baseball-Reference's wonderfully nerdy Play Index tool, I tried to pin down the best Opening Day Fantasy performances of all time, as scored in standard Fantasy formats.
It should come as no surprise that the pitching list is littered with performances from the 1960's, when the mound was roughly 18 feet high and pitchers could throw at batter's heads with impunity. Only one active player winds up among the 15 highest-scoring Opening Day Fantasy performances that I could locate, and it is rightly Clayton Kershaw . Hitting doesn't dominate the game like it did even five years ago, but historic pitching performances are still rare nowadays.
Hitting is the more fun list by far, wtih a nice mix of all-time greats and completely random names, as it should be. The biggest disappointment personally is that Emilio Bonifacio's spirited four-hit, three-steal Marlins debut -- punctuated by an inside-the-park home run -- fell short, if only to add another hilarious name to the list. We'll have to settle for the likes of Tuffy Rhodes, Xavier Nady and J.P. Arencibia taking their places next to Roger Maris and Carlton Fisk.
Corey Patterson won't end up wind up with a bust in the Hall of Fame next to Joe Morgan, but it is altogether fitting and proper that he should wind up next to him in the random, impossible-to-predict world of Fantasy baseball.
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