Let's test Harry Doyle's 'first batter of the season' theory from 'Major League' on 2017
For the 2017 season, there's one perfect example of this ringing true
My favorite sport has been baseball since I could walk, and it's never changed. My favorite baseball movie has been "Major League" since the first time I saw it, and I can't see that ever changing, either. As such, I'm constantly referencing the movie to myself. Back on Opening Day this season, I remember one particular result flashed to a certain part of the movie in my head, so we're gonna have a little offseason fun with it.
One might recall that when Willie "Mays" Hayes digs in for the bottom of the first inning, Bob Uecker's "Harry Doyle" character says, "a lotta people say you can tell how the season's gonna go by the first hitter of the year."
I don't know how many people actually said this before the movie, considering I was 11 years old when it came out, but this is really the only place I've ever heard it. Just for kicks, let's see how true Doyle's theory rang in the 2017 season. We'll go from the worst finishes to the best (with the playoff order being determined by postseason finish) and check out each team.
The question is whether or not the first hitter outcome told us how the season was going to go for each team. We'll calculate at the end.
Ian Kinsler fouled out while the Tigers would win just 64 games. Seems fitting.
San Francisco Giants
Denard Span hit a weak pop out to short while the Giants would go on to a dreadful season, finishing tied for the worst record in the majors. This one fits well. Doyle/Uecker is 2-0!
Here's a rough one.
Cesar Hernandez led off the season with a home run. The Phillies would then go on to lose 96 games and finish better than only two teams in baseball. Harry's theory takes a rough setback here.
Chicago White Sox
Billy Hamilton grounded out to second. That works. The Reds came in last and never hung around in contention.
New York Mets
Jose Reyes would strike out looking before the Mets -- against playoff expectations -- went on to finish 70-92. We've got a good hit on the Doyle theory here.
San Diego Padres
Ender Inciarte struck out, and the Braves would win a disappointing 72 games. The shoe fits on this one.
Seth Smith lined out deep down the right field line. I think this one works. It's a tease job. The Orioles jumped out to a 22-10 record, only to end up with 75 wins and in last place. They even teased contention in late August when they sat 68-65, but would go 7-22 the rest of the way.
Rajai Davis struck out, and the A's finished 75-87 and in last place. Ding, ding, ding!
Adam Frazier harmlessly flew out to shallow left field. The Pirates would go on to harmlessly finish 75-87. We've got another hit.
Toronto Blue Jays
Devon Travis singled off Kevin Gausman. The Blue Jays followed up two straight ALCS appearances with 76 wins and perhaps the most disappointing season among AL teams. Nope, this one doesn't work, Harry.
Jean Segura worked a 3-2 single off former Cy Young winner Dallas Keuchel. The Mariners ended up going 78-84 and missing the playoffs yet again. Perhaps Segura not scoring saves us a bit here, but a single is a successful outcome and having a losing record isn't for this team.
Kansas City Royals
Alex Gordon lined out. I'll take it. It's an out in a season where the Royals went 80-82. It wasn't a terrible at-bat, but it wasn't a success. We're good on this one.
Tampa Bay Rays
Corey Dickerson singled to center and he would actually come around to score. The Rays would go 80-82, which was an improvement by 12 wins, but I don't think we can count a single being a harbinger of a losing record.
Los Angeles Angels
Yunel Escobar would single while the Angels went on to win 80 games. I think this is more than many expected them to win, but ultimately the season wasn't a success while a single is a success. I don't think we can accept this one.
St. Louis Cardinals
Dexter Fowler lined out. This feels right, as the Cardinals ended up hanging around in contention but never really seemed like an overly serious threat to make any noise in the postseason even if they got there. They weren't bad, but weren't successful either.
Jonathan Villar struck out looking to start off a season where the Brewers were surprise contenders. The season was an overwhelming success for the Brewers compared to expectations, so the Doyle theory doesn't work in Uecker's backyard.
Brian Dozier's weak tapper just in front of home plate led to ... a playoff berth?! No dice here.
Charlie Blackmon popped out to shortstop in a season where the Rockies made the playoffs for the first time since 2009. We've got a fail.
A.J. Pollock popped out to first, so we've got a miss here. The D-Backs were one of the most pleasant surprises in baseball with 93 wins and the top NL wild card.
Boston Red Sox
Dustin Pedroia hit a routine grounder to short. The Red Sox would take the AL East with 93 wins, so this one doesn't work, obviously.
Trea Turner doubled and this whole inning seems perfect. After Turner, Adam Eaton walked. A double steal would get them to second and third, but the Nationals struck out three straight times and didn't score. They won the NL East, but again failed to get out of the NLDS. This is a good one.
Carlos Santana led off the 100-plus win season with a routine fly out. It's a no.
Kyle Schwarber had a line-drive single. This one is good. The Cubs won the NL Central, but didn't defy expectations. Going to the NLCS for the third straight year was good, but not repeating as World Series champs wasn't great. It felt like a single.
New York Yankees
Brett Gardner led off the season with a fly out. That doesn't work for our purposes, as the Yankees came within one win of the World Series.
Los Angeles Dodgers
Andrew Toles lined out. I'd have to stretch pretty far to make this one work, using something about how it was Toles and he wouldn't even be around when the end of the season rolled around. I could say it illustrated how the Dodgers had so much organizational depth and that's ultimately what led to such a great season.
Or I could just admit the theory doesn't work on this one. Dammit.
You ready for this? Here was the first Astros' batter of the season, George Springer:
BOOM. Home run. World Series champs.
Harry Doyle wins! OK, well, not yet. Let's tally it up.
I've subjectively got the following:
- 15 that work.
- 15 that don't.
Still, Springer hit a home run and the Astros won the World Series. I'm letting that be the tiebreaker and granting Harry Doyle soothsayer status in addition to being a legend.
What? What's that? Slow news day? Bah, settle down and enjoy life. This was fun.
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