Major League Baseball will kick off the 2013 regular season with a special Opening Night presentation broadcast exclusively on ESPN. The Worldwide Leader of Sports will put on a special two-hour edition of Baseball Tonight leading into the 8 p.m. start time of its feature presentation – the Texas Rangers at the Houston Astros.
That’s right. Major League Baseball and/or ESPN has chosen to try and generate excitement for the s tart of the regular season with what looks on paper to be a dud of a game. The Texas Rangers have been good over the past few years, and despite the loss of Josh Hamilton to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim through free agency, are likely to be good again this season. The Houston Astros are bad. Very bad. Almost unwatchably bad.
Which begs the question, why did MLB and/or ESPN choose the Rangers-Astros series, of all the opening day series, as its Opening Night feature?
The answer certainly isn’t the sexiness of the starting pitching matchup. Texas will send Matt Harrison to the mound; he will be countered by Houston’s Bud Norris. Neither name really moves the needle. In fact, we’d be willing to bet most casual baseball fans have never even heard of either pitcher.
Sure, 2013 will be Houston’s first season in the American League. Perhaps Bud Selig and the boys wanted to use Opening Night to introduce the baseball world to the new divisional landscape. But interleague play will be going on all season long this year, which kind of deadens the intrigue of a former National League team being tossed into the world of the designated hitter. With interleague games sprinkled into the schedule from April through September, there’s going to be at least one National League team using a designated hitter in a road series against an American League team every day.
The league may be trying to generate buzz in creating a divisonal and geographical rivalry between the two teams. But Opening Night is a national broadcast designed to generate excitement from a national audience. Fans in Los Angeles and New York have no interest in battles of pride among rivaling Texas metropolitan areas.
Seeds All Day would like to offer up three opening-day series that would have made much better choices for ESPN’s exclusive presentation of Opening Night, and which would have provided baseball a better first foot forward for the 2013 regular season.
1. San Francisco Giants vs. L.A. Dodgers
This matchup would pit Cy Young candidates Matt Cain and Clayton Kershaw against one another in a long-standing division rivalry game. It would provide a showcase of the defending World Series champion Giants and would allow fanst to celebrate again last year’s miraculous postseason run. It would also serve as an introduction to the new-look, free-spending, Yankees-of-the-West Dodgers team that has been gorging itself on talent since Magic Johnson and company purchased the team a season ago and expects to contend for a title.
2. N.Y. Yankees vs. Boston Red Sox
You can never go wrong with Yankees-Red Sox. It is arguably the single greatest rivalry in all of sports, and both teams have national followings. There is also human interest surrounding both teams. The Yankees lineup will look and play completely different than teams of recent past. They lost most of their power bats through free agency, and most of those that remain will begin the season on the disabled list. The Red Sox are looking to bounce back from a nightmare season under the reign of former skipper Bobby Valentine that left them last in the division for the first time in ages.
3. Philadelphia Phillies vs. Atlanta Braves
Until the Washington Nationals took the baseball world by storm last year, these two teams were the ones going round-for-round for the National League East crown season after season. The Phillies took a step back last year, due in large part to injuries, but Philadelphia is finally healthy again and hungry. Atlanta returns the core of the team that earned a wild card playoff berth last season, and has added the Upton brothers to create a dynamic outfield. Seeds All Day fully expects both teams to be right in the mix with Washington for the division title. With the added importance of each and every divisional game, these two teams would have answered the Opening Night bell with haymakers swinging.