Opening Night

     Let it be known that the 2013 Major League Baseball season got underway at 7:10 p.m. Central in Houston, Texas when Bud Norris of the Houston Astros threw a fastball to Ian Kinsler of the Texas Rangers.  Kinsler looked at that first pitch for a strike and a new American League West rivalry was born.
     The Rangers come into the season as a defending Wild Card holder and a year removed from back to back World Series appearances while the Astros come into the season coming off two of the worst seasons in the history of their franchise.
      But none of that matters as we all start 0-0 as each season begins anew, and over the course of the next 6 months the fresh Opening Day uniforms will find themselves muddied and well-worn by the marvelous athletes that wear them for 162 games of competition, vying for personal glory, supremecy of team, startling victories and a chance to play even more games deep into October.
     Here we will examine those story lines, focusing mainly on the Los Angeles Dodgers but also looking at players, teams, rivalries, story lines and issues league-wide.
     This is my first time attempting to do a sports blog and I don’t want to take the task lightly.  The Dodgers are my favorite team by far but even moreso I love the game of baseball so chances are good I will stray toward other topics about other teams, other matchups, and the state of the game past and present.
     I also love the fan element of the game.  Teams throughout the league have a diverse, enthusiastic fan base and I will also be looking at what fans are saying about the Dodgers and about teams throughout the league.
     The Dodgers come into the 2013 season with a payroll of around $230 million and a cast of All Star-calibur players led by Center Fielder Matt Kemp and Ace pitcher Clayton Kershaw.  Win or lose, this is certain to be a fascinating season, and Dodger fans are confident that they’ll be selling out Dodger Stadium well into October.  For many, the only acceptable outcome is a parade down Figueroa Street in the mid-autumn sun below the towering behemoth skyscrapers that define Downtown Los Angeles.
     But many questions remain.  Can the largest payroll in Major League history guarantee a championship?  Or will the presence of too many egos cause the te to crumble?  Much has been made about the topic of “chemistry” and its impact on a team.  The Dodgers’ chief division and historocal rival, the San Francisco Giants, now have World Series wins in two of the last 3 seasons and attribute these wins to great team chemistry.  Their General Manager Brian Sabean would probably argue that the right mix of players wins championships, and that money and egos and superstars do not.  He would probably point at the Giants’ era in which they had Barry Bonds and Jeff Kent putting up MVP-type numbers every year but failing to win titles along the way, wheras the current team, featuring cast-offs and home-grown stars like Pablo Sandoval, Buster Posey, and ace pitcher Matt Cain.
     Those who favor home-grown chemistry quickly forget that the Dodgers also maintain a home-grown core, with Matt Kemp and Clayton Kershaw coming from the farm system now acting as the faces of the franchise, gutty catcher A.J. Ellis playing through the system and making the most of his opportunities, and that while Adrian Gonzales is not a home-grown player, he is a native of Southern California and extremely popular with Los Angeles’s large hispanic community.  Andre Ethier has also been here a while and has not played a major league game with any team except the Dodgers.  And Luis Cruz is an example of the type of journeymen cast offs the Giants tend to champion (think Juan Uribe in 2010 and Marco Scutaro in 2012,) a career minor leaguer with a couple cups of coffee (brief major league callups for those keeping score at home) who has taken his opportunity and become a local folk hero of sorts.  “Cochito” has parlayed the opportunity into a chance to be the opening day Third Baseman.
     Will the Dodgers find October glory and bring the World Series back to Dodger Stadium for the first time since 1988?  The next 162 games will tell the story and determine whether or not they will be given that chance.  Tonight, we watch the Rangers and the Astros begin their new divisional rivalry.  Tomorrow, the Dodgers and the Giants renew theirs.
     The chase begins anew. As for me, I will be at my perch in the Reserve Level tomorrow at Dodger Stadium, and for 14 other games this season. Aisle 45, Row DD, seats 23 and 24.
Play Ball.

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