Opening day is basically a holiday for me. Not only does it mean the true coming of spring, but my year officially starts. There’s pomp, there’s circumstance, there are jets flying overhead. Yet, as I woke up Monday morning, opening day was more than a little tarnished for me.
Craig Kimbrel was traded.
Suddenly, opening day felt a little darker. I mean, I knew it was always a possibility. I knew that John Hart was working on a master plan that meant no one was safe. But man, he said Kimbrel was off the table! There is an upside, though. Hart managed to do something every Braves fan wanted, but didn’t think was possible: He moved Melvin Upton Jr. and his entire contract.
That’s right, Braves fans, he freed up $46 million in one trade. On a Sunday, no less.
It still stings, though. Even with the acquisition of Matt Wisler, a high-end prospect, and a slew of early-round draft picks, the whole thing still burns. I haven’t even gone to a game yet and already I know there will be no “lighting the fires,” no Welcome to the Jungle, none of that crazy arm dangle that’s just so damn intimidating. Craig Kimbrel is an easy argument for the best closer in the game currently, and may yet go down as the best there ever was.
It’s a bummer.
And yet, baseball marches on. The Braves still took the field in Miami and played with a lot of heart. In fact, if the Kimbrel trade was more of a sign that the Braves’ brass are throwing 2015 -16 in the trash in order to make the first year in the new stadium great, this team hasn’t gotten the memo.
Granted, their first game didn’t have the splashy fireworks that some of the other opening day games had. There wasn’t a first-inning home run off King Felix Hernandez. There wasn’t a combined four home runs between two players, like Dustin Pedroia and Hanley Ramirez. Julio Teheran didn’t carry a no-no into the sixth inning like Corey Kluber or Sonny Gray.
Here’s what did happen: Teheran pitched well: six innings, one earned run, and four strikeouts. He also got his first opening day win in three tries. The offense was facing a tough cookie in Henderson Alvarez, but runners got on base, there were timely hits and smart running on the base paths, and the Braves manufactured enough runs to win. Not only that, but Luis Avilan came into the game with the bases loaded and no outs, and got a double play that kept a run from scoring. Jim Johnson finished up the seventh, then came back out in the eighth and didn’t allow a run. And lastly, Jason Grilli, in his first appearance as the Braves’ newly appointed closer, slammed the door on the Marlins, which included a Giancarlo Stanton strikeout.
All in all, it was a good game. It was the kind of game that should fire up Braves fans about what this team can do this year. It’s not going to be super flashy, but it’s going to be exciting to watch. And if you’re one of the fans who still believe, Hart now has a ton of room to make deals if the Braves are competing at all come July.
It wasn’t quite how I pictured opening day, but it certainly was memorable. And it’s that kind of guessing that makes this game so much fun.