Major Leagues: 26 of 30 teams start today
As the U.S. portion of the major league schedule got under way Sunday night, President Bush said he thought December’s Mitchell Report on drugs in baseball “was part of the cleansing process.”
“I’m happy with the recognition that it was a problem,” Bush said Sunday night during the ESPN broadcast after throwing the ceremonial first pitch at Nationals Park. “I certainly hope the players continue to work to clean up the sport.”
While the World Series champion Boston Red Sox and Oakland Athletics started the season by splitting a two-game series last week in Tokyo, it won’t feel like opening day in most places until Monday, when 26 of the 30 clubs get under way.
There will be the traditional opening in Cincinnati, where the Reds host Arizona. The Chicago Cubs, who haven’t won the World Series in exactly a century, host Milwaukee at Wrigley Field ó where fans are worried new owner Sam Zell will sell naming rights for the beloved ballpark to some corporate sponsor before unloading the team.
Joe Torre will manage the Los Angeles Dodgers for the first time, and Joe Girardi will manage his first game as Torre’s replacement with the Yankees ó who host opening day at Yankee Stadium for the final time.
“It’ll probably be emotional,” New York captain Derek Jeter said. “I really don’t know what to expect. I’m sure you’ll take a look around and try to remember as many things as you can. It’s going to be a special year.”
In Chicago, Cubs manager Lou Piniella wore a ski hat over his baseball cap at Sunday’s Wrigley workout. It was 40 degrees, not at all like the weather at their spring-training camp in Mesa, Ariz.
“It is cold,” new right fielder Kosuke Fukudome said.
In New York, the Yankees will try to get off to a fast start in hopes of World Series title No. 27. The big ballpark in the Bronx opened in 1923, and the new stadium rising across 161st St. won’t seem the same.
“We’re hoping to try to rock the house here one more season before we get there ó or somebody’s going to rock my house,” Yankees general manager Brian Cashman laughed.
In Minneapolis, Torii Hunter plans to wake up early on opening day and head to his favorite pancake place for breakfast, just as he’s often done before so many games at the Metrodome.
“I’m going to do all of the other things that I used to do before I go to the stadium, but once I get to that stadium and put on that Angels uniform,” Hunter said, “I’m the enemy.”
Johan Santana, who departed the Twins to sign a $137.5 million, six-year deal with the Mets, will make his first start for New York at Florida. The Marlins, you may remember, won at Shea Stadium on the final day of last season, completing New York’s collapse from a seven-game NL East lead with 17 to play.
In St. Louis, the NL’s last two World Series teams play on opening day in a matchup that features two of the league’s best hitters: the Cardinals’ Albert Pujols and the Rockies’ Matt Holliday.
“We need to win four more games,” Rockies manager Clint Hurdle said, thinking back to last October, when Colorado was swept in the World Series by the Red Sox.