Widgets Magazine

Peterson: Opening Day is the greatest gift under the tree

It’s only fitting that the start of spring quarter here on campus coincides with Opening Day for Major League Baseball.

Today, everybody begins with a clean slate. For Stanford students, grades from last quarter — good or bad — are forgotten and new classes begin. For baseball teams, last year’s records fade and each team stands tied for first place at 0-0 (discounting the Dodgers and Diamondbacks, who played two games in Australia last week).

More so than in other quarters for students, spring brings an excitement and a hope for a prosperous quarter filled with sun, beach trips and lighter workloads.

Similarly, on Opening Day, every team believes that it could make the postseason or win the World Series, with maybe 10 or 12 teams having realistic hopes. At least on Opening Day, it’s not hard to envision a scenario for every team that ends in the postseason — even the Houston Astros. If Mark Appel reaches the majors and notches 15 wins, Jose Altuve hits .340 and prospect Jonathan Singleton slugs 35 home runs in an injury-riddled AL West Division, the Astros could threaten for the division crown or a Wild Card spot.

Yes, those situations will likely sound crazy in a couple of weeks, but on Opening Day, even Astros fans can have hope. Few people outside of the New England area thought a Boston Red Sox team coming off a 69-93 season would challenge for a playoff spot last year, and now they reign as defending World Series champions.

For some, Opening Day will be the high point of the season — a weak middle of the order, a lack of elite pitching or a season-ending injury to a star player might doom a team in just the first few weeks. Even as a student, the first problem set might be a sign of a difficult quarter ahead and the first day of the quarter, hopefully homework-free, might have been the best.

For others, the first day is the start of better things to come. Ten teams will make the postseason and one team will take home the trophy. Students will likely enjoy an exciting quarter in the beautiful northern California weather.

Beyond the comparison with spring quarter at Stanford, baseball’s Opening Day — really the premier opening day of any sport — is unlike any other day of the season. An entire season filled with mystery awaits.

With the first games underway, we can only wonder what’s in store for the new MLB season. Will Mike Trout surpass Miguel Cabrera and win his first AL MVP award? Can the Red Sox repeat as champions? Will the Dodgers’ mammoth payroll deliver them their first World Series title since 1988?

The new season ushers in somewhat of a changing of the guard. Gone are the days when Alex Rodriguez, Albert Pujols, Josh Hamilton, Ichiro Suzuki and Derek Jeter would lead the league in home runs, hits, batting average or RBIs. Instead, relatively new names like Paul Goldschmidt, Andrew McCutchen, Bryce Harper and Mike Trout headline the list of MVP candidates, along with mainstays Miguel Cabrera and Robinson Cano. Baseball is becoming a younger man’s game. In fact, the average age of an MLB player has decreased in seven of the last nine years and is now about a year younger (28.5) than it was in 2006.

However, the downward trend in age has yet to spread to the postseason. Last year’s champion, the Boston Red Sox, still had an average age of 30 years old and was among the top five oldest teams in the league. In 2012, the San Francisco Giants won the World Series with an average age of 29 years and in 2011, the St. Louis Cardinals won with an average age of 30 years. Both of these teams were also in the upper half of  teams in the league in age.

At some point, though, youth will prevail. I think that time is now — this will finally be the year that a team highlighted by youth wins the World Series. When the World Series concludes in October, the Washington Nationals, led by 21-year-old outfielder Bryce Harper and 25-year-old ace Stephen Strasburg, will finish as the champions of baseball.

That being said, the Nationals probably won’t even reach the World Series. But that’s the best part of Opening Day. The season is like the biggest present under the Christmas tree, and the unwrapping starts today.

Michael Peterson woke up this morning at the crack of dawn to open his present. Share your excitement with him at mrpeters ‘at’ stanford.edu and Tweet at him @mpetes93.

About Michael Peterson

Michael Peterson is a senior staff writer at The Stanford Daily. He has served as a beat reporter for football, baseball and men’s soccer and also does play-by-play broadcasting of football and baseball for KZSU. Michael is a senior from Rancho Santa Margarita, California majoring in computer science. To contact him, please email him at mrpeters ‘at’ stanford.edu.