If Rob Manfred really wants to make himself an indispensable commissioner, both to the fans to whom he claims to serve and the owners to whom he actually serves, all he has to do is figure out a way to make Opening Day the same day for all 30 teams.
Of course, this is impossible unless each team is required to have a split-squad team just for Opening Day so that every team can open the season at home. But that’s the challenge, and Manfred, who has already gone on record as trying to tackle pace of play without success and turning minor league players into poorer earners than burger flippers with great success, would be a hero if he could manage that single achievement.
We mention this because the San Francisco Giants are one of the 15 teams who did not get to open their home season on the actual Opening Day (hey, it happens to everyone every other year), which means they open their home season after one of the most bizarre opening series in recent baseball history – winning their first two games 1-0 by Joe Panik homers over the two best Los Angeles Dodger pitchers and then scoring no more runs in the remaining 138 at-bats.
Now how do you as a fan go to the ballpark for the start of a new home season without at least a little bit of conflict about what you might see?
I, of course, have no issue, as I am a fan of no team and therefore can admire the atmosphere for its purely bizarre character. But believers have their own baggage to carry, and sometimes the heads of angry animals pop out of the suitcase and roar menacingly based on the evidence produced to date.
Of course this can work the other way as well. Pittsburgh, which stripped its team down for parts over the winter, swept Detroit in Detroit over the weekend and then opened the home schedule with another win over Minnesota. You think Pirates fans weren’t at least at a little giddy, and wishing they could join the American League?
Or what about the Cubs, who don’t start at home until next Monday, after playing their first 10 games on the road? How do you sustain that level of fake enthusiasm for the start of a season that is already one-sixteenth old by the time you get your turn?
Oh, people will fake it well enough, but they’ll know inside that it’s different when they’re welcoming Evan Longoria while worrying about his 0-for-15 start. You can’t celebrate a clean slate that is already written on, it just can’t work.
But that’s where Rob Manfred comes in, or where he should come in. Free Opening Day for everyone! It is his one true mandate, even after answering the same “What about the A’s ballpark?” question he gets like Whack-a-mole every time he lifts up his head. He fixes this, he’s home free. If not, well, he’s on his own.