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If it's Opening Day, it must be overreaction time

Give Harper MVP and Benintendi ROY now; no more saves for Giants
April 3, 2017

The best summation of how we react to the first game of the baseball season comes from an unknown 20th-century poet…err… former Dodger, who, as relayed by Andrew Baggarly of the San Jose Mercury News,once said, "It's Opening Day. Everything's magnetized."Ah yes, leave it to a malapropism to explain why

The best summation of how we react to the first game of the baseball season comes from an unknown 20th-century poet…err… former Dodger, who, as relayed by Andrew Baggarly of the San Jose Mercury News,once said, "It's Opening Day. Everything's magnetized."
Ah yes, leave it to a malapropism to explain why Opening Day takeaways are so erroneous. Just as this anonymous player was -- ahem -- attracted to the wrong word (the judges were looking for "magnified"), it's easy to be drawn to faulty assumptions about the first of 162.
But exaggeration is all part of the season-opening experience. So let's take a look at 10 overreactions from the first batch of ballgames and whether they might have merit.
1. "Should we just give Bryce Harper the National League MVP Award now, or…?"
We go bonkers over Bryce every year at this time, because he's gone deep in three of the Nationals' past four openers. But there's obviously a great deal of intrigue surrounding this still-very-young man because of the way he came down from his NL MVP Award campaign of 2015 and the way he lit up the Grapefruit League this spring.
Suggesting the 24-year-old Harper, who was reported to be dealing with shoulder issues last season but now looks like he's built out of bricks, is due to bounce back is not exactly a bold prediction. But to see him torch a ball with a Statcast-calculated 107-mph exit velocity after a 2016 in which his average exit velo on fly balls and line drives was a purely pedestrian 92.7 was a really good early sign.
2. "Should we just give Andrew Benintendi the American League Rookie of the Year Award now, or…?"
It says a lot about Boston's confidence in Benintendi that the rookie batted second in that loaded lineup in just his 35th big league game. He delivered a three-run homer off Gerrit Cole, lending optimism to the idea that his power is ready to blossom on this stage. Benintendi has fantastic control of the strike zone for such a young hitter and a little more power than you'd expect from such a diminutive frame (5-foot-10, 170 pounds). While it will be interesting to see how much he improves on last year's 6.5 percent home run/fly ball rate in a small sample from 2016, his performance against left-handed pitching, which limited him to a 5-for-33 showing last year, could also go a long way toward determining if he seizes the rookie stage, as expected.

3. "Buck Showalter is just going to bring Zach Britton into every tie game with the Blue Jays from now on."
If he did, could you really blame him?
4. "The Cardinals are going to hang with the Cubs!"
Well, hey, maybe. Anytime there's as much consensus as there is about the Cubs repeating as NL Central winners, the baseball gods are capable of some serious smite. If nothing else, the Cards did some Grade A trolling by taking every opportunity in their pregame ceremony to point out that they have 11 World Series titles.
But if you were a Cardinals fan watching that Sunday night tilt and looking for a reason to be hopeful the Cards can -- at the very, very least -- win a Wild Card spot this season, Carlos Martinez delivered. He didn't allow in a run in 7 1/3 scoreless innings while fanning 10 and walking none in a St. Louis win.

5. "The Giants' bullpen will never convert another save ever."
Giants fans have certainly had it more good than bad this decade, but if they're freaking out about the bullpen, it's hard to blame them. The 2016 season was traumatizing, what with a Major League-leading 30 blown saves and that nightmare of a ninth in Game 4 of the NL Division Series with the Cubs. Nobody promised that Mark Melancon's four-year, $62 million contract would solve everything (somebody's got to set him up, after all), but you certainly expected better than Melancon delivered after two quick outs in the ninth inning Sunday in Phoenix, where Arizona erupted for two runs on four hits to send San Francisco to a 6-5 loss.

At least the Giants can rest comfortably knowing Madison Bumgarner's on pace for a 60-dinger year.
6. "The Rockies are finally going to have an elite road offense!"
Opening outside of Coors, they beat the Brewers, 7-5, and, well, Miller Park ain't exactly a pitcher's park, either. I took some grief from the Colorado faithful for not putting the Rox in my top five lineups for 2017, but the bottom line (for now) is that they've finished baseball's lower-third in road runs per game every single year going back to 2010.
Having said that, there's obviously great potential in that Nolan Arenado-led group, as evidenced Monday. While the heroic Mark Reynolds will always rate as boom or bust, a 2-for-4 day from Gerardo Parra was especially good for the soul, because a bounceback from his disappointing 65 OPS+ (after a 111 mark in 2016) would go a long way toward lengthening the lineup.
7. "Why do I worry Noah Syndergaard's blister is going to lead to amputation?"
Because you're a Mets fan, that's why. That club's dazzling starting depth is already, well, not as dazzling as it was a week ago. Steven Matz is on the shelf, and Seth Lugo's going for a second opinion on his elbow. All the more reason why even the most minor of health hiccups involving Syndergaard -- in this case a blister -- adds a sense of unease to the wide-eyed awe that accompanies his every trip to the mound. How could anybody be that big and throw everything that hard and that well? Where's the catch?!
Well, don't fret the middle-finger blister, specifically. Though it's expected to push Syndergaard back from Saturday to Sunday, that's better than seeing him skipped altogether, and the Mets won! Cheer up, Flushing faithful.
8. "Byron Buxton's defense is reason enough to put the Twins in contention."
Buxton made the first five-star catch of the season, as determined by Statcast™'s Catch Probability. An Alex Gordon liner with an exit velocity of 106 mph that traveled 289 feet had just a 24-percent chance of being caught and -- yep -- Buxton, who had just 2.9 seconds to cover 36 feet, caught it. Probably not surprising, considering Buxton had six five-star catches in 2016.

As was the case when the similarly speedy Billy Hamilton came up to the bigs, we still want and need to see more at the plate from Buxton, who went 0-for-5 in the Twins' 7-1 win over the Royals. But he's special in center.
9. "Edwin Encarnacion was worth every penny for the Indians!"
The Tribe's 40-man payroll jumped a whopping 44.3 percent from Opening Day 2016 to '17, according to The Associated Press' calculations, primarily because of the impressive investments in Encarnacion and relievers Andrew Miller (who, of course, was added at last year's Trade Deadline), and Boone Logan. One game obviously doesn't justify the three-year, $60 million deal that Cleveland gave Edwing over the offseason, but when you see his great calm and presence on that game-tying homer in the top of the eighth and then Miller coming in to shut down the Rangers' lineup in the bottom of the inning to set up the Indians' game-claiming three-run ninth in an 8-5 win, it's an early justification of the financial leap of faith.
10. "Clayton Kershaw is still the best!"

Anthony Castrovince has been a reporter for since 2004. Read his columns and follow him on Twitter at @Castrovince.