The Week Ahead: Jackie's legacy takes center stage
The eyes of the baseball world will be on Dodger Stadium as another week dawns in an increasingly intriguing 2013 season.
There will be history at Chavez Ravine, and there could very well be some histrionics, too.
Monday is April 15, which means we have to pay our taxes, but we also have to pay our respects to the life, legacy, memory and impact that Jackie Robinson had on baseball and, more importantly, on society.
That's why there will be on-field ceremonies throughout the ballparks of the American and National Leagues in remembrance, not just on Monday but on Tuesday for home clubs that had Monday off.
"If it wasn't for Jackie, I wouldn't be here; I wouldn't be pursuing my dream," Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips said recently. "All I can say is that it's an honor to … be playing baseball because of him.
"He's one of the main reasons why I love playing this game and playing the game the way I do."
Los Angeles, as usual, will be the epicenter of this celebration, because Jackie Robinson grew up in nearby Pasadena and broke Major League Baseball's color barrier in 1947 as a member of the Dodgers' organization. All players will wear No. 42 on their back. In 1997, under the direction of Commissioner Bud Selig, Robinson's No. 42 was retired across all of Major League Baseball in an unprecedented tribute.
"Just to know that I'm a part of that and I get to wear that jersey every day, the same [Dodgers] jersey that he wore, is just a blessing," Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp said.
Once the pregame fanfare ends, however, there is a situation worth paying attention to between the lines.
The Padres and Dodgers will be meeting for the first time since Thursday night in San Diego, when Los Angeles right-hander Zack Greinke's left collarbone was broken in a scuffle after he hit outfielder Carlos Quentin with a pitch.
Greinke had surgery on Saturday and will be out for at least eight weeks. Quentin was suspended for eight games. Kemp also got in a verbal altercation with Quentin near the visiting clubhouse following Thursday's game.
We will see if there's any more fallout from the incident on Monday, although Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said his team wouldn't be seeking retaliation.
"We're going to play baseball," Mattingly said. "We're trying to win. We're not MMA fighters or anything like that. We're not going to start anything up."
Believe it or not, there's plenty more drama on tap for this week in the Majors.
In Toronto, the Blue Jays will be entering a tough stretch in which they'll be without the services of shortstop Jose Reyes, who suffered an ugly-looking left ankle sprain while sliding into second base on Friday night.
"I love baseball so much, and I love to be with my teammates on the field," Reyes said. "Now, I'm not going to be there for a little while. It's kind of disappointing for me. But injuries are part of the game and I have to deal with it."
In New York, the Yankees will be playing the Arizona Diamondbacks in a series that begins Tuesday, bringing back memories of the 2001 World Series, an epic seven-gamer that ended with Luis Gonzalez's RBI single off Mariano Rivera.
A big AL East series will commence on the same day in Baltimore, where the Tampa Bay Rays will try to bust out of a season-opening slump and jockey for position as the Orioles try to keep their status as contenders.
The upstart Kansas City Royals, meanwhile, will get a good test in Atlanta when they travel for a matchup against the red-hot Braves.
For Royals manager Ned Yost, it will be a homecoming. He coached for the Braves for 12 years and lives on a farm in LaGrange, Ga.
He said he knew where he'd be on the Monday off-day.
"I'll be in the woods at the crack of dawn hunting turkeys," Yost said.
There will be more hunting going on in baseball this week, too.
Other series of intrigue occur later in the week, when the Yankees take on the Blue Jays and the Rays meet the AL West-leading Oakland A's.
Oakland, the surprise team of the AL last year, shouldn't be so surprising anymore. Entering Monday, the A's are atop the AL West at 9-4 and confident, despite the fact that their best slugger, Yoenis Cespedes, had to go on the disabled list with a strained muscle in his hand, and outfielder Coco Crisp has been hobbled with a strained groin.
"We lose two of our better players and we still go out with the idea of winning," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "It doesn't matter who is on the field."