The 2006 season was a rare two-headed powerhouse year for baseball in New York. The Yankees and Mets each won 97 games and finished tied for the best record in the Major Leagues.
Opening Day of that New York, New York campaign was 14 years ago today. The season on the Yankees side started in particularly memorable fashion.
The Yankees visited the A's in what was a kind of last hurrah between the postseason foes of the early 2000s. The Yankees and A's would win their respective divisions in 2006, but that would mark the end of New York's run of nine consecutive AL East titles and the A's last time making the playoffs until 2012.
On Opening Day in Oakland, the Bronx Bombers lived up to their moniker. They erupted for 15 runs -- the most they'd scored on Opening Day in half a century, since the Mickey Mantle and Yogi Berra-led 1955 Yankees put up a franchise-record 19. The 2006 Yanks knocked out longtime A's ace Barry Zito, pitching his final season in Oakland, in the second inning.
Here's the best of the rest of the Yankees' 15-2 rout, which is today's box score of the day.
Player of the game: Alex Rodriguez, 3B, Yankees
Here was one of the best hitters ever at his peak. A-Rod was the reigning AL MVP, and he was in the middle of winning three MVP Awards in five years. Rodriguez crushed a grand slam off Zito that chased the lefty from the contest -- off Zito's signature curveball -- and he finished 3-for-5 with a team-high five RBIs.
Honorable mention No. 1 goes to brand-new Yankees leadoff hitter Johnny Damon, who was making his Yankee debut after memorably jumping cross-rivalry from the Red Sox to New York. Damon had three hits, including two doubles. Honorable mention No. 2 goes to Hideki Matsui, who homered and had a flawless game at the plate, going 4-for-4 with two walks. Derek Jeter had two hits out of the No. 2 spot, too. Really, the "player of the game" could be the entire Yankees offense.
Remember him? Milton Bradley, RF, A's
Bradley had an eclectic MLB career. Did you know he led the AL in on-base percentage and OPS in 2008 with the Rangers? It's true. The switch-hitting outfielder hit .321/.436/.563 with 22 home runs and a .999 OPS that year. He made the All-Star team and got down-ballot MVP votes. But we digress.
Bradley's pit stop in Oakland was fairly short, lasting 115 games in parts of two seasons. The A's were one of eight teams he played for in his 12 seasons from 2000-11, along with the Expos (yes, the Expos), Indians, Dodgers, Padres, Rangers, Cubs and Mariners. But Opening Day 2006 was Bradley's A's debut, and he was a bright spot in their box score, going 2-for-4.
He wore THAT uniform? Frank Thomas, DH, A's
The Big Hurt is synonymous with the White Sox, so envisioning him in green is a weird one. But after 16 years, five All-Star teams and two MVP Awards on the South Side, Thomas was released and signed with the A's at age 38. Opening Day 2006 was his first MLB game with any team other than the White Sox.
Not only did Thomas wear the A's uniform, he crushed in it. In an Opening Day matchup of aging future Hall of Famers -- the Big Hurt vs. the Big Unit -- Thomas took Randy Johnson deep in his Coliseum debut. That was the first of 39 home runs Thomas would hit with the A's in 2006, as the legendary DH finished fourth in AL MVP voting in a remarkable comeback season. Thomas jumped to the Blue Jays the next year, but his Oakland run was so good that he returned to the A's to finish up his career in 2008.
Before he was big: Robinson Canó, 2B, Yankees
Canó was a 23-year-old entering his second big league season on Opening Day 2006. Sure, he was the runner-up for AL Rookie of the Year the season before (to Huston Street), but he had a long way to go before he became one of the elite second basemen of his generation and a perennial MVP candidate.
Canó's sophomore season began with a two-hit game in Oakland, and there was a lot more to come. His rookie season was good, but the followup was great. Canó hit .342 for the Yankees in 2006 -- still his career high. That season, he became an All-Star and the Silver Slugger at second base for the first time. Now he's an eight-time All-Star and five-time Silver Slugger with 2,570 career hits.
Last call: Randy Johnson, SP, Yankees
Johnson's a lot better known for beating the Yankees -- he was the co-World Series MVP against them in 2001 -- than he is for being a Yankee. But the big lefty arrived in the Bronx via trade in 2005, at age 41, and spent two seasons there. He was still a force, even nearing the end of his career.
Johnson went 34-19 with 383 strikeouts over his two years with the Yankees. He got the Opening Day start both seasons and was dominant in both. After introducing himself to the Red Sox rivalry with six innings of one-run ball in 2005, Johnson took the mound against the A's in '06 and delivered a seven-inning, one-run, three-strikeout gem. If not for the Bombers' fireworks, he'd be the player of the game.
The 2006 season was also a last call for Yankees fan favorite Bernie Williams, who was entering the finale of his 16-year career in New York. Bernie opened the scoring on Opening Day with an RBI single off Zito.