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April 3, 2005

A great start
by SG

If you were to draw up the perfect opening day scenario, it would've been pretty close to what we saw tonight. It's only one game out 162, but there were several signs that portend good things.

1. Randy Johnson
I never liked Randy Johnson, although I've always admired his talent. But in the first inning when he threw three straight fastballs to Manny Ramirez clocked at 96, 96, and 97 mph, I realized how exciting it's going to be to have him leading the staff this year. If he keeps pitching like he did tonight, he'll win me over.

2. Jason Giambi
Giambi looked like last year never happened. He ripped a ground ball single in his first AB, which was precedeed with a nice ovation by the crowd. He also took two HBP, made a nice play on an errant throw by Jeter, and misplayed another ball, but he looked pretty good out there.

3. MVP-Zilla?
Hideki Matsui made a tremendous catch to rob Kevin Millar of a two run homer, and added three hits, including a monstrous homerun to CF off Matt Mantei. He appears even more confident and locked in than last year, and I think he can hit 40 HRs this year. If he can improve his defense, hit around .300, and maintain his walk rate, he would be a legitimate MVP candidate. I wonder if Mike Francesa still thinks that signing "that Japanese guy" was a huge mistake?

4. Tanyon Sturtze
I'm ready to start believing that he's for real. He threw two perfect innings against a pretty good lineup, striking out three. He was a little shaky on the first two batters command wise, but once he got loose he started cruising.

5. Derek Jeter
After last year, Jeter needs to have a big year to re-establish himself. If he can get back to .315 or so, and keep his power from last year as well as his much improved defense (still not Gold Glove worthy), he'll be right in contention with Miguel Tejada for best shortstop in the AL.

5. Joe Torre
Joe Torre again showed that there is cause for concern in Yankee-land. Between batting Ruben Sierra cleanup, taking Giambi out after only six innings, and pitching Tom Gordon with a 7 run lead in the ninth inning, he showed his continued tendency to make strange moves. The Giambi move was defensible, the game was fairly well in-hand and he probably wanted to let Jason leave the game with a good feeling about his play. The Sierra decision was pretty bad, especially when Ruben failed to do anything against Wells (although he managed to get a hit off of Alan Embree). The biggest issue I had was using Gordon in that spot, with a 20 man bullpen.

6. Tino Martinez
I always felt Tino was overrated during his time on the Yankees, but I do admit it was pretty cool seeing him back in the dugout, in a memories of better times kind of way. He made a great defensive play as well, and I think he can be a positive contributor this year as long as Torre is aware of his limitations and uses him accordingly. This is especially true with the news that Andy Phillips has been recalled to take Kevin Brown's spot on the roster when Kevin shockingly got placed on the DL. Phillips should get some platoon AB at the very least and a chance to show what he can do.

All in all, you had to be happy not just with the win, but the way things shook out. Obviously, it's a long season and a lot can change, but I'm going to enjoy this one until Tuesday.