Opening Day Yankees victory brings dreams, highlights worries

The New York Yankees hosted the San Francisco Giants on MLB Opening Day, March 30. 2023 at Yankee Stadium.
Michael Bennington
Friday March 31, 2023

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The 2023 MLB Opening Day gave Yankees fans almost everything they could have wanted. Fans at Yankee Stadium got to see a perfect afternoon on Thursdays when there wasn’t a cloud in the sky or a mistake in the box score. After the colorful ceremony, the best hitter hit a home run on his first swing of the season. The best pitcher struck out the most batters on the first day of the season. In his first game in the major leagues, their rookie shortstop stole a base, turned a double play, and was in all smiles.

Aaron Judge, the 2022 AL MVP and team’s captain, got the New York Yankees season off to a great start on Thursday. In his first at-bat of the year, he hit a solo home run, helping the Yankees beat the San Francisco Giants 5-0. In the Bronx, everything went well. In an easy win over San Francisco, Gerrit Cole was at his best, Aaron Judge set the stage with a big home run, and Anthony Volpe earned a dream MLB debut.

Since 2009, the Yankees haven’t triumphed in the World Series, and their fans were devastated when the eventual champion Houston Astros ended their last postseason by sweeping them in the ALCS.

But as the Yankees’ 2023 season schedule took off, Judge quickly showed the sold-out crowd of 46,172 at Yankee Stadium why the 27-time world champions still have hope by hitting a ball over the center field wall. This was Judge’s first game as captain after taking over the job in the off-season.

“That’s pretty good,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said about the Opening Day win. “When your ace goes out there and punches 11 in six innings and the bullpen — everyone kind of had a hand in it, we were able to add on a couple of insurance runs with good quality at-bats late … Just crisp, which you like to see on Opening Day.”

Even though the Yankees vs. Giants rivalry goes back to the Polo Grounds days, this was the first time they had ever played on Opening Day. The Yankees and the Giants have met in the World Series seven times, which is the second most of any two teams. Fandom is still passed down from one generation to the next, and there were a lot of Giants fans from New York at Yankee Stadium on Thursday.

Aaron Judge hit a ball over the center field fence in his first regular-season at-bat as team captain was the best sign of hope for the Yankees. Judge got the captaincy when he returned to the Yankees for nine years and $360 million instead of signing with his hometown team, the Giants. In the first inning itself, the Yankees captain looked determined to improve on his 2022 season and hit San Francisco’s best pitcher, Logan Webb, who specializes in ground balls, to 422 feet away into Monument Park.

“I was really just trying to elevate a pitch and get it in the air,” Judge said. “I didn’t expect that to happen.”

The Yankees’ starter, Gerrit Cole, did what he usually does. Last year, Cole beat Ron Guidry’s record of 257 strikeouts in a single season, which was the most in the major leagues. On Thursday, he beat a lesser-known pitcher’s record of 11 strikeouts on opening day.

“Who held it?” Cole asked later, knowing that the answer was Tim Leary, with nine in 1991. “A Bruin!”

Anthony Volpe chose a move that Judge did in the playoffs last fall, which he saw on TV. Judge kissed the logo on his jersey. On Thursday, when the crowd chanted his name, Volpe did the same and then put his glove up to the right field. On his first time up to bat, he did something that made the crowd cheer. Even though he must have been excited, Volpe, who wore No. 77 in spring training but switched to Yankees No. 11, was very disciplined against Webb.

He only looked for one pitch and stayed away from everything else. Volpe walked on a full count and stole a base. The Yankee Stadium crowd erupted into cheers as the rookie slided safely into the base, which will be the size of a pizza box in 2023. Later, he started a double play to help Cole get through the sixth inning. During his post-game news conference, his parents were in the front row, and he was all smiles.

Volpe reached third on a grounder in the fifth inning. His first hit will come later in the game. For now, being an official big leaguer, an undefeated Yankee, teammates with Judge, Cole, and the others, a microcosm of the opening day itself: everything is fresh, and everything is conceivable, was enough.

Anthony Volpe is stealing a base at Yankee Stadium on his debut on March 30, 2023.

Yet, the Yankees are still concerned.

The Yankees’ 5-0 win against the Giants was a showcase of complete dominance. Yet, their 26-man Opening Day roster was mostly anchored by a group of veterans who provided a solid foundation.

With the risk of injuries looming large, the Yankees may hit a bad shape. Last year’s good start, with a 58-21 record and a 14-game lead in the division fell apart by the end of August. As injuries piled up, the Houston Astros once again showed that they were the best team in October.

Aaron Boone’s batting order is still not balanced enough because there aren’t enough left-handed hitters in it.

On the day before Opening Day, Cashman added a left-handed hitting outfielder from the Rays named Franchy Cordero and a right-handed reliever named Colten Brewer to his team. Even though Cashman looking for replacements these are not the moves that will make fans happy. Thus, there’s a bit of a drag on what is otherwise the best and most hopeful day of the year.

During the second half of last year, Cashman and owner Hal Steinbrenner got a lot of boos whenever they took to the podium during ceremonies in the ballpark. This was because of the failure of their trades, such as the signing of Frankie Montas and Benintendi, who nourished injuries while the team had trouble playing at a .500 level.

Maybe Carlos Rodon and Luis Severino will be back in the rotation by the end of May. Center fielder Harrison Bader is already back and making an impact.

Manager Boone summed up the state of affairs:

“Look around and embrace what today means: the start of that pursuit of a championship,” Yankees Manager Aaron Boone said Thursday morning. “Every team walks into the season with that hopeful feeling.”

Though the Opening Day victory gives lots of optimism to fans to dream of the 28th title, there are also concerns over the prospect of a 14th consecutive October without a World Series in the Bronx.

What do you think? Leave your comment below.

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