With the fake rosters created in Episode One, our Bat Flips Does Baseball adventure motored on, as I relinquished control of our new expansion teams and allowed fate to run its course.
Fate, as it transpires, loves a trade.
Joe Unknown, the fittingly named GM of Northern Powerhouse decided to waste no time placing his Jerry Dipoto-esque fingerprints all over his new roster, shipping off DJ Tait (@MaltedMet) and Toby Papworth (@TheBedfordAstro) to Oakland – in quite possibly the most age-diverse trade in MLB history.
Two days later, it was back to the trading block, as Clem Fandango (@clem_family) joined the Washington Nationals alongside a recently acquired FA pitcher in exchange for World Series hero Howie Kendrick – who will now compete alongside John McGee for the starting second base job.
Southern Softies took a rather more cautious approach to trades, although proved they weren’t gun-shy as fan favourites Biggsy (@biggsy350), Jo Lenton (@Pidgeos) and Alejandro Hoadado (@AlexHoadSport) were all demoted to AAA in favour of such names as Wilmer Font, Francisco Liriano and Tommy Hunter in an attempt to bolster a weak pitching corps.
Meanwhile, some of the 11 players released into the world once the two expansion rosters were full started to get phone calls from their agents about new job opportunities, as Cam Luke (@TheRealRedmack) joined the Marlins, Mark Smith (@Smithy0364) joined forces with the Reds and in one of the great Free Agency betrayals of our lifetime, Russell Keddie (@UK_Giants_Fans) signed with the high-rolling Los Angeles Dodgers.
Our final – somewhat under the radar – major move before the season opener was the decision of Softies management to turn 18-year old centre field prospect Max Gamarra (@maxgamarra_) into a relief pitcher, a gamble that immediately paid off when the wunderkind turned out to have a Mariano-esque cutter. It is certainly early days, but the Peruvian prodigy looks to have the traits of a record-breaker.
For some reason, the game decided it was doing away with Spring Training this season, which meant we were instantly plunged into Opening Day! The Southern Softies had a box office opening series with the visit of the Boston Red Sox, whilst Northern Powerhouse faced a tough trip to take on the reigning champs Washington Nationals…
Despite a promising three-run first inning, the Softies received a painful introduction to the Majors, with the Sox scoring at will on their way to an 11-4 pounding. Cannonball Titcomb IV (@drewmaniac) had the tricky opening day assignment, giving up five runs in five innings but spare a thought for this article’s very author, as the virtual Ben Carter (@ukbaseballben) gave up four runs in 1.2 innings in relief and was immediately banished to AAA. I started this series to try to escape real life FFS.
For the Powerhouse, it was a different story altogether. Or at least, so we thought…
After giving up a first inning run, ace Hugh Saunders (@hughsaunderslaw) had settled into a rhythm, showing all the experience that made the 42-year old such a star name for the expansion side. A Billy ‘Bigman’ McDonald (@JakePalmer04) home run in the fifth inning – the first in club history – gave his side the lead, and after a four-run top of the 7th, the Northern side looked in cruise control with a 7-1 advantage and an ace in full flow.
What transpired next, unfortunately, went a little off script. Saunders ran into trouble, giving up three runs and unable to get more than two outs as his pitch count climbed above 100.
With the score now more precarious at 7-4 and the bases loaded, the Powerhouse turned to left-handed reliever Tom Pringle (@PedroiasFace) to get the final out of the inning. Pringle immediately plunked Victor Robles, gave up a two-run game-tying single to Kurt Suzuki, allowed a two-run go-ahead double to Yadiel Hernandez and grooved a two-run game-sealing home run to FORMER POWERHOUSE STAR CLEM FANDANGO(!!!), who one can only imagine rather enjoyed his trot around the bases…
This staggering assault remarkably required just nine pitches from the left hand of the mercurial relief talent, who allowed all three inherited runners to score, gave up four more earned runs of his own and STILL departed with an ERA of 0.00 because of his failure to get an out. The Nats held on for an 11-7 come-from-behind win and a devastatingly depressing precedent was set for the new Northern side.
So, after a tumultuous Opening Day, both teams sit 0-1, bottom of their respective decisions and wondering if this had all been such a good idea after all. The beauty of baseball of course is that in a 162-game season each day brings new opportunity, and for both teams the opportunity remains alive to become baseball’s first ever 0-162 team.
Next up: the recap of a wild first month…