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Good for Ball, Bad for Ball
04/05/2007 3:31 PM ET
Here's how it works ...

Opening Day is Good For Ball. Every single part of it -- logos painted on the grass, flyovers, pre-game intros ... even comically horrendous ceremonial first pitches -- just feels right. Even if your favorite team loses, hey, it's one of 162 games. No big deal.

The day or two before Opening Day, however, is generally Bad For Ball. That's when managers have to make their final cuts, and far too often we see a young stud who absolutely raked all spring have his big-league dream crushed because some 33-year-old utilityman who batted .144 in the Grapefruit League is guaranteed $2.2 million for the year.

It's simple, really. Everything in life can be labeled in one of two ways: Good For Ball or Bad For Ball. With that in mind, let's take a spin around this great -- and sometimes not so great -- game of ours and break it all down.

Worth every penny
The only thing uncool about new Red Sox righty Daisuke Matsuzaka is that his nickname, Dice-K, might remind you of that boorish has-been comedian now shamelessly flaunting his paunch on reality TV.

Unlike Andrew "Dice" Clay, Matsuzaka has genuine talent; his stuff is as dirty as Clay's tired act, suggesting the more than $100 mil Boston paid to land him might one day be viewed as a bargain.

And while some American pitching coaches might secretly be hoping he struggles, fearful that Japan's latest star export might force us to rethink our coddling of young arms with his (actually, his country's) throw-a-ton-everyday way, everyone else should be hoping he's an Ichiro-ish success.

Anything that continues to spur the globalization of the game while challenging conventional wisdom is Good For Ball.

Give him a break, Gotham
When an outfielder loses a fly ball in the sun, finally locates it a split-second too late and has to endure the embarrassment of the awkward-but-futile lunge before the ball falls to earth, the official scorer typically shows mercy and gives the batter a hit.

The general rule is that if a batted ball goes untouched, it's only an error if it goes through someone's legs or directly under the glove of a fielder flouting fundamentals. But the rule apparently doesn't apply to Manhattan's favorite whipping boy.

In the Yankees' opener, the first few innings of which were played under a sky every bit as gray as the Metrodome roof, Alex Rodriguez was charged with an error for failing to catch a foul pop that even New York's catcher, Jorge Posada, couldn't locate.

As if the boos that came with it weren't unfair enough. Bad For Ball.

Senior circuit
The Mets are going to score a lot of runs this year, but their starting rotation is widely viewed as suspect, and rightly so. Beyond Tom Glavine, who looks like he might just prove to have Satchel Paige-like longevity, there are question marks all over the place.

So it had to be sweet for Mets fans to see Orlando Hernandez, who actually contorts his body into the shape of a question mark during his deliciously deceptive delivery, get off to a great start by holding the defending champs to a run on five hits over seven innings on Tuesday.

But even if you aren't a Mets fan, and especially is you aren't a fan of the designated hitter rule, you have to dig that El Duque lashed a two-run double to support his own cause. Any 113-year-old pitcher who can still go for extra bases is Good For Ball.

St. Louis blues
Usually when you hear about police officers getting popped by Internal Affairs, it involves drugs and/or cash missing after a raid, excessive force or something that somehow relates to Matt Damon, Leo DiCaprio and Mark Wahlberg.

Never in a million years would even director Martin Scorcese imagine a department being rocked by a baseball-related scandal, but that's what's happening in St. Louis. On Wednesday, 15 officers were disciplined for giving to friends and family the tickets they seized from scalpers during last year's World Series.

Eight of them were suspended for two weeks without pay -- "Eight Men Out II"? -- and could end up losing as much as $20,000 if the police chief's recommendation that their ranks be reduced for a year is followed.

And get this: It was one of the scalpers who blew the whistle. No matter how you slice it, any story completely devoid of good guys is Bad For Ball.

Idol chatter
Way out West, the bizarre Sanjaya Malakar/"American Idol" drama is tearing at the fabric of a once-strong bond between friends and former teammates.

After Dan Haren was traded to the A's in December 2004, he found a mentor and soulmate of sorts in then-Oakland ace Barry Zito. Now Zito is with the Giants, and the two aren't just on opposite sides of San Francisco Bay. They're on opposite sides of the Howard Stern-led movement to "vote for the worst" -- i.e., the musical car wreck that is Sanjaya.

"I voted for him 50 times," Haren said during the final week of Spring Training.

Told of his buddy's vow to help make a mockery of the "Idol" process, Zito fired off a classic, indignant text message that read, "Unreal. These people want to prove that it is a joke, but it only is when people like them are dishonest in voting. So they're proving that dishonesty skews it. Congratulations."

Responded Haren: "I just want to see [Sanjaya] get a record contract."

The beef is in jest, of course, but it's still Good For Ball.

Speed round
Junior Griffey asking to wear No. 42 to honor Jackie Robinson, and the Commish extending his blessing to all 30 teams. Good For Ball. ... Fans who talk on cellphones during the National Anthem. Bad For Ball. ... A's flamethrower Rich Harden, healthy. Good For Ball. ... Seemingly cursed Cubs righty Mark Prior in the Minors. Bad For Ball. ... Alex Gordon of the Royals in the big leagues. Good For Ball. ... Cards ace Chris Carpenter hurting. Bad For Ball. ... Giants righty Matt Morris giving up No. 35 for teammate Rich Aurilia and donning No. 22 in homage to former teammate Mike Matheny, who was concussed into retirement. Good For Ball. ... Nationals first baseman Dmitri Young's troll-under-a-drawbridge look. Bad For Ball. ... ... And finally, MLB available on TV for fans with or without satellite dishes. Good For Ball. The less time we spend on ladders, the better.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.


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