SLIDESHOW:†My favorite story about Opening Day comes†via Joe Posnanski (who else?). One year, Moe Dabrowsky, a Chicago Cubs pitcher in the 1950s, ran onto Wrigley Field on Opening Day to see a fan holding up a sign: “Wait 'Til Next Year.” I kinda feel that way about the M's. But it's Opening Day (traditionally speaking), and we're required by law to believe all teams are strong, good-looking and above average. So let's check out the active leaders. Warning: Expect to see a lot of A-Rod.
BATTING AVERAGE: Miggy is known for clout but he's been the A.L. batting champion for four of the last five years, too. He's also the active leader with a .321 career average. The next three are former active leaders on the downhill side. Ichiro has gone from .333 in 2007 to .313 now; Pujols, a career .325 hitter in 2012, is currently at .312; and Joltin' Joe Mauer, .323 in 2013, is .312 today.†
ON-BASE PERCENTAGE: Joey Votto's .423 OBP is the 14th-best in baseball history. No active player is close. No active player is even over .400. Miggy is second at .399.
SLUGGING PERCENTAGE: Albert leads this one by 18 points (.580 to .562 for Miggy), ninth-best all-time. But he used to be fourth-best, behind only Ruth, Williams and Gehrig, when he was slugging .628 in 2009. That's right: In six years, he's dropped 50 slugging points. And he has six more years on his contract, Angels fans.†
OPS:†Similar story here. In 2009, Albert's 1.055 lifetime OPS was fourth-best all-time. Now he's at .977, 10th-best all-time. Then it goes Miggy (.961), Votto (.957), A-Rod (.937).†
GAMES, AT-BATS, HITS: Only eight players have ever played in 3,000 games, and A-Rod is 281 away at 2,719. Can he do it? He says he's going to retire after the 2017 season, which means he has to average 141 games per year. Last year he played in 151, so it's possible. After A-Rod, it goes Beltre/Ichiro for games and at-bats, and Ichiro/Beltre for hits. Ichiro is 65 away from 3,000. All former M's, btw. ††
DOUBLES:†David Ortiz starts out his final season as the active leader in doubles only because he out-doubled Albert last season, 37 to 22, putting him one ahead lifetime: 584 to 583.†That's 18th-best all-time. If Papi hits 25 more this year he'll wind up 11th-all-time. Impressive. But the M's did get a month and a half of Dave Hollins.†
TRIPLES: Carl Crawford has been the active leader in this category since 2010 when he had 105. The next season he hit seven more. Then the inevitable slowdown with age: 2, 3, 3, and 2, for a grand total of 122. Jose Reyes is second (117), Ichiro third (91). Carl is 96th all-time. Another Crawford,†Wahoo Sam, is the career leader with 309. An unbreakable record.†
HOMERUNS: A-Rod is about to become just the fourth man in baseball history to hit 700 homerunsóhe's 13 awayóbut not much ballyhoo. Yes, PEDs. Yes, people don't like him. But this should be a bigger story. Then it goes Albert (560), Ortiz (503), Beltre (413), Cabrera (408). Can you guess the active HR leader still in his 20s? A surprise to me.†
RBIs, RUNS:†A-Rod is eighth all-time in runs with 2,002, and fourth all-time in RBIs with 2,055. No active player is within 350 of him in either category.†Another 21 RBIs, by the way, and he'll move past Cap Anson into third place, with only Ruth (2,214) and Aaron (2,297) ahead of him.
Ks, BBs: A-Rod is the active leader in both of these, but he excels in the K's: He's fifth all-time there with†2,220, and only 39th in walks (1,324). On the active list, Ryan Howard is second in Ks with 1,729, while†David Ortiz is second in BBs with 1,239. BTW: Not many free†free passes†for A-Rod: he has only 97 intentional walks. Even Ichiro has more than that. Ichiro! †
STOLEN BASES:†Speaking of: Last year Ichiro needed 13 SBs to get to 500, and he got 11. Barring tragedy, he'll get there this year. Or this month. He'll be the 38th man to do so. Carl Crawford, at 480, and Jose Reyes, at 479, will be No.s 39 and 40. Then there's not much: Michael Bourn and A-Rod tied for fourth with 326. I feel the need for some speed, MLB.
WINS: In the modern era, we've never had an active leader with fewer than 200 winsóBunning/Drysdale, 209 wins in 1969, was closestóbut that might end soon. Tim Hudson retired with 222 wins, Mark Buehrle (214 wins) is pondering same, while current active leaders Bartolo Colon (218) and C.C. Sabathia (214) aren't getting any younger. After them, it's John Lackey with 165. Of the kids, King Felix has managed 143 wins despite pitching for a unnamed team with a pretty crappy offense.†
LOSSES: This is also Bartolo, with 154, followed by Bronson Arroyo (131), C.C. Sabathia (129), John Lackey (127) and Jake Peavy (117). Interesting stat: Fernando Rodney, who never started a game in his career, who almost always enters a game with the lead, has nearly as many losses (55) as Clayton Kershaw (56).†
STRIKEOUTS: Onetime†Yankee ace and current fifth starter†C.C. Sabathia is on top with 2,574, with Colon second (2,237). But roaring up into third place is Felix Hernandez with 2,142. Expect him to be king soon. †
BASES ON BALLS: Once again, it goes C.C. (894), then Bartolo (856). On the all-time list, CC's walks are nothing: 163rd, tied with Bob Friend. In fact, this year is the first time the active walks leader is below 1,000 since Walter Johnson had 937 walks at the start of the 1921 season. Aren't batters walking more? This seems counterintuitive in the Moneyball era.†
ERA:†Clayton Kershaw led this stat last year with an astonishing 2.48 career ERA. Then he improved upon it. He's now at 2.43. Adam Wainwright is half a run behind at 2.98, following by Big Madison Bumgarner at 3.03, David Price at 3.09, and King Felix at 3.11.†
INNINGS PITCHED: If Mark Buehrle doesn't come back this year, for the first time in the modern era the active leader in innings pitched will be under 3,000: C.C. at 2,988.2, following by Bartolo at 2,980.2. Just a few years ago we had a 5,000-IP guy (Greg Maddux, 13th all-time), and even more recently we had a bunch of 4,000-IP guys (Roger, Randy, Jamie), so this is all quite new.†
COMPLETE GAMES: Give C.C. credit: A bad year last year, but he still managed another C.G. to go up to 38. But give Bartolo credit, too. At 41, he managed another CG to keep pace at 36. Eventually, though, this will be C. Kershaw's, who, at 27, already has 21 CGs.
SHUTOUTS: Bartolo's reign will be shortlived. Last year, he managed another for 13 career, but†Clayton Kershaw pitched three more for a total of 12. C.C. also has 12, Felix 11. Not too long ago, we had guys in the 60s (Blyleven, Ryan); then 40s (Clemens), then 30s (Randy), then 20s (Hallady). I could see Kershaw reaching the 20s again. #KnowHope.†
SAVES:†F-Rod, atop this list with 386 (7th all-time), will always have a place in my heart for destroying the Yankees in the 2002 playoffs. Joe Nathan, who's trying to make a comeback, is second (377), while MVP-choker Jon Papelbon is third (349). Man to watch? Craig Kimbrel, fifth, with 225. He turns 28 in May.
WAR FOR PITCHERS: C.C.'s reign will be short-lived.†Since†the 2012 season, he's added only .7 for a career 54.1 WAR while King Felix has added 16.4 for a career 49.8 WAR. Then there's the guy in fourth place, Kershaw, who in the same 3-year span has added 22.8 in WAR for 47.2. BTW: Can someone get Kershaw a better nickname? The Claw? Kid K? Please.†
WAR FOR POSITION PLAYERS: It goes A-Rod (118.9, 12th all-time, ahead of Lou Gehrig, behind Ted Williams), then Albert (99.7), Beltre (83.8), Beltran (68.4), and Miggie (64.7), who's dinged for his D. Rounding out the top 10: Utley (62.3), Ichiro (58.4), Cano (55.1), Teixeira (52.4), Ortiz (50.4). Of course, in the end, that's not what it's all about.†
EXIT MUSIC (FOR A SLIDESHOW): This is what it's all about. *FIN*