The 2023 Cubs took the field for the first time on Thursday. They set out to make a statement against the Brewers and their ace Corbin Burnes and they did just in a 4-0 victory. Opening Day is the baseball New Year’s Day. The freshness of a new year provides excitement to fans. Attending Opening Day has long been a bucket list item for me and I was finally able to cross that off on Thursday. I picked a great one to attend. Here are some of my takeaways.
The stadium looked beautiful as always. I had been obsessively keeping track of the weather for over a week. It had changed every day and had been anywhere between 30-50 degrees with snow, rain, or sun depending on that day’s version of the forecast. We eneded up with a great day for some baseball. That flag was huge. I know that it looks big when you are watching on television. It was just unbelievable to see in person. The crowd wasn’t as loud as I expected it would be for the Opening Day festivities.
I was a little concerned that it would carry over to the game but I needed to remember not everyone was in their seats at that time. John Vincent sounded terrific as always during his rendition of the national anthem. The flyover wasn’t quite what I thought it was going to be. You get used to seeing the fast and loud ones on television at other events. In fact, the Air and Water Show has provided me more exciting flyovers in the past. Then Marcus Stroman took the mound and we were off to the races.
The Cubs Opening Day starter looked fantastic in Game 1. He was locked in from the first pitch. Striking out six batters while walking 3 and giving up 3 hits, he held the Brewers scoreless. Stroman set the tone for what his season will hopefully look like. He pitched like an All-Star and like someone who could be opting out of his contract at the end of the season if he keeps pitching like this. The end of the season doesn’t matter right now though. Stroman will be a big factor in the success of the 2023 Cubs.
I’m not here to jump on the get rid of Hosmer train. He went 0-4 on Opening Day. The veteran first baseman will start finding some gaps and raise his average up to his usual performance. His defense was better than I had expected. That could change on a given day, but I don’t think it will be a huge detriment to this team. He isn’t the protypical first baseman and won’t provide the power numbers that fans are used to seeing from the position. Hosmer’s strengths will play on this team, however.
My biggest surprise was how fast most of the team seemed to be. The ball was hit and they were flying around the bases. Revisiting Hosmer for a moment, his hits finding the gaps will provide another way of getting these speedsters around to score. I lke some long balls just like the next person but this small ball on display on Thursday proved to be pretty exciting as well.
The Cubs new shortstop was causing me some worry during the past month. He had a poor spring training. I was trying to keep the perspective that the March numbers don’t mean anything. In fact, in the back of my mind, I was dreading a potential piece down the road about when we should start worrying about Swanson. Then Dansby went 3-4 on Opening Day and I feel much relieved. That’s not to say he won’t struggle at times. I’m hoping we see a hybrid Swanson that might have less home runs than last season but still gets on base a lot and keeps the strikeout numbers down.
Pace of Play
I have been very against speeding up the game from the announcement of the rule changes. When I do attend the games in person, I have a 6 hour round trip but I like to soak up my time in the stadium. Opening Day’s game was played in 2:21. It was the third fastest game of the day. Two games were played in 2:14. The game flowed pretty well. I was oblivious to the time except for looking at the clock one time during the seventh inning. Stroman had one pitch clock violation.
I got concessions prior to the game starting. Typically, I would have gone back for a second visit somewhere in the middle of the game but decided against it. That saved me from spending another $15-30 at the game though and I didn’t miss any of the action. I’m not as against the rule changes as I was. That being said, I really hope the games that I am at in the future aren’t much faster than that. Several of the games were over 3 hours Preferably, I would like to see the time closer to 2:45 versus 2:15. I was pleased on Opening Day though.
"The @Cubs could be the most improved team in 2023."
— MLB Network (@MLBNetwork) March 31, 2023
The 2023 Cubs have taken the field. They will have their ups and downs. The first game of the season provided me (and I’m sure a lot of fans) hope that 2023 will look much different (in a good way) that things will be different than last season. This group looks like it will be a fun one to watch and I can’t wait to see what the next 161 games bring us. On Thursday, they sent everyone home happy.
Images: Trevor Hipsher