Some Perspective on Yankee Openers in the Derek Jeter Era

"I'm too old for this, Mariano... what are you doing?"

On Friday, Derek Jeter started in his 17th Opening Day for the New York Yankees. He has started the last 11 consecutive Opening Days, and his streak would be at 18 if not for a quad injury in Spring Training 2001. Since Jeter's been an iconic figure for the Yankees throughout his career, it might be fun to take a look at how the Yankees have fared in their past season openers during Jeter's time in New York. From this little time travel, perhaps we can see also why fans shouldn't be so quick to judge the team based on mere Opening Day statistics. Though perhaps they should just DFA everyone. Especially that bum Rivera.

1996- April 2- New York Yankees 7, Cleveland Indians 1 (Jacobs Field, Cleveland)

Jeter broke camp as the Yankees' Opening Day shortstop (their sixth in the past six years), and he was the star of the show as the Yankees took on the defending American League champions. Joe Torre won his managerial debut with the Yankees, and Jeter hit his first major league home run, a solo shot in the fifth inning against "El Presidente," Dennis Martinez. He also made a terrific catch running back in short left field against Omar Vizquel (then a sprightly 29). Returning ace David Cone shut down the Indians on two hits over seven innings despite six walks, and Bernie Williams hit a three-run homer in the eighth against Alan Embree to make the score 5-0. Although it was a non-save situation, John Wetteland came on in the ninth to ensure the victory, which he did after a 1-2-3 inning. (Box score)

Jeter: 1-4, HR, K

Opening Day Yankees you might have forgotten: Gerald Williams, Bob Wickman, Steve Howe

Season projection based on Opening Day '96: David Cone will be the ace we need him to be all season!

1997- April 1- Seattle Mariners 4, New York Yankees 2 (Kingdome, Seattle)

The Yankees did not begin their defense of the '96 World Series title well. All the runs in the game were scored within the first three innings, and Ken Griffey Jr. began his MVP season with two homers and three RBIs against David Cone. The Mariners notched another run on a Russ Davis solo homer (there's a name from the past; he had been the key player that the Mariners received in the Tino Martinez trade). The Yankees were held to five hits and two runs in seven innings against Jeff Fassero, and although they had the tying run at the plate in both the eighth and the ninth against shaky relievers Bobby Ayala and Norm Charlton, the duo kept them scoreless. Darryl Strawberry ended the game by grounding into a double play with runners on first and second. (Box score)

Jeter: 0-4

Opening Day Yankees you might have forgotten: Pat Kelly, Brian Boehringer

Season projection based on Opening Day '97: The offense can't even hit Jeff Fassero well? Doomed.

1998- April 1- Anaheim Angels 4, New York Yankees 1 (Edison Field, Anaheim)

The Yankees infamously began their 114-win '98 season with four losses in the five games, and this game was one of those losses. Facing current Mets manager Terry Collins and an Angels lineup featuring Jim Edmonds, Tim Salmon, Garret Anderson, and former teammate Cecil Fielder, Opening Day starter Andy Pettitte allowed four runs on nine hits in six innings. Angels catcher Matt Walbeck, of all people, hit a two-run triple during a four-run fourth that gave the Halos a 4-0 lead that starter Chuck Finley would not relinquish. The Yankees' only run on the day scored on a double play in the sixth inning, and young closer Troy Percival retired the Yankees 1-2-3 in the ninth. They managed only five hits on the day; Chuck Knoblauch, Chili Davis, and Scott Brosius combined for zero hits in nine at bats during their Yankee debuts. (Box score)

Jeter: 0-4, 2 K

Opening Day Yankees you might have forgotten: Darren Holmes, Graeme Lloyd (cheers, mate)

Season projection based on Opening Day '98: Andy Pettitte has lost it. Knoblauch and Brosius will have awful seasons. So doomed.

1999- April 5- Oakland Athletics 5, New York Yankees 3 (Network Associates Coliseum, Oakland)

With Don Zimmer at helm in place of Torre, who was undergoing prostate cancer treatment, the Yankees lost their third straight Opening Day, as the bullpen blew Roger Clemens's win in his first Yankee start. Clemens threw six and a third innings, with his only big mistake coming on a fifth inning two-run homer from Tony Phillips (?). The Yankees had a 3-2 against the A's and Gil Heredia entering the bottom of the seventh thanks to homers from Davis and Jeter, but after Clemens departed with a runner on first and one out in the seventh, normally-reliable lefty reliever Mike Stanton blew the lead. Two singles, a groundout, and a double against Jeff Nelson later, the A's had a 5-3 lead. The game ended after the eighth inning due to rain. (Box score)

Jeter: 3-3, HR

Opening Day Yankees you might have forgotten: Ricky Ledee

Season projection based on Opening Day '99: Bullpen's going to struggle this year. The immortal '98 team would never do such a thing.

2000- April 3- New York Yankees 3, Anaheim Angels 2 (Edison Field, Anaheim)

The Yankees avenged their '98 Opening Day loss in Anaheim by beating them 3-2 thanks to the pitching of "El Duque," Orlando Hernandez. The Angels knocked eight hits against him in seven innings, but he only allowed one run, a Tim Salmon solo homer in the second inning. Paul O'Neill hit a two-run home run against Angels starter Ken Hill in the sixth inning to give New York a 2-1 lead, and Shane Spencer added insurance with a solo homer against Kent Mercker in the seventh. Mariano Rivera uncharacteristically allowed a run in the ninth on an RBI single by Mo Vaughn, but with the tying run on second, he induced a fly ball to right from Salmon, and the Yankees snapped their three-game Opening Day losing streak. (Box score)

Jeter: 1-4

Opening Day Yankees you might have forgotten: Roberto Kelly (2000 edition)

Season projection based on Opening Day '00: Paulie's still going strong! It's just too bad he's blocking the awesome Shane Spencer.

2001- April 2- New York Yankees 7, Kansas City Royals 3 (Yankee Stadium II, New York)

Jeter missed his first opportunity to play Opening Day at Yankee Stadium due to a quad injury, but the Yankees notched a win regardless. Roger Clemens provided the highlight of the day by striking out Joe Randa for his 3,509th career strikeout, passing the amazing Walter Johnson for an American League record. Clemens also dominated the game, as he three eight and a third innings of three-run baseball. The Yankees overcame an early 2-1 deficit with a five-run sixth inning against Royals starter Jeff Suppan, a rally that featured a two-run homer from Bernie Williams, and a three-run homer from Jorge Posada (Posada's homer came against reliever Tony Cogan). Mariano Rivera ended the game on a Luis Alicea groundout. (Box score)

Jeter: Did Not Play (Luis Sojo subbed at shortstop)

Opening Day Yankees you might have forgotten: Todd Williams, Clay Bellinger

Season projection based on Opening Day '01: Actually everything would likely be accurate based on this. Unless you said they were going to be World Series champions.

2002- April 1- Baltimore Orioles 10, New York Yankees 3 (Oriole Park at Camden Yards, Baltimore)

Oof. This game was a tough one to watch, and I remember it well. Roger Clemens took a David Segui grounder off of his finger in the fourth inning that went for an infield single and it completely messed up his rhythm. He had allowed only one hit beforehand, but the Orioles scored five runs in an ugly inning. A wild pitch moved Segui to second, and after consecutive walks, Clemens allowed a grand slam to Tony Batista. The Orioles tacked on another run after another walk, and then in the sixth inning, they scored three more runs on a bases-loaded double by Melvin Mora, knocking Clemens out of the game. Derek Jeter made the score 8-3 by hitting his third career Opening Day home run, a two-run bomb that scored Alfonso Soriano, who had somehow worked a walk! Unfortunately, the Orioles put the game away with a two-run eighth in Steve Karsay's Yankee debut. It was just an awful way to begin the season. (Box score)

Jeter: 1-3, HR, 2 BB

Opening Day Yankees you might have forgotten: Rondell White, Jay Tessmer

Season projection based on Opening Day '02: Clemens is done. Karsay's awful. Robin Ventura (0-3) is no better than Scotty Bro. Doomed!

2003- March 31- New York Yankees 8, Toronto Blue Jays 4 (SkyDome, Toronto)

Opening Day 2003 was surely a day that Jeter will never forget. The Yankees got off to a good start as Hideki Matsui hit an RBI single against eventual AL Cy Young Award winner Roy Halladay in his first MLB at bat to give the Yankees a 1-0 lead in the first, but Jeter was forced to leave the game in the third inning when he was thrown out at third base attempting to move from first to third on a slow grounder. Eric Hinske, the third baseman, had moved too far off the bag, so catcher Ken Huckaby ran over to take the throw, and Jeter's headfirst slide collided with Huckaby's catcher pads, dislocating his shoulder. Jeter would not return to the Yankees until mid-May, but the team managed to beat Halladay and the Blue Jays anyway, with the help of a Robin Ventura two-run homer in the fourth and a Soriano grand slam in the sixth. Clemens earned the win with six scoreless innings, and the team won 8-4 despite a shaky bullpen effort from Jose Contreras, Chris Hammond, Jason Anderson, and Juan Acevedo in their Yankee debuts. (Box score)

Jeter: 1-1, 2B, BB

Opening Day Yankees you might have forgotten: The aforementioned trio of Hammond, Anderson, and Acevedo.

Season projection based on Opening Day '03: JETER'S INJURED. SEASON OVER.

2004- March 30- Tampa Bay Devil Rays 8, New York Yankees 3 (Tokyo Dome, Japan)

The Yankees and Devil Rays kicked off the '04 season in the Far East, just as the A's and Mariners did this year. The game started off well, as Jason Giambi smashed a two-run homer in the first against D-Rays starter Victor Zambrano, but the change in scenery did not do Yankees starter Mike Mussina any favors. In just five-plus innings of work, he allowed five runs on ten hits, including a flurry of doubles and a Jose Cruz homer. The Yankees had taken a 3-2 lead in the top of the sixth, courtesy of a Gary Sheffield double scoring Alex Rodriguez in the sixth, but the three-run inning against Mussina gave the D-Rays a lead that they would not surrender. Lefthanded hitters Aubrey Huff and Tino Martinez pounded lefty reliever Felix Heredia in the seventh, and Tampa took an 8-3 lead. The Yankees went down without much of a fight against Lance Carter and Danys Baez in the eighth and ninth. (Box score)

Jeter: 0-5, K

Opening Day Yankees you might have forgotten: Heredia, Kenny Lofton, Paul Quantrill

Season projection based on Opening Day '04: Jeter is not looking great. A-Rod doubled but he struck out twice. Posada and Ruben Sierra also went hitless. If the offense can't hit the trio of Zambrano, Carter, and Baez, who CAN they hit?!

2005- April 3- New York Yankees 9, Boston Red Sox 2 (Yankee Stadium II, New York)

The Yankees finally got that fourth win they needed against the Red Sox, though six months too late. Newly acquired ace Randy Johnson pitched well in his debut, tossing six innings of one-run ball, striking out six Red Sox along the way. The offense teed off against former Yankee David Wells (wearing number 3 on the mound), as they scored four runs on ten hits in Wells's four and a third innings of work. They also proceeded to score five runs against the bullpen, including a two-run homer from Matsui against Matt Mantei in the eighth. Hell, Tony Womack of all people even had three hits in the game. Congratulations, Boston pitching. You made 2005 Tony Womack (one of the least valuable players ever) have a good game. (Box score)

Jeter: 2-5, 2B, BB

Opening Day Yankees you might have forgotten: Womack, Bubba Crosby

Season projection based on Opening Day '05: 27 IS OURS, BABY! Johnson's going to be just the ace we need to get over the top and win the title! Womack looks like he will be awesome at second!

2006- April 3- New York Yankees 15, Oakland Athletics 2 (McAfee Coliseum, Oakland)

This game was the kind of Opening Day every fan dreams about--the offense is clicking on all cylinders, the pitching is dominant, and the defense is great (well... Giambi had an error at first, but two out of three ain't bad). The Yankees knocked A's starter Barry Zito out of the game in the second inning with a seven-run frame powered by several walks and singles and capped with an A-Rod grand slam. Johnson allowed a Frank Thomas solo homer in the next inning, but a four-run fourth keyed by a three-run "thrilla from Godzilla" against Kirk Saarloos made the score 11-1. The game only appeared close if one was scoring in binary. The Thomas homer was the only blemish against the "Big Unit," as Johnson went seven innings and allowed just five hits. The Yankees tacked on a few more runs later on, but most of the regulars were all out of the game before the seventh inning. (Box score)

Jeter: 2-6, BB, K

Opening Day Yankees you might have forgotten: Crosby, Andy Phillips, Kelly Stinnett, Ron Villone

Season projection based on Opening Day '06: I WAS JUST KIDDING ABOUT LAST YEAR, THERE'S NO WAY WE'RE GOING DOWN NOW! Johnson and A-Rod are taking this team to new heights!

2007- April 2- New York Yankees 9, Tampa Bay Devil Rays 5 (Yankee Stadium II, New York)

Carl Pavano started Opening Day '07. Yeah, that happened. It was only one of two starts he made for the Yankees in '07, and he was knocked out of the game in the fifth inning after allowing five runs on six hits, one of which was an Elijah Dukes homer (remember him?). It would only have been a more Pavano-esque performance if he was injured during the game falling down the dugout steps. Fortunately, D-Rays phenom Scott Kazmir did not pitch well either, and he also gave up five runs on six hits in five innings. Jason Giambi and Derek Jeter hit two-run singles, and Jorge Posada homered against him in the fourth. The Yankees took the lead against Tampa's poor bullpen, a rally that featured a two-run homer from eventual AL MVP Alex Rodriguez, who had endured boos earlier in the day after dropping a pop-up in his first meaningful game of baseball since his one-hit performance in the '06 ALDS. Mariano Rivera shut the door by striking out the side in the ninth. (Box score)

Jeter: 1-4, K, error

Opening Day Yankees you might have forgotten: Josh Phelps, Doug Mientkiewicz, Sean Henn, Luis Vizcaino

Season projection based on Opening Day '07: Actually, fairly accurate! Offense was awesome, pitching was only average, and the fielding (three errors) was poor.

2008- April 1- New York Yankees 3, Toronto Blue Jays 2 (Yankee Stadium II, New York)

The Yankees were victorious in Joe Girardi's managerial debut with the team and the final Opening Day at old Yankee Stadium. Apparently, they were only ever able to beat Toronto ace Roy Halladay in the first game of the season. Losing by on run in the sixth, Melky Cabrera tied the game with a solo blast to right, and the team scratched out another run in the seventh on an RBI fielder's choice by Matsui that scored A-Rod. Starter Chien-Ming Wang's sinker was in midseason form, as he induced 16 groundballs and held the Blue Jays to a just two runs on six hits in seven innings. Joba Chamberlain and Rivera pitched the final two frames without much trouble, and the Yankees earned the Opening Day win.

Jeter: 1-4

Opening Day Yankees you might have forgotten: There were no surprises on Opening Day '08. I recall oddballs like LaTroy Hawkins and Morgan Ensberg being in the ballpark, but they did not play.

Season projection based on Opening Day '08: Looks like this team has a great formula for winning! They should put Melky in the outfield more often! Joba looks like he's finally comfortable as a reliever, I'm glad they've decided on his role and won't change it!

2009- April 6- Baltimore Orioles 10, New York Yankees 5 (Oriole Park at Camden Yards, Baltimore)

Newly-imported ace CC Sabathia's debut with the team was one to forget, as he gave up eight hits, five walks, and six runs to an Orioles team that would go on to lose 98 games. Adam Jones hit a two-run triple against him and the O's forced CC from the game with a three-run fifth inning. His outing put the team in an early 6-1 hole, and though the Yankees made it a one-run game after homers from Posada and Matsui, a shaky bullpen effort made the score 10-5 in the eighth (thanks, Phil Coke). Mark Teixeira went hitless in his Yankees debut, and Cody Ransom played third in place of the injured A-Rod (and went hitless as well). Some dude named Dennis Sarfate threw a scoreless inning against the Yankees, too. It was a weird day. (Box score) (Video recap)

Jeter: 3-5

Opening Day Yankees you might have forgotten: Ransom, Xavier Nady, Jonathan Albaladejo

Season projection based on Opening Day '09: CC's a bust. Tex is a bust. Bullpen is awful. Better start filling up my October schedule, because this team is going nowhere.

2010- April 4- Boston Red Sox 9, New York Yankees 7 (Fenway Park, Boston)

The Yankees opened 2010 in Beantown, and the matchup started well, as Posada and the newly-acquired Curtis Granderson went back-to-back in the second inning against Josh Beckett to give the Yankees an early 2-0 lead. They extended the lead to 5-0 in the fourth inning after a double, a walk, a few singles and a steal-of-home by the speedy Brett Gardner. Sabathia fared in this Opening Day start than in his previous effort, but after cruising through the first four innings, CC gave up three singles and a run in the fifth, and then a walk, double, and triple in the sixth before being pulled in favor of David Robertson. D-Rob gave up the game-tying single to Adrian Beltre, but the Yankees took the lead right back in the top of the seventh after a two-run rally against Ramon Ramirez and Hideki Okajima. Unfortunately, reliever Chan Ho Park gave a poor introduction to his new fans in the bottom half of the inning by surrendering a two-run homer to Dustin Pedroia to tie the game, and he was relieved by Marte after giving up a double to Kevin Youkilis, who, after moving to third on a wild pitch, scored on Posada's passed ball to give Boston the lead. Why was Park pitching so poorly? He can tell you ("What, it's funny?!"). The Yankees put the tying run on in the ninth, but Jon Papelbon closed the door on a 9-7 Boston victory. Blowing a five-run lead is never fun but it felt even worse for fans on Opening Day. (Box score) (Video recap)

Jeter: 2-5

Opening Day Yankees you might have forgotten about: Park, Nick Johnson, Randy Winn

Season projection based on Opening Day '10: Granderson will be a booming success in his first season! Unfortunately, CC looks a little shaky and the bullpen doesn't look great... This doesn't bode well.

2011- March 31- New York Yankees 6, Detroit Tigers 3 (Yankee Stadium III, New York)

For the first time, the Yankees actually began the season in their new stadium, and they played a close game against the Tigers and eventual AL MVP and Cy Young winner Justin Verlander. Both Verlander and Sabathia threw six innings of three-run ball, with both pitchers only making a couple mistakes along the way. Verlander gave up a third inning three-run homer to Mark Teixeira, a shot that gave New York a 3-1 lead. CC allowed runs in the fifth and the sixth to tie the game on small rallies by the Tigers offense. The bullpens came on in the seventh, but while Joba threw a 1-2-3 frame, Phil Coke coughed up another Opening Day homer to Granderson to give New York a 4-3 lead. They added insurance runs to make it 6-3, and Rivera combined with new setup man Rafael Soriano to set the Tigers down in order to finish up the win. (Box score) (Video recap)

Jeter: 0-2, BB, SF

Opening Day Yankees you might have forgotten about: You know 'em all.

Season projection based on Opening Day '11: Looks like Soriano & Joba will be key cogs in the bullpen all season long! We need to apologize for being skeptical of Russell Martin, he got a hit, scored two runs, and stole a base!

***

Since we were tracking it, Derek Jeter's career Opening Day triple slash, including 2012 (1-4, BB) is.317/.382/.500. His career triple slash is not far off at all: .313/.383/.449. The larger sample size (68 PAs) helps balance his Opening Day performances out.

Perspective is all fans need before jumping to conclusions about the first couple games of the year. If we lived in the world of Opening Day baseball, very few players would appear to be headed for productive seasons.

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