By Brad Carroll
As bad an Opening Day this was for the New York Yankees and their fans Sunday, it luckily wasn't a home game, as last year's opener in the Bronx was about as miserable a game I've ever attended, with it being freezing cold. So there's the positive. The negatives, of course, far outweigh that small detail.
Masahiro Tanaka, who was pretty much untouchable in spring training, with a 0.38 ERA in six starts, was lit up by a poor Rays lineup Sunday afternoon. Save for a couple of rallies, the Yankees offense was listless, especially after the Rays broke the game open and Chris Archer got into a rhythm on the mound. It all added up to a major disappointment, especially considering the excitement surrounding the team coming into the season, not to mention it being the first look at the new team.
Except for a run-scoring double by Aaron Judge and a nice day by Starlin Castro and Chase Headley, there wasn't much to write home about. The Yankees were beaten up badly by the Rays, 7-3.
It's important, however, to realize it's only one game on a 162-game schedule, and obviously everything could change Tuesday in Game 2. But there's no doubt the Yankees' warts were exposed in the opener.
The Yankees won't compete for a playoff spot this season if they don't get the very best out of their pitching staff. It's as simple as that. The weakness of the team is its starting rotation, and if they collectively struggle, it's going to be another long season.
The one constant, however, was supposed to be Tanaka. Questions surround Michael Pineda, CC Sabathia, Luis Severino and whomever eventually becomes the fifth starter, but Tanaka was supposed to be the clear-cut ace and Cy Young contender. Actually, Tanaka has to be those two things for the Yankees.
Sunday he wasn't, and it's a scary reminder just how fragile this team is. If Tanaka continues to struggle, they will be selling off parts after being out of contention in short order, which is something no fan wants to even think about on Opening Day.
Tanaka allowed seven runs on eight hits in just 2.2 innings pitched. He walked two batters and allowed a pair of home runs. It wasn't pretty.
If Tanaka makes this a habit the Yankees season will be over before it ever gets going, even with the excitement surrounding the young players. But it's nowhere near panic time. Opening Day heightens everyone's attention and magnifies it all to unrealistic levels so it's important to put everything into perspective.
For right now, it's just one random start in a long season full of them. The eyeballs were greater Sunday for sure, but there's no reason to panic. With a win Tuesday and a solid next start by Tanaka, this whole narrative changes dramatically.