By Preston Hutcherson
There is exactly one day per season where anything is possible.
On April 1, 2001, the Texas Rangers opened their season on the road against the Toronto Blue Jays.
They lost, 1-8, not a particularly noteworthy result outside of being the first game of the season.
But more memorably, it was the debut game for the Rangers’ new shortstop, a young star named Alex Rodriguez.
The team had signed Rodriguez to a record-setting 10-year $252 million deal in December of 2000, generating considerable controversy — and some jealousy.
He was arguably the best player in the game, with a wave of cautious but steady whispers building behind his career — commentators beginning to use phrases like “future Hall-of-Famer” and even “greatest shortstop of all-time.”
The Rangers were entering their second season removed from a 1999 AL West championship desperate to return to competitive relevance. Thus the season began that day for a historically great player and a mediocre team.
But even so, if things broke just the right way, if a few guys stepped up and a few guys returned to form — anything was possible.
Baseball cannot be predicted, especially on Opening Day, months and miles away from the truth of October.
The Rangers lost 89 games that season, good enough for last place in the division — year one of a $252 million dollar deal essentially wasted.
After just three seasons Rodriguez was gone, traded to the New York Yankees.
All the Rangers had to show for their generosity was a .444 winning percentage with Rodriguez in a Texas uniform.
On March 31 of this year ,another Rangers team desperate to return to the playoffs will begin their season.
Instead of adding $252 million to the future payroll as the franchise had in 2001, this Rangers team added $268 million, split between two players: first baseman Prince Fielder and outfielder Shin-Soo Choo.
On paper, this is a much better team than the 2001 version, but still the rosy glasses of Opening Day disrupt visions of what might be.
What if Jurickson Profar is the best young second baseman in the game and Leonys Martin learns to hit lefties?
Or what if a few guys get hurt and a few underperform?
Fans tremble in consideration of both scenarios.
Earlier this winter, Alex Rodriguez, now age 38, received a 162 game suspension from baseball for his connection to a steroid clinic in Miami.
He had previously admitted to using steroids, including during his time as a Ranger, and apparently never fully kicked the habit.
Rodriguez will likely never play in a professional baseball game again, but the Rangers are still paying him, and will be for a few more years — the last bits of deferred money from his too-big-to-fail contract.
There are a lot of things that can’t be seen from the hopeful high of Opening Day.