Beyond Golf — 04 April 2012 by Jim Street
A peculiar MLB opening

Opening Night for MLB in 2012(USA version) got off to a rousing start in Miami where the new-look Marlins introduced their $750 million ballpark, revamped roster and new manager (Ozzie Guillen) to all of us watching TV – and rubbing our eyes.

There are certain things you should never see at a Major League Baseball ballpark. One of those things is dancers from Brazil wearing really large feathers on their head and not much else escorting red-faced players out of the dugout.

I mean, if Bud Selig was still the Commissioner, these Brazilian dancers with large feathers on their heads brainstorm never would have made it to first base. Oh yeah, he still is the Commissioner. Oh well.

I thought I was watching a pre-game program devised by the former mayor of Las Vegas, who did these same silly things with scantily-clad women when he attempted to lure MLB to Sin City.

I found it interesting that Guillen, who never hold back on his comments, was not escorted onto the field with a Brazilian babe hanging onto one of his arms. If he had a choice, he made the right one.

The new stadium is cool and having been to Miami for two World Series and several football games, I can tell you a roof is necessary. It’s hot and humid and during the summertime, it rains practically every late afternoon, it seems.

The fish tank behind home plate is a nice touch.

However, I was not impressed with Jose Feliciano’s rendition of the National Anthem. Why not just sing it, the way the late Whitney Houston did at the Super Bowl several years ago  in Tampa. In fact, I believe every person who sings the National Anthem this year at a MLB ballpark must first watch a video of Whitney’s rendition and then try to copy it.

Despite the theatrics in Miami, Opening Night is always special to a lot of us – especially those of us lucky people who watched 41 of them in person. This will be the first year since 1972 that it won’t happen to me, but all good things must come to an end.

That being said, I still can predict the division winners this season.

And here there are:

AL West – The Angels will end the Rangers’ two-year run as the division champ and the main reason is Albert Pujols. The Athletics and Mariners could be mathematically eliminated in early August.

NL West – The Diamondbacks surprised everyone last season, pulling off a last-to-first rabbit out their hats. Kudos to Kirk Gibson. But my choice in ’12 is the – SF Giants.

AL Central – The Tigers are just too darn good for anyone to challenge them. The addition of Prince Fielder makes them even better.

NL Central – Tough one here, but I am not picking the Cubs. I wasn’t around when they last won a World Series and probably won’t be around when they win another one. My choice is the Cardinals, even though they lost Pujols.

AL East – I really hate to say this but – the Yankees. They have the money to go out and fill all their gaps during the season and A-Rod will bounce back a big way to lead the way. And then have a meltdown in the postseason.

NL East – I like the Marlins and they are my choice to unseat the Phillies. At the same time, I wonder what the Brazilian babes will do between now and the playoffs.

I’ll get back to ya in a few months with my postseason picks.

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Jim Street

Jim’s 40-year sportswriting career started with the San Jose Mercury-News in 1970 and ended on a full-time basis on October 31, 2010 following a 10-year stint with MLB.com. He grew up in Dorris, Calif., several long drives from the nearest golf course. His first tee shot was a week before being inducted into the Army in 1968. Upon his return from Vietnam, where he was a war correspondent for the 9th Infantry Division, Jim took up golf semi-seriously while working for the Mercury-News and covered numerous tournaments, including the U.S. Open in 1982, when Tom Watson made the shot of his life on the 17th hole at Pebble Beach. Jim also covered several Bing Crosby Pro-Am tournaments, the women’s U.S. Open, and other golfing events in the San Francisco area. He has a 17-handicap, never had a hole-in-one, although once he came within two inches of an ace, and witnessed the first round Ken Griffey Jr. ever played – at Arizona State during Spring Training in 1990. Pebble Beach Golf Links, the Kapalua Plantation Course, Pinehurst No. 2, Spyglass Hill, Winged Foot, Torrey Pines, Medinah, Chambers Bay, North Berwick in Scotland, and Princeville are among the courses he has had the pleasure of playing. Hitting the ball down the middle of the fairway is not a strong part of Jim’s game, but he is known (in his own mind) as the best putter not on tour. Most of Jim’s writing career was spent covering Major League baseball, a tenure that started with the Oakland Athletics, who won 101 games in 1971, and ended with the Seattle Mariners, who lost 101 games in 2010. Symmetry is a wonderful thing. He currently lives in Seattle and vacations in Arizona (and other warm climates) as much as possible.

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