Another baseball season begins today, so the Cubs still are tied for first place.
Chicago will host St. Louis at 5:05 p.m. on Opening Day on ESPN. So that would make it Opening Night for most of the country.
Opening Day is always better than Opening Night, for lots of reasons. Foremost among them: If you are a kid, you can’t ditch school on Opening Night — unless detention lasts a really long time. So the opening of the baseball season never should be at night, or on a Sunday. At least if you’re a kid.
But that’s only one hiccup with this particular Opening Night. The bigger belch, according to Cubs fans and myriad baseball scribes, is this should have been the national TV coming-out party of Chicago slugger Kris Bryant, who hails from Las Vegas.
Instead of being in Chicago, playing third base (or left field) and knocking Wrigley Field construction dust out of his cleats, Bryant will be in extended spring training in Arizona, or worse, on his way to Des Moines, to help the Iowa Cubs get ready for their Pacific Coast League opener against the Memphis Redbirds.
Not the same deal.
Theo Epstein, still described as the Cubs’ youthful general manager though he’s 41, has decreed Bryant must start the season in Arizona or Des Moines, instead of Chicago, because the kid still needs work on defense.
Well, maybe he does a little bit. Nobody’s perfect. If major league baseball was played like Strat-O-Matic, Bryant probably would be a 4 on defense. Five is the worst.
(In fact, the Strat-O-Matic people have put out a Kris Bryant dice baseball card based on his spring training statistics. It’s outrageous. But on defense, he’s a 4. Same as Will Ferrell.)
When you can hit the ball over walls and fences and onto distant grass verges and rooftops the way Bryant can, asking him to work on his defense is like asking Charlize Theron to work on her cooking.
One doubts very much that Sean Penn will be sending his main squeeze down to Iowa for more seasoning, but then I’ll have to check the transactions and the waiver wire and People magazine.
No, the real reason Bryant — .425, three doubles, nine home runs, 15 RBIs in 14 games vs. Cactus League pitching — will not be in the lineup tonight against the Cardinals is because that would start his baseball clock before it behooves the Cubs.
This is not the baseball pitch clock that will be used in the minors to speed up games this season.
This is the baseball clock established by baseball’s collective bargaining agreement, the one that says if Bryant doesn’t sit out the first nine games, he will only be Property of the Chicago Cubs, as it said on those old T-shirts before Under Armour, for six years instead of seven.
You can’t hit the snooze button on the baseball clock.
By playing against the Cardinals tonight, it would mean Rich Uncle Moneybags, aka super agent Scott Boras, would get to renegotiate Bryant’s contract/offer him to the Yankees a year earlier.
If there’s one thing baseball people have learned, it’s that you don’t schedule doubleheaders, because that would mean giving fans two games for the price of one. The second thing is you don’t want to sit down at the bargaining table with Rich Uncle Moneybags any earlier than is necessary.
So this is strictly business, which is what baseball has become, whereas baseball fans and baseball scribes and ESPN, at least for one night, want it still to be a game.
And therein lies the Kris Bryant dilemma.
In nine games, when the Cubs open a series against the Padres on April 17, it’ll probably all be forgotten like a Jerry Lumpe baseball card.
But should Chicago miss the playoffs by one game, Theo Epstein and the baseball people are gonna have more esplanin’ to do than Ricky Ricardo and Tony La Russa, when he hit his pitcher eighth.
A simulator site called PredictionMachine.com has concluded that by stashing Bryant in a cornfield for nine games, the Cubs have reduced their playoff chances by 7.5 percent.
Prediction Machine put the slugging percentages and WAR and the other Money Ball formulas and a fat tub of goo from former relief pitcher Terry Forster into something called the “Predictalator.”
It ran the Predictalator 50,000 times. It was determined that by having Bryant work on his defense in Iowa for the first two weeks of the season, it would cost the Cubs 1.4 games in the standings at the end of it.
I’m not sure what to make of the .4, though La Russa probably would.
I also have heard that if a house fly gets inside the Predictalator, and crunchy Terry Forster goo is substituted for the creamy kind — and the switch is set to 11 — something resembling a metamorphosis of actor Jeff Goldblum and Barry Bonds’ head could come out.
Las Vegas Review-Journal sports columnist Ron Kantowski can be reached at email@example.com or 702-383-0352. Follow him on Twitter: @ronkantowski.