With the existing viral pandemic not appearing to be improving, coupled with the fact that most players have left their respective spring camp locations completely, Opening Day 2020 isn’t even on the radar for pretty much anyone associated with the game of baseball.
However, that doesn’t prevent us from remembering Opening Days from years past.
The beginning of the 2014 season was an interesting one because MLB’s opening series was being held in Sydney, Australia between the Dodgers and Diamondbacks way ahead of all the other season openers.
Because of the venue and early start to the year, there were a few odd rules in place. Specifically, both clubs were permitted to carry 28 players on their active rosters. Each team was allowed to place three of those players on an “exempt” list without having to go through the consequences of prospective disabled list stays.
Regardless, the Dodgers had a decent amount of talent on their big league club, but it didn’t necessarily show on their Opening Day roster, aside from a very stacked infield.
As the team exited the plane in Sydney and headed towards the cricket pitch, here’s how the 2014 Opening Day roster shaped up:
At first glance, this appears to be a somewhat underachieving group overall, but there were more than a handful of stars who didn’t even make the trip.
Matt Kemp, Chad Billingsley and Josh Beckett all began the season on the 15-day DL with an assortment of ailments, while pitchers Scott Elbert and Onelki Garcia started the year on the 60-day disabled list.
Los Angeles used the exempt list to secure the active playing statuses of Zack Greinke, Dan Haren and Brandon League, who all got off to slow starts in spring training. At the time, Greinke was dealing with a sprained calf from the early days of camp and Haren was experiencing a bout of dead-arm syndrome. League simply was not throwing well.
To boot, left fielder Carl Crawford did not make the trip because he was on the team’s paternity list.
Anyway, here’s how the Los Angeles lineup looked on the super-early Opening Day of March 22, 2014:
- Puig RF
- Turner 2B
- Ramirez SS
- Gonzalez 1B
- Van Slyke LF
- Uribe 3B
- Ethier CF
- Ellis C
- Kershaw P
Despite the fact that the overall landscape of the roster was a bit suspect, the lineup was still perhaps one of the most formidable Opening Day lineups in the National League.
The Dodgers eventually handled the Diamondbacks by a 3-1 score. Van Slyke was the big offensive hero for Los Angeles, going 2-for-3 with a walk, a double, a homer and two RBI.
Kershaw was fantastic on the hill, throwing 6-2/3 innings on 102 pitches, which is extremely atypical for an Opening Day starter. Kersh allowed just the one earned run on five hits and a walk while striking out seven.
Perez, Wilson and Jansen combined for 2-1/3 frames of scoreless relief. Jansen registered the save.
Lefty Wade Miley took the loss for Arizona.
Coincidentally, A.J. Pollock led off and played center field for the Snakes. He went 0-for-4 with one strikeout.
The Los Angeles starting rotation would ultimately shape up with CK, Greinke, Haren, Ryu and Beckett getting the bulk of the work. The Dodgers were represented by four players at the All-Star Game that summer—Puig, Kershaw, Greinke and Dee Gordon, who was just starting to settle in as a second baseman after several unsuccessful stints as a big league shortstop.
Billingsley had season-ending elbow surgery in June. It would be his last year wearing a Dodgers uniform.
2014 was the second-to-last season for skipper Don Mattingly and the final year for GM Ned Colletti.
The Dodgers ultimately won the NL West handily with a 94-68 record, but fell out of the postseason quickly after being defeated by the Cardinals in the NLDS, three games to one.