Major League Baseball's 2017 season is finally here

After nearly 50 days of spring training and a long winter respite, Major League Baseball’s 2017 regular season has finally arrived, with the first Opening Day arriving Sunday with three games.

The season officially begins shortly after 1 p.m. ET Sunday on ESPN when Tampa Bay Rays starter Chris Archer delivers the first pitch to the New York Yankees. The Yankees will start their ace, Masahiro Tanaka, and should things go well, could deploy the highest-paid relief pitcher in major league history — Aroldis Chapman, who re-joined the club by signing a record five-year, $86 million contract.

The National League will take it from there, as the San Francisco Giants and lefty ace Madison Bumgarner open at the Arizona Diamondbacks, who will start right-hander Zack Greinke, on ESPN2 around 4 p.m. ET. Finally, at 8:30 ET, the defending World Series champion Chicago Cubs — yep, it still happened — open against their NL Central rivals, the St. Louis Cardinals, at Busch Stadium on ESPN.

Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Chris Archer (22) is set to throw the first official pitch of the 2017 MLB season.
(Photo: Bob DeChiara, USA TODAY Sports)



Best promotions in MLB: Ranking every team's 2017 giveaways from 1 to 30

With the 2017 Major League Baseball season upon us, I decided for the third straight season to look through all the ballpark giveaways for the season and rank the top item from each team.

A few words before we get into it, though. First off, these are subjective so it’s possible that you’ll disagree and that’s OK. Disagreements about ballpark giveaways is hardly anything that should anger anyone. In that vein, I’m partial to certain things, such as bobbleheads. However, just a run-of-the-mill player bobblehead isn’t going to cut it. We need creativity. Speaking of which, creativity with any item is a good way to make the list. Some teams are outstanding about this, such as the Dodgers, Rays and Mariners. Frankly, some other teams are pretty boring, such as the Padres, Phillies and Orioles.

The rankings below are just of the individual items, not the teams’ promotional calendar as a whole (the Dodgers would be No. 1 in the latter case). I should also point out that each of the 30 items on here are great and that a lower rankings doesn’t mean that something is bad.

So, again, I went through each team’s promotional calendar, picked what I thought is the best giveaway and ranked those 30. Let’s roll.

30. Padres
Aug. 19, Hall of Fame giveaway. We don’t even know what the giveaway is, but this is an incredibly weak promotional calendar. Even the jersey giveaways are just Padres jerseys and not individual players.
29. Twins
On July 22, there’s a 1987 World Series champion beer stein giveaway. It’s cool. It’s just outshined by almost every other ballpark.
28. Yankees
I’ll go with Sept. 17’s 1977 World Series ring replica giveaway. It’s fine, I’m just not overly excited by much here. When you’re the Yankees, it’s not really necessary to have awesome giveaways.
27. Angels
They actually have a strong promotional calendar, with stuff like maracas, Mike Trout bobbleheads, Nolan Ryan bobbleheads and more. I’m going with a cooler backpack on May 12 here, though.
26. Phillies
Nothing offensive here at all, as a Mike Schmidt bobblehead on July 8 is really cool. It’s just a bobblehead of a Hall of Famer.
25. Diamondbacks
I love the strikeout counter bobblehead idea, which we’ve seen in the past with Chris Sale and a few others. On July 22, the D-Backs roll out Robbie Ray. 
24. Nationals
There’s a Max Scherzer snow globe and Magic 8-ball (on opening day), but I’m going with the Chewbacca coozie on May 27 because I love Star Wars and beer. Perfect combo there.
23. Brewers
On Aug. 13, get your Bob Uecker magic 8-ball!
22. White Sox
Many will hate this, but I find it incredibly difficult to dislike Hawk Harrelson (just accept what he is!). On May 13, there’s a Hawk alarm clock giveaway.
21. Pirates
You want a Francisco Cervelli bobblehead? Maybe not, but what if it’s singing? On April 8, it’s the Cervelli “That’s amore” bobblehead, an homage to his heritage and walk-up song.
20. Royals
On Sept. 30, their “Memorable Moments” bobblehead series concludes with George Brett. Surely it’s the pine tar incident.
19. Tigers
It would be higher, but it’s James McCann. Still, the July 29 giveaway is a James McCann removable mask bobblehead.
18. Orioles
Oriole Park at Camden Yards started the new revolution of breathtaking ballparks, getting away from the cookie cutter era. On Aug. 19, the O’s give away a 25th anniversary replica ballpark.
17. Red Sox
Hanley Ramirez isn’t an overly popular player, but this necklace should be pretty well-received, given away on May 1.
16. Rays
One of my favorite bobbleheads from past years was Yadier Molina holding all his Gold Gloves. Here, the Rays take a page from that playbook, with Kevin Kiermaier holding his, given away on April 8. It should be noted that the Rays are strong overall, with a Chris Archer emoji pillow and Evan Longoria bubble blowing bobble also of note.
15. Marlins
On July 3, there’s a Giancarlo Stanton Home Run Derby championship bobblehead. A few weeks later, in all likelihood, he’ll defend his title at home.
14. Cardinals
On April 29, there’s a dual bobblehead of Matt Carpenter and Carlos Martinez, with Martinez showering Carpenter with water to celebrate a home run. Also, later in the year there’s a mystery Hall of Fame manager bobblehead, so that’s fun.
13. Reds
The Reds’ promo game is usually pretty strong and this is no exception. On June 17, the club honors Pete Rose and unveils his statue. The fans get replica Pete statues.
12. Rockies
Jersey giveaways are pretty rare, actually, and mostly the teams give out generic jerseys without names. The Rockies on May 27, however, give out Nolan Arenado jerseys.
11. Astros
On Aug. 4, there’s a ceremony for newly minted Hall of Famer Jeff Bagwell, and with it comes a replica 1997 jersey of Bagwell’s. Great touch.
10. Dodgers
Longtime Dodgers fans will absolutely love this one and many other fan bases will be jealous. On May 3, there’s a Vin Scully ceremony and fans will receive a replica Vin microphone.
9. Blue Jays
This is such a great idea to play off a player’s Twitter handle. Josh Donaldson’s Twitter name starts with “bringer of rain.” So on April 16, the Jays are giving away “bringer of rain” umbrellas with Donaldson’s likeness. Excellent touch.
8. Braves
Ender Inciarte endeared himself to Braves fans everywhere with this catch:
On May 19, the Braves give a “Game Ender” bobblehead away. Beautiful.
7. Giants
You can’t go wrong with one of two choices here. There’s a Johnny Cueto “shimmy” bobble and a Jeff Samardzija “shark” snow glove (with a shark fin top!).
6. Mets
Noah Syndergaard bobblehead? That’s good, but it wouldn’t land here. No, the Mets are doing Syndergaard dressed as Thor bobblehead on July 22.
5. Indians
The May 24 giveaway is the replica AL championship trophy.
4. Cubs
It’s easy and obvious, but that doesn’t make it bad. On April 15, they are giving away a replica World Series trophy. In fact, all season they are giving away specific things about last year’s special run, such as commemorating Kris Bryant winning MVP and, obviously, the World Series title.
3. Rangers
On April 29, get your Adrian Beltre “dancing legs” bobble. What a great twist on one of the most likable players in baseball.
2. Athletics
Game of Thrones night is June 30 and there aren’t further details. But do there even need to be? Bring it on. I’m down.
I now have the theme song stuck in my head and that isn’t a complaint.
1. Mariners
Ken Griffey Jr. is entering the Hall of Fame as the first player ever to be wearing a Mariners cap and on April 14, there’s a Junior replica statue giveaway at Safeco Field. The buck stops here. Overall, the Mariners have an utterly killer promotional calendar that includes at least five items that would not have ranked last on this list.


Madison Bumgarner goes deep twice in Giants opener, is MLB home run leader

We knew Madison Bumgarner could hit, but the San Francisco Giants ace had a new trick up his sleeve Sunday — he became the first pitcher in major-league history to hit two home runs on Opening Day.

That gave the Giants a 2-0 lead and came as Bumgarner was also in the middle of flirting with a perfect game. He had mowed down the Arizona lineup through the first four innings, striking out five to that point. The perfection continued in the bottom of the fifth, as he added two more strikeouts to the tally.

Bumgarner kept the Diamondbacks off the board in the seventh and left the game after that with a 4-3 lead and no shot at a third dinger.

The two home runs make Bumgarner, as of this writing, the major-league homer in home runs — albeit with only one other game having been played to this point. Bumgarner had 14 home runs for his career heading into this season.

Bow down.

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