Opinion

Does an opening day starter even matter?

In 2007, Brett Myers threw the first pitch for the Phillies’ regular season at Citizens Bank Park as the opening day starter.

He also threw the last pitch – as the team’s closer on the last-day win over the Nationals that sent the Phillies to the playoffs for the first of what turned out to be five consecutive National League East championships.

So when it comes to naming an opening day starter, let’s just say it’s not the most important thing in the world. It’s one of those routine stories that come out of spring training because there is so little news otherwise that beat writers look for whatever they can find to fill up the paper. That opening day starter is by some considered the ace of the staff, even if that really doesn’t mean much in the grander scheme of things.

Naming an opening day starter is one of those things that sounds like a lot of fun, one that brings with it some sense of prestige and cache. Same as everyone (including us at Phillies Nation) hypes up pitchers and catchers reporting, or the first preseason game for the Eagles, it’s a lot of fun to talk about. But they all mean jack squat.

It means even less jack squat (if that’s possible) for a team like the Phillies, who have virtually no chance of contending for a playoff spot in 2017. It means even less of less (if that’s possible) when they name an opening day starter who we know almost assuredly won’t be on the team in 2018. It means even less of less of less (if that’s possible) when we know that starter almost completely for sure and assuredly won’t be on the team in 2020 when the Phillies realistically have a shot at contending for a playoff spot again.

So, great. Jeremy Hellickson is likely to be the opening day starter for the Phillies this year. Bully for him, but let’s not read too much into this. Let’s not start delving into the possibility this means the Phillies value Hellickson more than Aaron Nola (spoiler: they don’t). All this means is that the Phillies paid Hellickson $17.2 million in the offseason, making him the highest-paid Phillie by a longshot. He’s also the most experienced starter on the team and has the most amount of success. So according to long-standing unwritten baseball rules, that means Hellickson gets the opening day start.

Which is all fine. There are times when an opening day starter matters, because the way the schedule works out, for at least April, your opening day starter may match up with the other teams’ opening day starters a good amount of time. But even that doesn’t happen with any bit of regularity.

If we’re looking for something positive out of Hellickson being possibly named the opening day starter, how about this: It could be worse. Omar Daal was the opening day starter in 2001. Jon Lieber started twice.

Think about that, then gently swipe your hand across your forehead. Then make a collective “Whew!” sound.

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