Memories of opening day: when Mark Buhrle underestimated the work of the year on opening day

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<pre><pre>Memories of opening day: when Mark Buhrle underestimated the work of the year on opening day

With 2020 Opening Day delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic, Sporting News employees remember their most memorable Opening Days of the past.

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Anything can happen on the opening day.

That's the beauty of baseball: Game 1 can be just as important as Game 162. The divisional series you play the first week of April can come back to haunt you in division racing. March 26 means as much as September 27.

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Truth be told, I hadn't attended an opening day until 2019, when I was covering for SN. Believe it: There is a kind of aura and mystique about opening day that just doesn't exist in other sports. There is optimism, a hope, that every fan base has, even if the overall picture is bleak.

Well, aside from becoming poetic about being on opening day, there are still plenty of opportunities to see something special on television. Case in point: White Sox pitcher Mark Buehrle on April 5, 2010.

It's hard to believe that almost 10 years have passed since the left-hander made this move (almost as difficult as remembering how to spell his last name consistently), but it's something that has stuck in my brain. The work was maintained throughout the 2010 season, ending as the work of the year in the eyes of many people.

Sometimes baseball is pure luck, right? Even at their best swing, hitters can't control exactly where the ball lands. Pitchers aren't always going to make that perfect pitch, even if they have the most accurate pitch.

Perhaps this is why this work is so iconic: it had a bit of everything. The blind blow between Buehrle's legs and Paul Konerko's hitch, a cunning and careless one. A pinch of that silly luck with a legitimately good fielding.

Recall that Buehrle was not far behind in identifying his position. At the time he made this play, he was coming off his first Gold Glove season on the mound, and would win three more consecutively after that.

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But aside from being excellent on the field at his position, Buehrle was a better pitcher than many remember. It was the definition of reliable and consistent, especially during a time when the American League Central was typically a three-team run between the White Sox, Tigers, and Twins, and the Indians also had some decent teams. Buehrle was also a member of the 2005 world champion White Sox, one of the best forgotten teams in the past two decades. He was worth 52.3 fWAR / 60 bWAR in his career, so he was a very productive, good pitcher and definitely better than many probably think.

Buehrle was also a workhorse: He threw more than 200 innings in each season, except his rookie year (51 1/3 innings) and his last one (198 2/3 innings). While some of his advanced career numbers are decent (4.11 FIP and 117 ERA +), Buehrle was never the type of pitcher that would be Cy Young's favorite, but he was always the type you would trust as No. 2 He finished in the top 5 on the Cy Young vote once.

While Buehrle retired after the 2015 season after three years with the Blue Jays and one with the Marlins, his No. 56 was retired in June 2017, going down in the history of the White Sox as one of the best pitchers that the franchise has seen.

Oh, and by the way, Buehrle released a perfect game in 2009, after his 2007 no-hitter.

It must be nice to be remembered for something, Right?

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