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Majors opening Sunday is true Madness

Mar 26, 2002 5:58 AM

Baseball begins the regular season at the height of NCAA basketball interest. This is true March Madness.

Nevertheless, whoever is in charge of this one-time grand game has scheduled Cleveland at Anaheim this Sunday night on ESPN to start the 162-game grind.

The majority of the openers take place Monday, April 1. Several teams will wait until Tuesday, April 2.

“There’s definitely no buzz in town for anything but the NCAA’s,” said John Avello, the colorful race and sports book director at Bally’s-Paris Las Vegas.

Opening day is the most exciting day in baseball, but the scheduling of these games during Final Four weekend in asinine. But, considering who is running the asylum these days, this scheduling flaw is merely par for the course.

Sunday, March 31

Indians at Angels: A showcase game for the Angels, the team that should be the biggest surprise in the majors. Anaheim, with new red uniforms, has improved its rotation with the acquisition of Aaron Sele (Mariners) and Kevin Appier (Mets). Darin Erstad and Tim Salmon come off career-worst years. Cleveland needs to Âí­replace Juan Gonzalez and Roberto Alomar. Take ANGELS.

Monday, April 1

AL

Jays at Red Sox: Pedro should toss five or six and Nomar is healthy. Toronto has a potent lineup led by Carlos Delgado. Rookie SS Felipe Lopez makes his debut at 21. Could be an upset possibility in the cold. Take JAYS.

Yankees at Orioles: Jason Giambi makes his Yankee debut. Derek Jeter has his glove. Baltimore doesn’t have Cal Ripken or Brady Anderson. Jeff Conine had a wonderful 2001 (.311, 14 HR, 97 RBI) but
he won’t scare anyone in the cleanup role. Plus, he’s 35. Take YANKEES.

Twins at Royals: The Twins are young, talented and carrying a chip on their shoulders. Kansas City is in another rebuilding stage. Take TWINS.

White Sox at M’s: This could be a playoff matchup right off the bat. Frank Thomas returns to the Chisox and Kenny Lofton is a wonderful addition. Seattle can’t win 116 games again, but can repeat as West champs. Take MARINERS.

Rangers at A’s: Juan Gone, A-Rod, Everett, Palmeiro all in one lineup, and John Rocker in the bullpen. High-combustion. A’s lose Jason Giambi but Jeremy G and supporting cast are solid. Take A’S.

NL

Phillies at Braves: The in-fighting has already begun in Philly, with third baseman Scott Rolen still unhappy. Atlanta is a veteran team with the improved offense from Gary Sheffield. Maddux, Glavine and Smoltz are a year older, but still fine. Take BRAVES.

Pirates at Mets: Mo Vaughn, Roberto Alomar and Jeromy Burnitz add huge firepower to an offense that already had Mike Âí­Piazza and Edgardo Âí­Alfonso. The Pirates have Aramis Ramirez and a lot of unanswered questions . Take METS.

Cubs at Reds: Moises Alou and Sammy Sosa give the Cubs an awesome middle of the order. The Reds need a huge year from Ken Griffey. Cincy could be the NL surprise. Take REDS.

Padres at D’backs: Kevin Jarvis, who tosses the opener for San Diego, is part of a young, exciting staff. The world champs figure to start Randy Johnson or Curt Schilling. Take D’BACKS.

Rockies at Cards: If leadoff batter Juan Pierre can get on for Walker and Helton, the Rocks can win. McGwire is gone, but Tino Martinez joins a balanced  lineup. Take CARDS.

Tuesday, April 2

AL

Tigers at D-Rays: Detroit will throw Jeff Weaver, who has all the tools to win 20. Tampa Bay is a bad team. Take TIGERS.

NL

Giants at Dodgers: Barry Bonds, all-time single-season home run champ, against Shawn Green, Paul LeDuca and newly acquired Brian Jordan. Jeff Kent is out of the SF lineup. Take DODGERS .

Brewers at Astros: Houston was 22-10 in games Wade Miller started last year. The Brewers figure to struggle. Take ASTROS.

Marlins at Expos: The Jeffrey Loria Bowl. Loria owned the Expos last year, but sold the team to MLB so he could buy the Marlins. Take MARLINS.