The Cubs’ 12-run Opening Day romp over the Rangers was very impressive, featuring Javy Báez homers in consecutive frames and a six-spot in the 5th inning. The 2016 world champs opened with a 9-0 whitewashing of the Angels. Last year saw eight runs in a win against the Marlins in Miami.
“I think that was, offensively, better than any game we had last year,” Kris Bryant told reporters afterwards.
But as good as Joe Maddon’s teams have looked, Dusty Baker was the king of season-opening domination. Baker’s boys scored 15 or more runs in three of the four debut games he managed in Chicago. For a jog down memory lane, let’s take a look at this triumvirate of blowouts.
The first against the Mets at Shea Stadium on March 31, 2003. Kerry Wood battled future Hall of Famer Tom Glavine. The Cubs jumped on the lefty for four in the 1st inning, including a two-run Moises Alou double. The real hero was Corey Patterson, who emulated Báez by homering in the 6th and 7th innings and driving in a total of seven runs.
The craziest part was that both shots came against the same reliever, Mike Bacsik, who allowed a total of nine runs in the 15-2 shellacking. Am I saying using the word basic as an insult started with this game? Well, I’m not not saying it. Patterson would have his big year cut short by an ACL tear, but the Cubs got to within a game of the World Series.
After a boring 7-4 win to kick off the 2004 campaign, the Cubs busted the whooping sticks back out in 2005. On April 4 against the Diamondbacks at what was then Bank One Ballpark, Carlos Zambrano faced off against Javier Vazquez on the mound. Chicago rocked the opposing pitcher for seven, including multiple RBI from Derek Lee, Aramis Ramirez, and Nomar Garciaparra.
Lee and Ramirez each added late bombs to finish the 16-6 rout. A fit of Zambrano wildness knocked him out in the 5th and Glendon Rusch ended up getting the win. Future Cub Koyie Hill knocked in two runs and D-Lee rode his five RBI opener to a monster 46 homer, 1.081 OPS season. The Cubs, however, posted a PECOTA-esque 79-83 record.
The Northsiders matched that effort on April 3, 2006 against the Reds in Cincinnati. Big Z got the nod yet again, opposing human pitching machine Aaron Harang. The ginger menace Matt Murton cranked a three-run jack in a five-run Cubs 1st inning. Zambrano blew the lead in the 5th and Will Ohman finished the frame.
Ohman would get the win after the Cubs scored seven in the 6th as Angel Pagan, Todd Walker, and Juan Pierre all drove in runs. The eventual 16-7 victory was enough already for the Reds and their fans, but it was also the high-point for the Cubs, whose 70-92 record got Dusty fired late in the season.
The lesson here seems to be that a big win to start the season is just that. It’s not an omen for the year one way or the other, it’s just really fun to watch. Then again, maybe we can all just agree that the offense is no longer broken and the Cubs are on pace to go 162-0.