Opening Day is almost here and we know who's in line to start.
In what was not exactly a shocking development, the Mariners tabbed Felix Hernandez for the ninth time, which will put him two shy of tying CC Sabathia for the lead among active pitchers. Elsewhere on the diamond, the Yankees' Alex Rodriguez is in line to open a season in a starting lineup for the 18th time, while the Rangers' Adrian Beltre will notch No. 17. On the other hand, this will be the first year since 1998 that Torii Hunter won't be suiting up somewhere for Game 1 of 162.
While all of those players have impressive records, none make the All-Time Opening Day Starter team, which features the man with the most such starts at each position (since 1913), according to the baseballreference.com Play Index. In the event of a tie -- there were two -- the player with the most success in those games was selected.
Pitcher: Tom Seaver (16 starts)
Seaver sits two starts ahead of Jack Morris, Randy Johnson and Steve Carlton. The Hall of Famer got the nod for the Mets every year from 1968-77, after taking National League Rookie of the Year honors in '67, then got six more starts over the next nine seasons for the Reds, Mets and White Sox. Seaver posted a 3.13 ERA in those 16 outings and went on to win a Cy Young Award in three of those campaigns.
Catcher: Ivan Rodriguez (20 starts)
Pudge crushes the field in this category, with four more starts than Benito Santiago and five more than anyone else. Over Rodriguez's 21-year career, he was in the Opening Day lineup every season except his first, when he debuted in June. His initial Game 1 appearance came with the Rangers at age 20 in 1992, when he caught for Nolan Ryan and threw out a young Mariners center fielder named Ken Griffey Jr. on a steal attempt. That season, Rodriguez made the first of 14 All-Star teams and won the first of a record 13 Gold Glove Awards behind the plate. Rodriguez also made Opening Day starts for the Marlins, Tigers, Astros and Nationals through 2011, though he hit only .205/.253/.423 in those games.
First base: Fred McGriff (16 starts)
Todd Helton, Keith Hernandez and Eddie Murray also got to 16, but McGriff claims the spot by batting a robust .391/.458/.719 with five home runs and 17 RBIs over 72 plate appearances. That includes a four-hit, two-homer, five-RBI effort against the Giants on April 26, 1995, when the season began late following the end of the strike. The Crime Dog started for six different teams on Opening Day, beginning with the Blue Jays in '88 and ending with the Dodgers in 2003.
Second base: Joe Morgan (20 starts)
Over the course of his 22-year Hall of Fame career, Morgan started on Opening Day three more times than any other second baseman. After playing only 18 Major League games from 1963-64, Morgan entered the Game 1 lineup as a 21-year-old the following season -- the year the Houston franchise switched from Colt .45's to Astros -- and stayed there through his age-40 season with the '84 A's. Morgan also made starts for the Giants, the Phillies and of course the Reds over the years, posting a very Morgan-like stat line: .296/.444/.408 with six extra-base hits, eight steals and 10 more walks (18) than strikeouts (eight).
Third base: Brooks Robinson (20 starts)
Not only did the Hall of Famer and 16-time Gold Glove Award winner make three more Opening Day starts at the hot corner than anyone else, but also he made each of them in an Orioles uniform. The first came in 1957, when Robinson was still a teenager and future World Series-winning manager Whitey Herzog was the starting center fielder and leadoff man for the opposing Washington Senators. The streak continued through '76, as Robinson batted .316/.349/.595 with six home runs and 17 RBIs in those games, leading Baltimore to a 15-5 record.
Shortstop: Omar Vizquel (18 starts)
Luis Aparicio also made 18 from 1956-73, but Vizquel, despite being known more for his glove, also brought his bat on Opening Day. He hit .324/.367/.405 with a homer and six steals in these contests, which included 17 straight from 1991-2007 with the Mariners, Indians and Giants. Amazingly, the 11-time Gold Glove Award winner continued his career through a 24th season in 2012, when he was 45.
Left field: Barry Bonds (19 starts)
Bonds made it into two more Opening Day lineups than any other left fielder and did so in true Bonds fashion by batting .364/.500/.727 with six homers, 12 RBIs, 18 walks (six intentional) and only five strikeouts. The all-time home run leader went 7-for-9 with two homers over his first two openers with the Pirates from 1988-89 and began his record 73-homer campaign with the 2001 Giants by going deep off the Padres' Woody Williams at what was then Pacific Bell Park in San Francisco.
Center field: Willie Mays (21 starts)
Bonds' godfather started for the New York Giants at the Polo Grounds as a 20-year-old on Opening Day 1952, about six weeks before he was drafted into the Army. He returned for the first game of the '54 season and hit the go-ahead homer in the sixth inning as the Giants beat the Dodgers, 4-3. It was one of seven times Mays went deep over those 21 games, during which he also produced 16 RBIs. Mays' streak continued through '73 when he made his lone Opening Day start for the Mets, after being traded back to New York the previous May. No other player before or since has been part of more 16 Game 1 lineups in center.
Right field: Al Kaline (19 starts)
Although he hit a modest .216/.318/.338 with two home runs on Opening Day, Kaline made two more starts in right than second-place Tony Gwynn. Like Gwynn with the Padres, Kaline was a one-team man, suiting up only for the Tigers during his Hall of Fame career. Kaline's first Game 1 assignment came as a 19-year-old in 1954, and he didn't get his last until '73. No Tigers player since then has made more than seven Opening Day starts at the position.
Designated hitter: David Ortiz (12 starts)
Assuming Big Papi is the DH for Boston's April 4 opener at Cleveland, he will take over sole possession of the lead over Don Baylor in his final season. That would have happened last year, except the Sox began their season without a DH and Ortiz manned first base in an NL park in Philadelphia. Ortiz made his first two Game 1 starts for the Twins from 2001-02, homering both times. After Minnesota made the colossal blunder of letting him go and Boston scooped him up, Ortiz continued his Opening Day exploits and now owns a career .318/.404/.705 line in such games.
* * *
Andrew Simon is a Sports on Earth contributor and a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AndrewSimonMLB.