It turns out Tim Hudson was the perfect choice to start opening day.
The reason isn’t that he’s now the ranking veteran on the Giants’ staff or that he’s pitching as well as anyone in baseball through the first week of the season. It isn’t because it’s his Bay Area homecoming. All these certainly only add to the right-hander being the obvious choice. But the reason it had to be Hudson is even closer to the heart.
Entering into his 15th full year in the big leagues, Hudson’s first opening day on a major league roster was in 2000 — the same year AT&T Park (then called Pac Bell Park) opened.
It was one of the monumental events in the history of the city of San Francisco. It inaugurated the beginning of the 21st century in grand style. It signaled the gentrification of the Embarcadero. With the grand opening of the Giants’ new yard, after playing in Candlestick Park for four decades, it unveiled what would soon be renowned as the premier venue in all of professional sports.
The 2000 season was also the most prolific in the career of Hudson, at least in the sense that he won a career-high 20 games. After spending a portion of the 1999 season in Oakland as a midseason call-up, Hudson accumulated a career record of 31-8 through 2000. He was also named to his first of three career All-Star games and would rank second in the American League Cy Young voting, finishing behind only Pedro Martinez who won the award for the third time in four years.
Hudson wasn’t the opening-day starter for the 2000 A’s. That honor fell to one of a trio of veterans in the Oakland rotation, Kevin Appier, who took the loss at then Network Associates Coliseum. However, Hudson took the ball in Game 2 of the season and absolutely dealt, firing seven innings of one-hit shutout baseball to lead Oakland past Detroit 3-1 in the A’s first victory of the year.
The dominant debut was the signpost of an epic era of A’s baseball, as the 2000 season would see the dawn of the Oakland Big Three. Two weeks after Hudson’s season debut, left-hander Mark Mulder made his major league debut, earning the win in a 6-3 victory in Cleveland. Just over three months after that, Barry Zito was called up to make the first start of his career, earning the win in a 10-3 victory over the Angels.
While the Billy Beane era was getting underway in Oakland — Hudson was actually the A’s first-round draft pick in the same year, though previous to, the hiring of Beane as general manager, with Mulder and Zito being the initial first-rounders, respectively in 1998 and ’99, under the now legendary front-office chief — across the Bay the Giants were off and running in beginning a fantastic era of their own in the House that Barry Built.
And as the Barry Bonds era ended with the addition of Barry Zito, now too the new World Championship era of Tim Lincecum and the pitching staff that has changed the way major league baseball teams build pitching staffs, there is no more perfect addition to the 2014 San Francisco Giants than Tim Hudson.
As for Hudson landing the start in the home opener, even with four other brilliant choices manager Bruce Bochy could have lined up for Tuesday’s start, it couldn’t really have been anyone else.