MLB.com Columnist

Tracy Ringolsby

Strong start usually an implication of great season

Only two World Series winners in last 20 years had losing record through April

Strong start usually an implication of great season

The Major League season starts on Sunday night with the Cardinals at the Cubs, and then with the 28 other teams scheduled to make their 2015 debuts on Monday.

It's a 162-game grind in the battle for a postseason berth, but don't be lulled into a false sense of security. A good start has an impact on a team's championship ambitions.

In the 20 years since a third round of postseason play was added, only 31 of the 166 teams that have advanced to October had a losing record in the opening month of the season. Only two have won a World Series -- the 2003 Marlins (14-15 through April) and '02 Angels (11-14).

Meanwhile, six of the eventual World Series champions posted the best record in baseball in the first month of the season, including the Red Sox three times (18-8 in 2013; 16-8 in '07; and 15-6 in '04). The others were the '05 White Sox (17-7), 1998 Yankees (17-6) and strike-shortened '95 Braves (4-1).

The 1998 World Series is the only time in the last 20 years that the teams with the two best records through April faced off, as the Yankees (17-6) swept the Padres (19-7).

CATCHING ON

Former catchers fill 14 of the 30 Major League managerial jobs: Bruce Bochy, Giants; Joe Maddon, Cubs; Mike Matheny, Cardinals; Clint Hurdle, Pirates; Mike Redmond, Marlins; Mike Scioscia, Angels; A.J. Hinch, Astros; Bob Melvin, A's; Jeff Banister, Rangers; Lloyd McClendon, Mariners; Brad Ausmus, Tigers; Ned Yost, Royals; Joe Girardi, Yankees; John Gibbons, Blue Jays, and Kevin Cash, Rays.

Hurdle and McClendon were primarily outfielders, but they did learn to catch. McClendon caught in 50 big league games, starting 17, and Hurdle caught in 22 games, starting 15.

BACK TO SCHOOL

Former big league pitcher Bill Swift is in his second year as the head coach of the Arizona Christian University baseball team. The hitting coach is Jack Lind, a former Major League infielder, who later managed in the Minors and scouted.

The sons of former big league players Don Wakamatsu (Jake), Ellis Burks (Christopher) and Bobby Rose (Cody) are on the ACU roster.

ACU reliever Dean Jackson, a 6-foot-7 redshirt sophomore, is considered one of the top NAIA players eligible for the June First-Year Player Draft. Swift said Jackson got the attention of scouts when he hit 97 miles per hour during the fall Scout Day.

SUN STROKE

A team that plays in the Cactus League has won the World Series four times in the last 12 World Series, and the Giants account for three of those championships (2010, '12 and '14). The '05 White Sox are the other team that plays Arizona spring baseball.

There also have only been four teams that train in Arizona that have lost in the last 12 World Series, the Royals (2014), Rangers (2010 and 2011), the Rockies (2007).

Before 2014, when the San Francisco defeated Kansas City, the last time two teams that train in Arizona met in the World Series was '02, when the Angels beat the Giants in seven games.

MEMORY

Thursday will mark the 50th anniversary of the first baseball game played in the Astrodome, the first domed baseball facility. President Lyndon B. Johnson, who threw out the first pitch, was among a crowd of 47,878 that saw the Astros win, 2-1, in 12 innings. Hall of Fame outfielder Mickey Mantle hit the first home run in the park.

Three days later, the first regular-season game was played in the Astrodome, as the Phillies won, 2-0. Dick Allen hit a two-run home run and Joe Morgan had two of the Astros' four hits.

QUICK HITS

• The A's go into Monday's opener with a 10-game Opening Day losing streak, the longest active streak in baseball. The Mariners, meanwhile, have a best-in-baseball eight-game winning streak on Opening Day.

• Gabby Guerrero, a Mariners prospect who hit his first Cactus League home run on Friday, is the nephew of former big league outfielder Vladimir Guerrero. The 21-year-old outfielder played at Class A Advanced High Desert last summer.

• Giants broadcaster Duane Kuiper hit one home run in 3,379 Major League at-bats. It came in the first inning of an Aug. 29, 1977, game in Cleveland, and he hit it off White Sox broadcaster Steve Stone, who gave up 184 home runs in 1,788 1/3 big league innings.

Tracy Ringolsby is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.