With Hearings in Rearview Mirror, Focus Turns to Pure Baseball

Steve ParkhurstContributor IFebruary 21, 2008

So, the hearings are done and Major League baseball players are no longer sitting in front of congressmen explaining away their side of the story. 

The report has been published, and it’s on the back burner now that pitchers and catchers have reported to camp.

Now we can concentrate on the only thing that matters: The game itself. 

The sounds of spring can be heard in Florida and Arizona. The wooden bats stinging line drives back up the middle, the gloves popping as they receive a perfectly stitched white sphere, and the metal spikes digging into the basepaths’ orange sand.

It’s time to answer all the real questions.

Will Curt Schilling pitch in 2008?  How will Miguel Tejada do playing half of his season in Houston’s ballpark?  Will Johan Santana win the NL Cy Young effortlessly in a weaker league?  Will Albert Pujols’ refusal to have elbow surgery in the offseason keep St. Louis out of playoff contention?  Will Dontrelle Willis have a better year this year in a better hitting league?

Two faces in new places make this season interesting before it even begins: Joe Torre in Los Angeles and Joe Girardi in New York.  Torre was in New York so long it is hard to even imagine a different skipper filling out the Yankee lineup card each night.  It’s a common sentiment this time of year; every team feels they have a shot at playing until the last out in October. 

It’s safe to say every team does have a shot, with the exceptions of Tampa Bay and Kansas City. After seeing Arizona and Colorado in last years NLCS, I won’t rule out too many teams.

This is the last season for Yankee Stadium, and after all the history that it has seen, it’s hard to believe the stadium won’t be used after it gives way to a new ballpark in 2009.

While we saw some greats leave the game after last year, Biggio and Clemens to name a couple, we will have at least one more year to watch Maddux work his craft.  We’ll probably see Bonds swinging for the fences somewhere in the AL as a DH, and we’ll see A-Rod get closer to 600 on his way to setting the all-time mark.

The big league clubs gear up at the same time the high school and college ballplayers set their sights on a hopeful 2008 season. Five and 6-year-olds get their first gloves and their first set of spikes (plastic spikes, for safety) and begin a journey they will never forget. Someday, one of them might be standing in Cooperstown with a bronze statue to their side as they give a speech thanking all the coaches and fellow players along the way.

It’s the time of year when all are hopeful, and with good reason, for the game of baseball brings about great things. 

There will be those who will prefer the 14-12 slugfest to a 1-0 pitchers’ duel. There will be those who will prefer seeing a triple play to a grand slam. There will be those who will prefer the night game at Shea to the day game at Wrigley.  But the game is always the same and the game will always win.

While I wish I could catch a game at Ebbets Field with a stogie in one hand and a Roger Kahn article and box score in the other, I will “settle” for Dodger Stadium, Minute Maid Park, and the Ballpark at Arlington and the words of Bill Plaschke, Buster Olney, and Rick Morrissey.

I can smell the hot dogs and cracker jacks and I can see my scorecard being filled in one batter at a time. I’m ready for 2008.