Jeff Passan: Spring Training

Great expectations

Great expectations
By Jeff Passan, Yahoo Sports
March 30, 2007

Jeff Passan
Yahoo Sports
CLEARWATER, Fla. – Until he retires and returns to the land of normal-sized people, Jimmy Rollins will spend the majority of his life as the shortest person in the Philadelphia Phillies' clubhouse.

"Ever since I was a kid I was the shortest," Rollins said. "And I didn't care. I just got things done. I never hoped I'd grow taller or hoped I'd hit with more power. I don't need to hope.

"Actually, I am hoping for one thing this year."

Surely it would make sense that his hope is for the Phillies to match his expectations, because everyone in the baseball world knows them well by now. Rollins buzzed the entire National League by proclaiming the Phillies the favorites in the NL East over the New York Mets. Given a chance to relent, he never did.

No, he came on stronger.

"I hope," Rollins said, "that the Mets are ready for us."

If so, it adds another subplot to a 2007 season already rich in them – a season, like every other, full of hope.

Hope that Daisuke Matsuzaka is as good as he has looked. He's a joy to watch pitch.

Hope that Matsuzaka gets to meet Angelina Jolie.

Hope that when Barry Bonds breaks Hank Aaron's home run record he does so in Los Angeles, so the fullest possible torrent of boos and ill-will envelope the ceremony. And that it happens sometime between the third and seventh innings, which is when Dodgers fans arrive and leave.

Hope that Aaron refuses to see it in person.

Hope that Craig Biggio doesn't limp toward 3,000 hits. He looked all of his 40 years old last season, and his on-base percentage nearly dipped below .300 in September. Nothing can cheapen the grand feat that is 3,000, but slow burns deaden it.

Hope that Tom Glavine doesn't limp toward 300 victories. Because the Mets need every one of them, and then some.

Hope that Gary Matthews Jr. contributes a nice chunk of his $50 million contract to some good cause, because, at this point, he needs to buy good karma.

Hope that Major League Baseball realizes it fools only simpletons when claiming proudly to have the toughest performance-enhancing-drug program in professional sports. That is like having the toughest laws on graffiti when spray paint is readily available and taggers hit their spots in off hours. It isn't going away, and players aren't scared of a program that doesn't test for human growth hormone or any of the newest designer steroids.

Hope that the 230,000 people who subscribed to the Extra Innings package last season on cable do not switch to DirecTV. It would only reinforce that MLB can bully around the people that matter most: ardent fans.

Hope that instead of naming it The Baseball Channel or MLB Channel, it's called what it really is: Owners' Greedy Money Play.

Hope that despite the ridiculousness of the whole deal, Congress stops intervening with the Extra Innings issue – or anything related to baseball, for that matter.

Hope that I don't finish in last place in my Scoresheet fantasy league. For one, it's an advanced game in which you set lineups, organize pinch hitters and pull starting pitchers. Even worse than actually playing manager, I'm doing it against some of the folks who run Baseball Prospectus, which makes me and partner Mark Pesavento the equivalent of New York-Penn League players called up to the majors. Wish us luck, because we'll need it to win the $1,000 that goes to charity.

Hope that Alex Rodriguez plays that game mom and dad used to love on car trips: See how long you can stay silent.

Hope that Pete Rose is another participant.

Hope that the Cleveland Indians know what they're doing in hiring Bruce Drennan, a longtime sportscaster who just left jail after getting caught in a sports-gambling sting, to host a show on their SportsTime Ohio network. Baseball's vigilance on gambling deserves to trickle down to even the dregs of an organization.

Hope that Josh Hamilton, who has had the fortitude to stare down his demons, stays sober and produces like he showed he is capable of all spring.

Hope that Zack Greinke, who will oppose Matsuzaka in his first start, can do the same for his social-anxiety disorders and depression.

Hope that the Washington Nationals don't lose 121 games. It would be no fun to spend September away from the playoff races and focusing on a team because of its futility.

Hope that Joe Mikulik has another bad day.

Hope that the All-Star Game somehow ends in another tie, like it did five years ago, so commissioner Bud Selig finally scraps the ludicrous rule of awarding home-field advantage in the World Series to the team from the league that wins the Midsummer Classic.

Hope that Tony La Russa and Steve Swindal stop drinking and driving.

Hope that Curt Schilling's blog continues its candor. Schilling may be an attention-seeking loudmouth, but it's awfully interesting to see him list the guys around whom he'd build a franchise: Not a single Red Sox player among the 12.

Hope that Fenway Park's sushi is as good as its hot dogs – and, uh, fresher.

Hope that people stop writing and saying that Matsuzaka throws a gyroball.

Hope that people who do understand that Matsuzaka doesn't throw it stop writing and saying that nobody does because the gyroball doesn't exist. It does.

Hope that the biggest crowd in Hall of Fame induction history shows up to honor Cal Ripken Jr. and Tony Gwynn.

Hope that the Hall of Fame does the right thing and creates the Buck O'Neil Award. Because Buck, more than anyone, represented hope, and he understood what powerful feelings it evokes.

Jeff Passan is a national writer for Yahoo! Sports. He is the co-author of the book "Death to the BCS: The Definitive Case Against the Bowl Championship Series," which following five printings of the first edition was re-released in a second, updated edition in October. Follow him on Twitter. Send Jeff a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.

Updated on Saturday, Mar 31, 2007 2:10 am, EDT

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