Carlos Beltran figures he received about $11.5 million worth of boos last year. That was what the New York Mets paid him in the first year of his $119 million contract, one that, by the end of Beltran's injury-pocked season, Mets fans rued.
Yet here Beltran stands, more than a year after he boldly glossed his new team "The New Mets," defiant, excited, ready.
"It's a new season," Beltran said. "You hope to stay healthy. You hope to play well. It's about hope."
Opening Day, at its root, is about hope. The World Series champion Chicago White Sox will host division rival Cleveland in the season's first game Sunday night, and Monday is the season's official dawn. Thirteen cities will see baseball live for the first time in more than five months, thirteen more will get their tastes on television, and all of them will do nothing more than hope.
They will hope for a victory that day and another after that so it's a winning streak, a grand month to start the season well. For hitters and pitchers to stay healthy so, in August and September, when the games matter most, that hope isn't dead.
Beltran's hope is as simple as a repeat of his first game in 2004, when he capped a Kansas City comeback by hitting a two-run home run in extra innings to send the Royals home victorious.
And there are so many more things to hope for around baseball, things that would make the game that much more special in 2006.
Hope that former Sen. George Mitchell does as good a job investigating steroids as Major League Baseball is convinced he will.
Hope that Bud Selig can make it through this mess. He is an idea man, a master consensus builder, a great person for the game. Yet the longer he and baseball and the union deny culpability in the steroid problem, the more people forget about all the good things he's done. And that list is long.
Hope that scientist Don Catlin can come up with a test for human growth hormone. Because every time you see a pumped-up slugger these days, you wonder.
Hope that Tampa Bay's new regime is better than its old one. And by the looks, it already is.
Hope that MLB sells the Nationals to the best owner for the team, not the best fit for the league.
Hope that Seattle's Emiliano Fruto stays in the big leagues all season so there's a reason to type his name.
Hope that Chris Coste makes the Phillies and succeeds. Every year there is a minor-league lifer who plays his way into the big leagues. After 12 years of bus trips and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, Coste might finally get his shot.
Hope that the Cardinals install an electric fence around the dugout to prevent Tony La Russa from making so many trips to the mound.
Hope that David Ortiz never loses his smile.
Hope that David Wells, at 42 years old, finally grows up.
Hope that players stop taking amphetamines. When abused, they are highly addictive and far more damaging than steroids.
Hope that every one of you wins your fantasy league, because nothing beats bragging rights in November, December, January, February and March.
Hope that the mustard at Jacobs Field tastes as good as it always has.
Hope that the NL West champion makes it over .500.
Hope that the owners and players' association can hammer out a collective-bargaining agreement before the current one expires in December. With revenue sharing needing an overhaul, the announcement that baseball will investigate the use of steroids sent another ripple into the pool. It's got the potential to be a wave.
Hope that there are more 1-0 games.
Hope that Mark Mulder pitches another 10-inning shutout. Last year, he went through 33 Astros in 101 pitches and turned in the season's best individual performance.
Hope that Barry Bonds realizes the game is worse for having him around. He won't, but still.
Hope that Zack Greinke is OK.
Hope that Elden Auker, the last living man to strike out Babe Ruth, has a happy 96th on Sept. 21.
Hope that the Hall of Fame considers inducting Bill James as a contributor. The game is different – and better – because of his innovation.
Hope that Kenny Williams uses his platform like his father and godfather. Williams' dad Jerry sued to get his job as the first black firefighter in San Jose, and his godfather John Carlos joined Tommie Smith in raising their fists on the Olympic podium. Williams is just the person to affect change in baseball's hiring of minorities in management positions.
Hope that a team comes out of nowhere to win a division.
Hope that Rafael Palmeiro is ready to say what really happened.
Hope that MLB doesn't sit on the good will from the World Baseball Classic and actively pursues spreading the game in Italy, in China and most of all in South Africa, a rich athletic nation that baseball could win over with better facilities.
Hope that Daisuke Matsuzaka gets posted.
Hope that a pitcher of substance tries to throw the gyroball, just to see if the thing works.
Hope that Buck O'Neil, 94, speaks at July's Hall of Fame induction of 19 Negro Leagues players, owners and managers. He personifies grace, humility and eloquence.
He gives hope to everyone, and this time of year, that's all we need.