By Eric Neel
Page 2 columnist

In these early days, as February turns into March, and before actual stats and scores go and muck things up, a guy can dream a little, can't he? He can play a little 2004 fantasy baseball, right?

I mean, really, is it too much to ask?

Is it too much to ask that ...

John Henry
"And weighing in at 98-pounds ... Red Sox owner, John Henry!"

John Henry and Steinbrenner do the cage match thing for real? Bare knuckles. No holds barred. Last man standing. A Thunderdome bit. Isn't the rest -- all this spending and smack-talking -- just so much pose and prelude? I say cut the crap, boys. Let's do this. We'll set it up on pay-per-view and get Tina Turner to officiate. Blow the All-Star game right out of the water.

Enrique Wilson has a career year and every other hitter in the Yankee lineup goes into a Shawn Green, where-did-my-bat-go, swoon? And meanwhile, Shawn Green returns from the dead, healthy and angry?

A third straight team that makes no sense runs roughshod over the conventional wisdom and right through the playoffs and wins the title?

Is that too much? And while I'm asking, can I please hear from ...

Somebody who's using steroids and says so, straight-up? We're a forgiving people. Seriously. The only thing we can't abide are folks who never come clean. Call a press conference. Say you screwed up. Be cursed and then forgiven and then embraced. Lead the game back from the brink, would you please. Somebody? Anybody? Bueller?

And someone who's got a plan and the cash to bring the Expos to Vegas? Because I've got two words for that someone: "America's Team."

And would it be all right if ...

The Padres put away the fatigues this year? For good? A tribute to the men and women of the armed forces is a nice gesture, but the Guns n' Ammo flannel bedsheet look is an embarrassment for everyone involved.

Detroit won 44 games?

Kansas City did not tank and Atlanta finally did?

I'm just asking, could ...

Mark Prior
Prior better throw a no-no, because Dusty isn't taking him out.

Arte Moreno lower beer prices at Angels games one more time? Only this time, could he do it with a bit more fanfare? I'm thinking maybe throwdown a gauntlet, challenge other owners to match his gesture, that kind of thing.

Mark Prior throw a no-hitter? At a day game? Against the Cardinals? Please? I'm asking real nice.

Griffey Jr. blow by the 500 mark and keep right on going?

And, if it's not too much trouble, could ...

Pete Rose please apologize and go away? Don't worry, Charlie -- we'll call as soon as your table is ready at Cooperstown.

Joe Torre somehow, impossibly, stay in his happy place no matter what weirdness comes out of the boss' office?

Somebody step up and pitch to Barry? Turk, whaddaya say? You've already made him mad; what do you have to lose? So he goes deep on you, so he shoots one back up the box that makes you want to cry. So what? Once upon a time you were known for being wacky and free spirited, right? I say you bring it back. I say you rise up and own the moment. Forget Turk Wendell and go all Turk 182 on him. Sport coat with the sleeves pushed up and a bad floral print shirt, can of paint at the ready, and rebellious spirit to burn.

And while I'm thinking big, can somebody arrange ...

For the ghost of Roy Cohn to visit Dusty Baker in the middle of the night? It's just that I think Dusty should know exactly what he's talking about when he trots out this McCarthyism stuff. (If we can't swing the ghost, Pacino as Roy would probably do.)

For Johnny Damon to keep letting it grow. The hair and the beard. Right now, he's working a tribute thing to Jim Morrison, which is fine; but before long, he'll be doing the ultimate throwback tribute with a fullblown House of David look, which is mighty impressive. Anyone can pull on a retro jersey, but Johnny's obviously got genuine respect for history, and it's a rare and wonderful thing.

For a pool on how long it'll take for Frank Thomas to grab Ozzie Guillen around the neck and shake him like a rubber chicken? Put me down for five bucks on Sunday, June 6, by the way.

For the cops to lay a speed trap down Florida way and put Canseco in the pen until he agrees not to write a book, an essay, a paragraph, a sentence, or even a birthday card. Sure, it's harassment; but it's in the interest of the public good. Imagine having to listen to him read parts of the book out loud on Larry King. Scary.

And since I'm rolling now, let me just ask if ...

The Tigers could maybe sign Rickey Henderson sometime soon?

Rickey Henderson
"Man, even Rickey thinks Rickey should be signed."

Hee Seop Choi could hit, I don't know, maybe 47 doubles?

Eric Chavez could wrap up a deal to stay in Oakland for the next several years?

Edgar Martinez could make a push for the batting title?

Larry Bowa could, you know, chill?

Would all this be too much to ask? Would I be pushing my luck if put in a last request for ...

A banner that reads Toronto Blue Jays, 2004 American League East Champions.

You were with me up until then, right? I've pushed it too far, haven't I?

Yeah, well, it's that time of year.

Eric Neel is a regular columnist for Page 2.




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FANTASY BASEBALL