In many ways, it's a waste of the rivalry to have the Yankees playing the Red Sox the first week of April. Now that 1918 is out of the equation, some of the urgency and antiphonal passion is removed, at least until the season has some definition or, more likely, until one of the two teams is facing some form of elimination.
The Red Sox won six of the seven meetings between them last April, finished second, were within a Tony Clark bounce of elimination only to perform the indelible miracle. In April, 2002, Boston won two out of three one on the arm of Darren Oliver and in 2001 they split six games in the first month, which pretty much tells you that games pick up speed at each equinox.
But this year, baseball needs to remind us about the Red Sox and Yankees, and recount every silly thing said about Alex Rodriguez and Curt Schilling.
• Baseball needs to put BALCO, Jose Canseco, the congressional hearings, "I am not here to talk about the past," Guadalajara medical school, Johnny (morphing into Paris) Damon and girlfriends' autobiographies onto Page 2 and get Derek Jeter, Jason Varitek, Mariano Rivera and David Ortiz back on the fold pages of newspapers and SportsCenter teasers.
Baseball needs another magical run from Ichiro.
• Baseball needs Junior Griffey to be healthy and Ichiro to make a run at .400.
• It needs Kerry Wood and Mark Prior to make 65 starts and have the Cubs in the race with the Cardinals, as well as 65-70 starts from two other pairs: John Smoltz and Tim Hudson as well as A.J. Burnett and Josh Beckett, which would pretty much assure a sun-belt race.
• It needs Carlos Beltran, David Wright, Jose Reyes and Pedro Martinez to bring the Mets back into the high life, again.
• It needs a summer of love for the Washington Nationals, not to mention an Oriole revival led by Miguel Tejada, Melvin Mora and Sammy Sosa that gives The Beltway two baseball headlines a day.
• It needs Albert Pujols, the man who did not strike out this spring.
• It needs Joe Mauer, Miguel Cabrera, Grady Sizemore, Mark Teixeira, Adam Dunn and Wright. It needs Carl Crawford and the next generation to become the face of the game, while Roger Clemens, Randy Johnson, Schilling, et al continue to defy age.
• It needs a few of its sluggers Troy Glaus, Dunn, A-Rod, Teixeira, Pujols for a start to hit 50 home runs and prove it can be done in a (theoretically) chemical-free era.
• It needs Juan Pierre, Jose Reyes, Khalil Greene, Bobby Crosby and Michael Young.
• It needs the Indians, Tigers and White Sox to run at the Twins and the A's, Rangers and Mariners to breathe down the necks of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. It needs the NL West to be a serious three-team California heat. It needs Jimmy Fallon to have Drew Barrymore and the Red Sox.
Be it 1919 or 1994, baseball has always survived because of the game, the players and the ties that bind generations to franchises. Barry Bonds is going past Babe Ruth, get over it. The game will move on because it always does.
Now, those of us who make predictions know they are usually invalid by May because of injuries or the reality that the past does not always translate to the future. There are a few of us at ESPN.com that picked the Twins to win it all, which requires explanation.
Will the Twins be the best team in the American League during the regular season? Probably not, judging by wins. The Yankees, Red Sox and Angels likely will have more wins at the end of September. But had Joe Mauer been catching last October, they would have beaten the Yankees. Mauer and Justin Morneau can give Minnesota the mid-lineup thunder it has lacked. Jason Bartlett and Michael Cuddyer may outperform or equal Cristian Guzman and Corey Koskie. Then get into the playoffs with Johan Santana, Brad Radke and Joe Mays (or Scott Baker) in the rotation and Joe Nathan set up by Juan Rincon, J.C. Romero, Kyle Lohse, Jesse Crain, J.D. Durbin and they could have the deepest power bullpen in baseball.
In other words, the Twins could win it all. So could the Yankees and Red Sox (Wade Miller?) if their pitching is healthy in October, as well as the Angels and someone else out of the AL that will turn coal into diamonds. The Cardinals, with Mark Mulder, Chris Carpenter and a healthy Matt Morris, can win it all. So can the Cubs, Braves, Marlins and Giants if Bonds can put distractions and the paparazzi out of mind.
A World Series with the Twins against the Marlins or Braves would not be good television in terms of ratings, not like having New York, Chicago, Boston or San Francisco. But this year, what baseball and television wants isn't necessarily what baseball needs.
In keeping with the notion that someone cares what we predict, here are a few awards:
MOST VALUABLE PLAYER
American League: David Ortiz. One could make a compelling argument for him each of the last two years based not on statistical formulas, but what an impact he has had carrying the Red Sox through good times and bad times. He is coming into his prime in a ballpark he turns into his private yard, but he is also going to need Kevin Millar to produce in the five-hole behind him. The rest of the nominees: Alex Rodriguez, a healthy Garret Anderson, Mark Teixeira, Hideki Matsui, Eric Chavez, Manny Ramirez, Victor Martinez and Joe Mauer.
National League:Nomar Garciaparra. He altered his training and looks 25 again, not to mention he's drained the residue from his unhappy departure from Boston out of his system and ready to become the face of the Cubs. Other nominees: Albert Pujols, Aramis Ramirez, Miguel Cabrera, Andruw Jones (watch out above!), Jim Thome, Adam Dunn and Troy Glaus.
CY YOUNG AWARDAmerican League: Randy Johnson, reveling in runs. Other nominees: Johan Santana, Rich Harden, Curt Schilling, Roy Halladay, Jeremy Bonderman and, if he throws as he did this spring not like he did last season, Bartolo Colon.