Commentary

Campaign trail: What could happen in 2008

Originally Published: March 24, 2008
By Tim Kurkjian | ESPN The Magazine

The 2008 baseball calendar is out. It is filled with fascinating stuff, real or imagined. Enjoy.

MARCH

25

    THE 2008 SEASON opens at 6 a.m. in Boston, 3 a.m. in Oakland. Daisuke Matsuzaka returns to Japan and throws seven strong innings. He is replaced in the eighth by Hideki Okajima, who throws a scoreless eighth. The Red Sox beat the A's, and both teams get on the bus after the game.

30

    THE BRAVES OPEN at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C., on ESPN Sunday Night Baseball. Those of us who grew up going to RFK Stadium will miss the old yard ... again. Those who didn't will welcome the Nats' new park, which is sensational, even without parking.

31

    OPENING DAY FOR 24 TEAMS. The Reds' Ken Griffey Jr. hits a home run, giving him eight Opening Day homers in his career, tying Frank Robinson's record. The Reds' Adam Dunn also homers, giving him an Opening Day homer four years in a row. That ties the record held by Yogi Berra, Gary Carter and Todd Hundley, all catchers. How weird is that?

    THE DODGERS celebrate the 50-year anniversary of Major League Baseball in Los Angeles by beating the Giants. Joe Torre, born in Brooklyn, gets his first win as Dodgers manager.

    FOR THE FIRST TIME since the 1984 season, a season begins without either Roger Clemens or Barry Bonds in a major league uniform. It is weird, and sad in a way, but the game goes on.


APRIL

4

    THE RAYS play the Yankees for the first time in the regular season. There are no fights.

11

    THE YANKEES AND RED SOX play for the first time this year. The booing of A-Rod is louder than ever for opting out of his contract during Game 4 of the 2007 World Series.

24

    JOHN SMOLTZ records his 25th strikeout of the season, and becomes the 16th pitcher in history to strike out 3,000. All those with 3,000 who are eligible for the Hall of Fame are in the Hall of Fame except Bert Blyleven with 3,701. This will be another reason to vote for Smoltz when his time comes up for Cooperstown. How is Blyleven not in?

27

    IN HIS RETURN TO NEW YORK, where it ended so badly, Tom Glavine shuts out the Mets. It is the 26th shutout of his career. He and Greg Maddux now have 61 between them, one more than Bert Blyleven.


MAY

2

    THE CUBS WIN their 15th game of the year, giving them 10,000 victories in their history. Of course, their history goes back to 1876, and includes the Chicago Orphans, Chicago Colts and Chicago White Stockings, yet they'll join the Giants as the only franchises with 10,000 wins. The Cubs will be around 500 games over .500 when they get to 10,000. This will do nothing to soothe Cub fans. They're in their 100th year without a world championship.

5

    KEN GRIFFEY JR. HITS HIS SEVENTH HOME RUN of the season, and 600th of his career. If it weren't for all his injuries in this decade, this would be homer No. 700, if not 750, for Griffey.

22

    MANNY RAMIREZ hits his 10th homer of the season, and 500th of his career. We are asked, "Is he a Hall of Famer?'' What, is this a trick question? Of course he is. Have you looked at his numbers the last 15 years?


JUNE

1

    JASON SCHMIDT and Mark Prior make their season debuts on the same day. Schmidt becomes the No. 5 starter for the Dodgers, Prior the No. 5 for the Padres. It sure is good to see them pitching again, but, sadly, there's no telling how long they'll be able to stay healthy.

2

    JOHAN SANTANA no-hits the Giants. It is the first no-hitter in the history of the Mets. It comes on 6/2. The Mets began in 1962.

21

    ARIZONA PITCHER Micah Owings is the starting DH against the Twins. He homers in his first at-bat.

28

    ON DON BAYLOR'S 59TH BIRTHDAY, the Reds' Juan Castro is hit by a pitch for the first time in his major league career. It comes in his 2,300th at-bat. We can only hope that the Tigers trade Zach Miner to an NL team so he can hit Castro with a pitch. He hasn't hit a batter in 146 2/3 innings in the major leagues.


JULY

15

    The 75TH ALL-STAR GAME is played at Yankee Stadium, which is in its final year. In the most storied ballpark in sports, it will be one of the greatest spectacles in baseball history. Every living Hall of Famer has been invited to take part in a ceremony that is certain to be spectacular. The American League wins the game, of course, on a hit by Derek Jeter.

18

    BARRY BONDS announces that he is still interested in playing, but no team wants him. Not that he can't hit any more -- he can -- it's just that the baggage is too heavy for teams.

27

    GOOSE GOSSAGE is inducted into the Hall of Fame. We wonder why it took so long.

31

    AT THE TRADE DEADLINE, the A's trade Joe Blanton to the Phillies for three young guys.


AUGUST

16

    ON THE 60TH ANNIVERSARY of Babe Ruth's death, the Mets' Pedro Martinez throws his first shutout of the season, giving him 18 in his career, passing Ruth on the all-time list.

17

    GARY SHEFFIELD hits his 20th home run of the season, and becomes the 25th player in history to hit 500. We are asked, "Isn't the 500-home run club watered down?'' Yes, it's true that more players will have joined the 500 Club in the last 25 years than joined in the first 120-years of baseball. But consider that there have been 16,000 players in major league history, and only 25 have hit 500 homers. That's .001 percent of all players. Is that watered down?


SEPTEMBER

3

    ON THE DAY Major League Baseball honors Roberto Clemente, Mets first baseman Carlos Delgado -- who is Puerto Rican, who wears No. 21, who won the Clemente Award in 2006 -- blasts a three-run homer in the ninth to beat the Brewers.

8

    THE PIRATES lose their 82nd game of the season, clinching their 16th consecutive losing season, tying the Phillies (1933-48) for the longest such streak in major league history.

15

    ICHIRO collects his 200th hit of the season, tying Wee Willie Keeler (1894-1901) as the only players in history to reach 200 hits eight years in a row.

21

    THE YANKEES play their final regular season home game at Yankee Stadium. It is fitting that Baltimore, birthplace of the greatest Yankee, Babe Ruth, plays the last game there.

23

    RANDY JOHNSON wins his 12th game, giving him 294. He announces he will return in 2009 in an attempt to win his 300th game.

26

27

    THE BREWERS' RYAN BRAUN hits his 50th home run of the season.

    The Phillies' Ryan Howard becomes the first player in history to strike out 200 times in a season. It runs his career total to 693, 324 more than Joe DiMaggio had his career.

28

    ON THE FINAL DAY of the season, Carlos Zambrano beats Ben Sheets as the Cubs win the NL Central division by one game over the Brewers.

    THE RED SOX beat the Yankees to win the division by one game.

    ON THE 20TH ANNIVERSARY of Orel Hershiser's setting the major league record for consecutive scoreless innings, Brad Penny throws a shutout, and the Dodgers beat the Giants to win the NL West.


OCTOBER

2

    ON THE 30TH ANNIVERSARY of Bucky Dent's home run against the Red Sox in the one-game playoff, Boston's Julio Lugo hits a three-run homer in the seventh to beat the Angels in the first game of the Division Series.

29

    IN KEEPING with the rest of the remarkable 2008 season, one of three things -- all of them realistic -- must happen on this date: In a rematch of the 1948 World Series, the Indians beat the Braves for their first world championship in 60 years. Or Joe Torre returns to the Bronx by taking the Dodgers to the World Series against the Yankees, and Game 7 is the final game ever played at Yankee Stadium. Or the Cubs win the World Series.


Tim Kurkjian is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine.