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What follows is my final column of 2004. The year is drawing to a close, and I’m going on a brief hiatus so that I can finish a book I’m working on (more self-serving details on that at a later time) and generally reassemble my sanity after what’s been a frantic and busy year.

I thought I’d leave you with my 49 (mostly) baseball wishes for 2005. Despite my fondness for tidy rankings, these are in no particular order:

  1. For Carlos Beltran to re-sign with the Astros, even though that’s not in the best interest of my favorite team.
  2. That Barry Bonds‘ assault on Hank Aaron‘s career home run record comes to grief.
  3. That Felix Hernandez keeps it up for about the next 15 years.
  4. That ESPN gets out of the movie business.
  5. That Jake Peavy begins to get the attention he merits.
  6. That the World Series goes seven games.
  7. That someone besides yours truly will acknowledge the haunting resemblance between Dominic West and Brian Daubach.
  8. That the Devil Rays give B.J. Upton a chance to stick at shortstop.
  9. That Andy Marte turns out to be as good as I think he’s going to be.
  10. That someone other than the Red Sox or Yankees wins the American League.
  11. That Matt Clement loses that lamentable goatee.
  12. That Joe Mauer cobbles together a healthy season.
  13. That George Will, if he won’t retire altogether, decides to stick to partisan political hackery and pass on writing about baseball for the rest of recorded time.
  14. That Moises Alou stops bitching so much.
  15. That the Yankees are duly punished for the ill-considered contracts they doled out to Jaret Wright and Carl Pavano.
  16. That we see no more “Braves New World,” “Bronx Zoo” or “Houston, You Have a Problem” headlines dragged howling from the vaults.
  17. That Larry Dierker winds up managing again before season’s end.
  18. That Bert Blyleven and Ron Santo get elected to the Hall of Fame.
  19. That I somehow manage to muster at least a passing interest in the All-Star Game.
  20. That people are disabused of the notion that athletes in particular and society in general are responsible for raising their children.
  21. That the fans of whatever team Carlos Delgado signs with don’t mindlessly boo him for his act of political dissent last season.
  22. That someone explains to me why it was necessary to sign David Eckstein to a three-year deal.
  23. That the Phillies don’t do something irredeemably stupid like start Chase Utley ahead of Placido Polanco.
  24. That the good folks of Minnesota continue refusing to buy Carl Pohlad a place to do business.
  25. That some band somewhere–of, I hope, inestimable musical capabilities–releases a concept album titled, “Museum of Questionable Medical Devices.”
  26. That I find time this year to go back and re-read large doses of Leonard Koppett.
  27. That Curtis Pride continues drawing a paycheck.
  28. That writers and fans realize the A’s are still doing just fine.
  29. That Ben Christensen carelessly fritters away whatever’s left of the bonus money he got from the Cubs.
  30. That Brandon McCarthy starts getting more ink/bandwidth.
  31. That Ray Lankford and Ellis Burks, two of my favorite ballplayers, enjoy the hell out of their retirements (should they retire, of course).
  32. That somewhere I stumble across exhaustive minor league groundball/flyball data.
  33. That you at least think about adopting a shelter dog.
  34. That Rick Ankiel doesn’t throw a wild pitch all year.
  35. That Long Gone is finally released on DVD.
  36. That Stephen Drew and Jered Weaver sign soon.
  37. That things in D.C., generally speaking, go horribly wrong for the Nationals.
  38. That we as a people finally acknowledge that Conan is way better than Leno or Letterman.
  39. That Detroit city officials decide to make Tiger Stadium into some kind of museum.
  40. That an eccentric millionaire pledges to give me $100 for every ball that finds the gap against the Giants’ “stone golem” outfield.
  41. For the use of the infernal “God Bless America” to be relegated strictly and forevermore to the seventh-inning stretches of games played on patriotic holidays.
  42. That Cole Hamels makes it through another season without giving up a home run.
  43. That more people appreciate the gifts of Adam Dunn.
  44. That the habit of pairing dark jerseys with light pants goes away forever.
  45. That Albert Pujols wins the NL MVP.
  46. That Pete Rose continues to drift from the national consciousness.
  47. That “ER” is finally–God in heaven finally–cancelled.
  48. That MLB finds a methadone for its addiction to corporate welfare.

  49. That 2005 is even better than 2004 in every way for you and yours.

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