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Unlike corporate sportswriters, the Box owns its preseason baseball predictions and is unafraid to review them in the public square. Kindly stay behind the yellow line and step this way.

Follows is from the April 3 edition of the Sporting Box: “Tampa Bay Rays. Payroll is $42 million, about 20 percent of what the Yankees spend. Some people ask why anyone would expect the Rays to finish above .500 for the first time in their miserable ten-year existence? I am one of those people. Outlook. Futile.”

That was a misprint. What I actually wrote was, “This will be the break-out year for those amazing Rays. On Memorial Day, Tampa Bay will hold first place in the AL East and possess the best record in Major League Baseball. The Rays ascendancy is due to their genius executive vice president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman, the inspired leadership of coach Joe Maddon, the scrappy nonentities who play the game, but most of all, to the wonderful moms, dads, and tots living in the Tampa/St. Petersburg metroplex.”

As far as I can tell from this remove, my text was intercepted somewhere between my computer, the Comcast Internet hub, the National Security Agency wiretap on said hub, the Reader copy editor, or the hellhole that lies beyond. The point is, as Hillary Clinton would say, I have always been a Tampa Bay Rays fan.

Which brings us to another April 3 prediction: “New York Yankees. The Dark Star. In the past 12 years the Yankees won four World Series titles, six AL pennants, ten division championships, and they still can’t get a free ride for their new 1.3-billion-dollar stadium. Taxpayers shelled out a paltry $425 million. Outlook. Continued success.”

Fair-minded readers understand I didn’t mean success in the game of baseball, I meant success in the business of baseball. On the ballfield, the Yankees suck and have well-earned their last place AL East standing.

April 3 Sporting Box: “New York Mets. Still basking in the afterglow of one of the great chokes in baseball history. Led the NL East by seven games on September 12. Lost 12 of their last 16 games, 6 of their last 7. Did not make the playoffs. On the bright side, the club raised ticket prices 20 H percent. Outlook. More of the same.”

That’s about right.

Florida Marlins prediction: “Another rags to riches story. Owner Jeffrey H. Loria got $600 million in public funds for a new stadium. The wonder of it! Marlins opening day payroll is $21 million, the smallest in MLB (Padres opening-day payroll is $68 million). Loria receives $30 million in TV/radio money and $30 million in dole from MLB per year. That’s $60 million coming in whether one sucker attends one game or not. Subtract a payroll of $21 million. Outlook. Last place is locked in until the money stops.”

As Hillary Clinton would say, I was sleep-deprived and misspoke. On Memorial Day the Marlins were in first place in the NL East, with the second-best record in baseball. I could have written that, and, at the time, wanted to. Maybe I did, who knows?

April 3 prediction: “Atlanta Braves. Downtown closes at 5:00 p.m. and football season is five months away. Outlook. Not bad, considering.”

Atlanta is in second place in the NL East, 2 H games behind those slap-happy Florida kids. Not bad, considering.

April 3: “NL Central and AL Central. Flyover cites.”

Nailed that one.

April 3 prediction: “Los Angeles Angels at Anaheim, brought to you by the home-town folks at Wal-Mart, presented by Marriot Hotels, in association with American Airlines. Six world-class outfielders and an SUV full of money. Outlook. First place.”

First place it is.

April 3: “Oakland Athletics. We’re going to see how good Billy Beane actually is. Outlook. Either very good or very bad.”

Beane is very good, 1 H games out of first place.

April 3: “Arizona. What the hell is going on over there? The D’backs have been enabling Billy Beane, trading six prospects to Oakland for right-hander Dan Haren. They got reliever Chad Qualls from Houston. So, they’ll have pitching. The rest is pretty good. Outlook. Higher ticket prices.”

About right.

April 3: “Colorado Rockies. A miracle finish to the 2007 regular season. GM Dan O’Dowd credits prayer and Christian values for the team’s incredible 21-1 finish. On the other hand, being swept in the World Series raises theological questions. Outlook. Interesting.”

Theological question resolved in favor of single deity who is not interested in baseball. Colorado has 20 wins against 30 loses on Memorial Day.

The first quarter of baseball’s season has passed and my predictions are as good as anybody’s; in other words, not counting jokes, I was about half right and half wrong. Which is a good way of re-remembering one of those rules you never quite learn: Nobody knows the future.

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