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After the longest offseason ever, we can finally say it: Baseball is back!

From ESPN - February 13, 2018

I dont know about you all, but I will never be so happy to read Hes in the best shape of his life! stories as players filter into spring training as I will be this year.

I will never be so happy to see that first video of players stretching and playing catch.

Ill be overjoyed the first time Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton step into the batting cage to face live pitching.

This isnt the usual winter bad, baseball good attitude that creeps up this time of year, especially for those of us who live in areas of icy driveways and slush-filled sidewalks. This is about talking baseball and not the offseason mess of free agency. Its talking about great plays instead of place of play. Its talking about who is in camp instead of who isnt. Its about watching Judge and Stanton break car windshields and seeing if Ronald Acuna can make the Braves and how Andrew McCutchen and Evan Longoria look in their new duds.

The Yankees report to camp on Tuesday as pitchers and catchers get their physicals. Aaron Boone will have his first news conference since he was introduced as the teams manager, and one of the questions hell be asked will be about his batting order. He cant go wrong no matter what he does, but its fun to speculate about that Opening Day lineup. All I know is that once Judge and Stanton check in, I want to see the numbers -- not just their projected home run totals but also their body-fat percentages.

Of course, the number that will come up time and time again is the number of free agents still out there; somewhere in the neighborhood of 100 remain unsigned. That list includes J.D. Martinez, who slugged .690 last season with 45 home runs; 2015 Cy Young winner Jake Arrieta; Eric Hosmer, who is coming off his best season; and Mike Moustakas and Logan Morrison, who both slammed 38 home runs.

Baseball has a way of doing this, of punching itself in the face, of drawing criticism instead of celebration. We had a remarkable 2017 season that included Stanton and Judge topping 50 home runs, Jose Altuve winning an MVP Award to further show baseball is for anyone of any size and an exciting postseason that culminated in the Astros first championship in franchise history. The star power, especially all the young stars, means the games future is in good hands.

Instead, weve spent the winter wondering why billionaires arent sharing more of their money with millionaires. Whether some teams are tanking or just merely rebuilding. About the sad state of the Marlins after Derek Jeter traded away an All-Star-caliber outfield in Stanton, Marcell Ozuna and Christian Yelich. About the economics of a sport that saw the Pirates and Rays trade away the long-time faces of their franchises.

To which I point out: The Yankees released Babe Ruth, the Giants dumped Willie Mays, the Mariners traded Ken Griffey Jr.

The fact is a lot of this stuff is inside baseball. Its interesting to the die-hards like us. The average fan just wants to go to the park, eat food thats bad for you and not feel guilty, soak in the sun and hopefully cheer for a winning team. In these days of social isolation and political division, the ballpark still brings everyone together.

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