On March 29, 2000, the Mets' Mike Hampton kicked off a new baseball decade by walking the Cubs' Eric Young at the Tokyo Dome.

And before we knew what hit us, we were dealing with Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Jason Giambi, Jason Grimsley, HGH, the 2007 and 2008 Mets, Moneyball, the Montreal Expos' demise, Albert Pujols, Alex Rodriguez, Babe Ruth (his curse vanquished), Hal Steinbrenner, Hank Steinbrenner, TARP, UZR, VORP and enough Capitol Hill visits to memorize Washington's color-coded Metro system.

So it's natural to wonder, as Josh Beckett and Derek Jeter prepare for their own decade-launching encounter Sunday night at Fenway Park, what we can expect in the next 10 years. What monumental changes will take place, and how, with more distance, we'll view the 2000s.

"If we put steroids aside, I think it was the corporate decade," said Roger Angell, the ultra-legendary baseball writer for The New Yorker. "Baseball has changed entirely in this past decade, with the vast amounts of money coming in. I guess that's a success.

"The fans were left behind, to some degree. I don't know who fills the ballparks up anymore. I can't afford to take my family more than a couple of times a year."

Angell, who will turn 90 this September, is still a regular at the ballpark, to do his job. He said he attended his first game in 1928 at Yankee Stadium and that he saw Lefty Gomez pick up his first big-league victory on May 5, 1930. It marked both Gomez's first career start and his first appearance in the Bronx.

So Roger has some perspective, to say the least. Which is why you should know that he sort of chuckled when we delved further into the issue of illegal performance-enhancing drugs.

"I'm not angry at the players," he said. "They'll try to take advantage whenever they can. Joe DiMaggio used to drink 15 cups of coffee every day. It's dismaying, because we want our players to be good guys. But they haven't all been good guys."

Really, the past decade's major themes - illegal PEDs and the economy - fall under the same umbrella, don't they? It's all capitalism, whether it's Bonds wanting to top Mark McGwire or the Yankees squeezing the last penny out of their powerful brand. It's who we are.

So where will we be a decade from now as we're discussing the 2020 campaign and looking back on 2010 through 2019? "I'm not much of a 'Net guy, but that's probably where the fan interest lies," Angell said. "Sabermetrics have taken over, which is OK with me.

"The on-the-field stuff is somewhat diminished. New ballparks are sort of supermarkets. They're shopping malls. They're not designed to pay much attention to what's actually happening on the field."

Agreed that the motifs of technology and short attention spans figure to carry through this decade. As well as avarice and deception. We are human beings, after all. We're not gonna change dramatically in 10 years.

Yet we are lovable if imperfect, and the same goes for our favorite pastime. "I don't take a sentimental view," Angell said. "I don't think the good old days were back then."

Baseball still needs to give the Yankees a little more disincentive to outspend everyone, and to add a playoff team. These are manageable problems. Steroids? Puh-leeze. The people have spoken. There's zero evidence that the game's revenues took any sort of hit from the scandals.

Ten years' time is no small-sample size, to be sure. So much happens. Life changes dramatically.

The game itself, however, is reliable. We can't wait for Jeter-Beckett, for Yankees-Red Sox and for Mets vs. their own demons. And for whatever societal developments impact the story lines.

Have a great decade. Look forward to our next such discussion, in 10 years.

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