Pilkerton's Prognostications

This blog contains some of my past articles for the school newspaper and other musings I feel like posting. Beware liberals!

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

What to expect from baseball this year (2004)


Spring training is finally here and not a moment too soon. After a long, cold winter the heart the baseball fan is beginning to thaw. With March approaching, the baseball season is in sight and with the baseball season comes summer. The offseason has been tremendous this year, perhaps more productive and controversial than any since the strike in 1994.
This baseball offseason has been tainted by the federal investigation into BALCO labs distributing steroids to some of the game's biggest stars as well as elevated by this year's installment of the Yankee vs. Red Sox war.
The acquisition of Alex Rodriguez by the Yankees is probably a stale topic for newspapers by now, but it turned this offseason around for Yankee fans everywhere. After the loss of Andy Pettite to the Astros the heart of the Yankee fan was dealt a crushing blow, it seemed as if Steinbrenner had finally done it. After resigning themselves to the fact that the Yankees were on the decline due to ownership insanity the confidence (and arrogance) of the Yankee fan was again lifted by the acquisition of A-Rod.
What made this deal particularly sweet was its impact on the lowly Red Sox. The Sox struggled for over a month to work out a deal with the Texas Rangers to aquire the 28-yearold shortstop until it finally fell apart when the MLB Players Union vetoed the proposed contract restructuring of A-Rod's $252 million dollar contract. Then, on what seemed like a whim, the Yankees swooped in and picked up A-Rod and were essentially paid to do so. The Yanks gave up free-swinging young All-star, Alfonso Soriano, but got back the best player of our time in return. Not only did they scoop up this future Hall of Famer: they even got him to move to third base, deferring his shortstop duty to team captain and former boyfriend, Derek Jeter.
A lot has been made of the friendship between Jeter and A-Rod, Rodriguez cut Jeter down in an interview with Esquire magazine a few years ago and their friendship allegedly cooled off since then. The fact is that these two men are both professionals and regardless of their personal friendship, or lack thereof, they are going to play together and form a cohesive unit on the left side of the infield.
The real winners in this deal are the fans of New York. This gives the Yankee fan something else to hang over the heads of the pathetically desperate Sox fans. Even Red Sox principal owner, John Henry got involved by issuing a statement to the league pleading for a salary limit so that "certain" teams don't accumulate too much talent.
Of course Mr. Henry is referring to the Yankees because they are the only team that outspends the Red Sox in Major League Baseball, except the Yankees win. Stienbrenner issued a response that essentially told Henry to quit the "sour grapes" act and move on. This press-release debate between the owners was eventually quieted by the Commissioner's office.
The other story in baseball this year is the Federal investigation in to the practices of BALCO Labs, the San Francisco Bay-area enhancement company.
BALCO has been indicted for distributing steroids to athletes. While not directly indicted, such superstar players as Barry Bonds, Jason Giambi, and Gary Sheffield have links to the company, including one of Bonds' trainers. Last year professional baseball tested for steroids but kept the results anonymous.
Numbers for positive tests have ranged from 4 percent to 40 percent. These results have prompted even President Bush (former part-owner of the Texas Rangers) to get involved and demand a more strict policy for steroid use and testing. Look for a decrease in homerun numbers this year, or at least a decrease in the number of people who hit over 30 round trippers.
The problem Major League Baseball has when it comes to steroid testing compared to other professional leagues such as the NFL is that the player's union is exceedingly more powerful than in those leagues. The player's union knows how prevalent steroid use is among its players, but they don't want these players reprimanded because it would be a black mark on the game, but more importantly, it would hurt player salaries and cause some of their marquee players to get fined and even suspended. This kind of publicity is not what the union or the Commissioner's office is looking for. The future of this issue has yet to be determined, Major League Baseball could step in and install their own testing system or John Ashcroft could invoke the Patriot Act and put computer chips inside every ball player, but any way you slice it, this is going to be a major issue for baseball this season and for seasons to come.
There are countless storylines for this upcoming MLB season. Can the Yankees break their horrid losing streak of three years without a championship? Can the Red Sox jump out to an early start and fade late in the season again? All of these questions will be answered over the next seven months; countless others will come up as well. That, my friends, is the beauty of baseball. It makes the days a little longer, the weather a little nicer and it gives us something to look forward to.


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