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Each spring, everything is beautiful. Every team makes its case. The contenders fight their way through that Napoleonic Russia we call the regular season, with the survivors marching into the autumnal sunset. Teams come and go, ebb and flow, making each fan’s heart swell with pride. For the true fan, almost anything can happen. They take any amount of abuse–not quietly, but surely–carrying it like a pack of dreams on their broad, hopeful shoulders. They moan and wail like no other, holding a god-given right to bemoan their beloved and to cheer with powerful ecstasy when the win finally comes.

Wait Til Next Year? Don’t they know it’s always next year?

Powered by a nearly successful attempt at a new vodka sauce for pasta, on to the injuries…

  • The Phillies finally got David Bell back (for some odd reason, I just typed Derek Bell…) but it made no difference. The Phillies are now two back of the Fish and tied with the Cubs (who of course are in first now). I don’t understand the handling of Bell’s injury, the ultimatums, the drop-dead dates, and the tirades. If it was all Larry Bowa, that would make sense, but the press talk was coming from all angles. Bell’s probably too little too late as far as affecting the outcome, but in a season this close, you never know.
  • With the White Sox eliminated, they’ll try to keep something positive working by giving Esteban Loaiza a couple shots at winning 20 games by pitching him twice this week on short rest. Word from the south side has the Sox with a quick hook, positive or negative, in his first start and letting him control his destiny for the last. Loaiza has been handled very well this season–another positive reflection on Don Cooper’s work.
  • I’m just stunned at the comeback of Jose Guillen. With a broken hamate, his swing looks unaltered and effective. He’s obviously subject to pain tolerance and immediate relapse, but the A’s have to like having a guy who can play under such circumstances. They’re also smart enough to let another team overpay for him. Is Jose Guillen this year’s Jeffrey Hammonds? Maybe.
  • The Padres are beginning to figure out how the pieces go together for 2004. As expected, Ryan Klesko will move to the outfield with Phil Nevin being a bit protected from diving injuries (we hope) at first base. With Brian Giles normally a left-fielder, the immediate thought is that Klesko would move to right, but with the new park showing some odd dimensions, the Pads will have an open mind when it comes to positioning their outfield.
  • Quick Cuts: Jose Contreras = Spanish for “sandbagging”…The Red Sox got good news on Scott Williamson, who has tendinitis and nothing more serious. It still will limit him into the divisional series and perhaps beyond, to say nothing of his effectiveness…Does Rich Harden‘s back problem of a few days ago impact his value? Damn straight. Like Mark Mulder a few years ago, the back is something the A’s will need to watch and treat proactively. Of course, no other medical staff is as proactive…

I’ve pointed out the great series being run in the Cleveland Plain Dealer about the ‘game plan’ that Mark Shapiro and his team have put together. Wednesday’s will be a good one for medheads as they cover pitcher injuries and how the Indians try to avoid them. Perhaps they’ll explain C.C. Sabathia to me. As a bonus, the writers of the pieces will join me on BPR in the very near future.

Ozzie Smith joins the ranks of celebrities helping raise consciousness for diseases and conditions. The legendary shortstop is touring, trying to raise awareness for prostate cancer testing. Good for him.

Kokomo is Thursday. Don’t ask. I’ll be back tomorrow.