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A few notes while counting down to spring training…

The A’s as a Long Shot

It would appear that MLB.com has picked the Oakland A’s to finish last in the division this year, something they haven’t done since 1998. In the wake of the departures of both Tim Hudson and Mark Mulder (plus Mark Redman), one could understand this prediction as a knee-jerk reaction. Our own James Click refutes this in his most recent PTP, however. James lays out a good argument as to why writing off the A’s at this juncture is a bit premature. My question is this, though: Why is MLB.com in the prediction-making business? Isn’t there something a little off about that?

Spicing up Baseball

Have you ever played Yahtzee? It’s a board game with dice. If ever I ended up in prison I would play Yahtzee to kill the time…that is, unless I was heavily recruited by the various gangs during “new meat pledge week.” Anyway, Yahtzee, like Bingo and several other games, involves yelling out the name of the game when you win. This got me to thinking: Wouldn’t baseball have a whole new dimension if players were required to yell “BASEBALL!” every time they touched the plate?

Back from Exile

If you had to guess which teams would be the most likely to give Roberto Petagine another shot at the majors, it would be a very short list headed, no doubt, by Boston and Oakland. Petagine was a long-time champion of statheads who thought he was getting a raw deal from the baseball establishment. Finally, at the age of 28, he was sold to the Yakult Swallows. Let’s not be mistaken: He had five good years in Japan, but the feeling I get upon hearing of his return is the same sort of feeling that comes over me when I hear about some poor fellow who was wrongly convicted of a crime who is getting out of jail after having his best years taken from him. In other words, it’s a brief moment to rejoice that Petagine is finally back in the majors, but it’s also an opportunity to consider what should have been if he’d found a regular gig while still in his prime.

Jose Canseco’s Book

Growing up in New Jersey, there’s one thing we all learned early on: Nobody likes a squealer. So, coming from that environment, it’s hard to take a shine to a book like Canseco’s, which should be entitled “Juiced Out of My Mind: How I Cloned Myself and Made My Own Twin Brother and Also Got to Touch the Buttocks of Professional Athletes Under the Guise of Shooting Them Full of Steroids”. I will say this for Canseco, though: At least he makes no half-assed apologies for what he did. From all reports, the book is a love letter to performance-enhancing drugs. He may have turned on his former teammates by outing them as alleged steroids abusers, but at least he didn’t turn on the horse he rode in on, the steroids themselves.

The Amazing Mr. Boras

You: I want a raise.
Your Boss: You and me both, brother.
You: No, I’m serious, I want a raise.
Your Boss: Or what, you’ll go somewhere else for more money?
You: No. That’s not really an option, to be honest. Nobody else is interested in me at the money I would like to make.
Your Boss: Well, that’s certainly a compelling argument. How does a 25% increase sound?
You: A little shy of my expectations.
Your Boss: 33%?
You: I’m deeply humiliated by that offer.
Your Boss: 40?
You: You bring shame on me and my ancestors with such an offering.
Your Boss: 45%.
You: You bring shame on yourself and your ancestors–not to mention this firm and its investors –with such an offering.
Your Boss: Very well, then, 50% is my final offer.
You: I graciously accept.

Wouldn’t it be cool if you could have this discussion with your supervisor? This is what it’s like to be player agent Scott Boras. If that guy put something on eBay, it would get four bids–all from the same bidder. He’s either got Jedi mind powers or he’s the greatest negotiator since Scheherazade.

Not Coming Anytime Soon: A Shea Stadium All-Star Game

An announcement will be made today that the Giants will be hosting the 2007 All-Star Game. So intent is Major League Baseball on giving hosting duties to teams with newer stadiums that MLB is breaking the alternating league concept that has been in place since the early ’60s, when two games were scheduled per season for a period of four years.

What this means is that Shea Stadium, home of the Mets, will extend its non-All-Star Game-hosting status to 43 years at the very least (1964 to 2007). In our retro-conscious society, at some point, a building goes from being architecturally outmoded to being incredibly cool. The trick is getting through those in-between years when everyone else is getting a new place to play while toiling on in an outmoded venue many consider to be a pit. Will Shea Stadium ever achieve veneration? Will it last long enough to do so? Not that being venerated is a ticket out of the woods. Being venerated didn’t save Tiger Stadium, and it appears that it won’t help the Mets land an All-Star Game any time in the next few years, either. Clearly, the commissioner is doling out the hosting duties to those teams that either hoodwinked their populations into funding their ballparks or, as in the rare case of the Giants, built one themselves with their own dough.