MLB Stock Market: Spring Training Edition
It is the weekend of St. Valentine’s Day, also known as the weekend where MLB writers no longer have to fake it. For the first time in a long time, we’ve got oodles of new things to talk about. Perhaps the big story of this Spring: the sheer number of still-available talent.
The Desperation of the Remaining Free Agents
An enterprising billionaire could buy a baseball franchise, stock it exclusively with free agents still available, and probably not finish in last place in his division. There are still 18 Types A and B free agents remaining, including future Hall of Famers Ken Griffey Jr., Frank Thomas, Pudge Rodriguez, Manny Ramirez, and Moises Alou (just kidding about the last one being a future HoFer — but he does pee on his hands). It seems incredibly possible that lucky teams might score on Grade A talent at bargain bin prices, which means there might be a few Rays-like sleepers that surprise the league in 2009.
Ken Griffey Jr. and the Atlanta Braves
Atlanta has already been lucky enough to have two 700 homerun hitters wear their uniform in the days of yore, and they may now be on the brink of adding a 600 homerun guy in Junior Griffey. Ken Griffey Jr. is no longer the Uber Stud who once was on pace to cleanly shatter Hank Aaron’s now-fallen record, but the Braves are strongly considering bringing his bat to their lineup. Who knows, he just might have one last quality season left in his broken body, but after the craptacular year he gave the Reds and White Sox it cannot be denied that this might be his last dance at the Major League level.
Erik Bedard’s pitching status
2008 was tough on the Mariners and Erik Bedard. After trading away a ton of talent for the lefty starter last year, the only results the Mariners saw were allegations of clubhouse chaos and a bum pitching arm that resulted in surgery last September. The good news is that Bedard made his return to the mound on Sunday and threw with ease. The bad news is that the Mariners are still a long ways away from competing again, but having a healthy, dominating left-handed starter would be a good beginning.
Pudge Rodriguez’s reputation
Who knew that Jose Canseco would one day have the reputation for being the most honest man in baseball? Canseco has made an awful lot of allegations since he started talking about steroids, none bigger than his now-proven claim that Alex Rodriguez juiced. Another guy on Canseco’s list was Pudge Rodriguez, a likely Hall of Famer who remains “clean” under the scrutiny of the press, and also he remains jobless. Like a lot of talented players, Rodriguez is a man without a team right now, but he is also a first-ballot Hall of Famer until further notice.
The World Baseball Classic
Bud Selig needs to catch a clue. We get why the WBC is played in Spring - it’s a perfect bookend for the World Series. Exciting baseball in March - catch the fever! The only problem is that players are catching a lot more than that - they also caught WBC fatigue the last time around. A number of pitchers who represented their home countries in the last Classic started the 2007 season slowly. As a consequence fewer name-recognition players are willing to play in the ‘09 WBC. As cool as March Baseball that Matters may be, it will never surpass March Madness in the minds of sports fans. And does baseball really need to get that much more attention in March? Don’t the Spring Training facilities already see a lot of attendance? Why not play the World Baseball Classic in early November when players will still be in shape and pitchers won’t be as likely to risk their regular seasons? But I’m just making sense, so don’t count on Bud Selig or MLB to do anything like that any time soon.
Bud Selig’s already low reputation
I know I promised to quit writing about steroids, but Allan Huber Selig Jr. just makes it too hard not to do. If you haven’t already heard, Bud is outraged by Alex Rodriguez’s betrayal of the sport. He’s shocked that A-Rod juiced, he feels that it is an embarrassment to baseball, and he apparently thinks that we are gullible enough to believe that he didn’t know about it back in 2003. Think about it. In 2003, baseball “anonymously” tested its players in order to determine if regular steroid testing was necessary. More than 100 players failed - all of whom known to the sport by name. The guy at the top of the sport? Bud Selig. And yet we are supposed to believe that multiple people were aware of Rodriguez’s juicing, but not Selig, the guy everybody would have reported to? We are supposed to believe that his surprise is genuine? Please.
The St. Louis Cardinals
They were the best organization in the NL Central for quite a while. They reached the playoffs 6 times in 7 years, including two trips to the World Series (one of which they won). They have consistently turned average pitchers into good ones, and nobody was more surprised than me in 2008 when they finished the year with 86 wins. Unfortunately though, like a lot of baseball teams out there the Cardinals are perhaps a little cash-strapped. They haven’t actively improved on the free agent market in a while, and with two seasons remaining on his current contract Albert Pujols is posturing to go elsewhere. Hey, unless you’re the Yankees it’s pretty hard to win every single year and besides, do the Cardinals really want to hold onto an aging star like Albert?
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