Sweet Jesus, it's here!
Holy shit, I cannot believe it! Baseball has returned to us from the wilderness, gracing us all with its presence and once again affording us the chance to suckle from its statistical, hot dog-oozing teat. Delicious.
Dusty is undoubtedly happy - after all, it's not every day that you get another chance to fuck up a reasonably-talented team with good morale and high hopes. No sir, those chances are few and far between. But I digress.
These "just" in:--
- Sammy Sosa turned down the $500,000 1-year offer from the Washington Nationals.
Incredible. He rejected their non-roster, minor-league invitation, and they inexplicably offer him a better deal (albeit still pretty sour for a man not far from 600 career home runs) which he then rejects in disgust! Amazing! He has pride, and yet now he'll retire to wait for his Hall of Fame chance. It's sad how his career tailed off dramatically in the last 2 or 3 years; unable to hit for average or for any significant power (coincidentally around the time that steroid policies were changing and the muscular mashers of MLB were coming under more intense scrutiny), the corked bat incident coming in the midst of his batting woes, Sosa's been through the ringer lately. However, it seemes funny for him to bite the bullet now when only 12 HRs from the 600 HR plateau, but maybe it's best to leave now, instead of risking further trouble and embarrassment (i.e. the movie Mr. 3000). He does still remain the only man to have his 60 HRs in three consecutive seasons. That alone will get the vots.
- Kerry Wood might not be ready for Opening Day after all.
This is not surprising in the slightest. There are reports floating about saying he might need another 2 weeks or so until he's ready, thus cutting into the season, but it makes me wonder: while he was pitching in relief for a hopeless cause last August, would he be ready for Opening Day if they'd just let him end the season before the bullpen work to have extra rehab time in the spring?
So the guys have begun reporting. Jacque Jones showed up to practice early, presumably to get that "suck-up" tag:
"In Minnesota, we had everybody in camp early," said Jones, who signed with the Cubs as a free agent after spending his entire career with the Twins. "I don't know how things are over here, but I'm sure guys are excited, and I'm sure they'll come in here and try to do everything they can to turn it around."
Hey, if there's one way to endear yourself to your new teammates, it's to show them up and then talk loudly about how things were done at your old club. It's a sure-fire way to get people to love you. Seriously. But deep down, we all know he needs the practice after two extremely disappointing years.
Greg Maddux was also back on the mound in full force, working hard to get his career ERA back under 3.00, and providing the media with several juicy and obvious quotes:
"If you want to lower your ERA, you pitch better," Maddux said. "It's that simple. Don't make as many mistakes as I made last year. Hopefully, my stuff will be as good, if not a little better, than last year. If you pitch better, your ERA should be better."
That should do it.
Jerome Williams, the portly, Hawaiian BBQ franchise-ownin' 5th starter, has also been working hard this offseason, losing 15-20 pounds on a "steady diet of chicken". I would like to see him succeed in the rotation, but at this point, I don't see where he's going to fit in. Ideally, we would love to see a 5-man posse of Prior, Wood, Zambrano, Maddux and Rusch (we need to justify the contract extension by letting him get some serious innings, and after all, he was a pleasant surprise last season), but with the inevitable injuries and tweaks that will come, I'm sure Williams will get somewhere between 12-16 starts over the course of the year.
So yes, baseball has well and truly begun, as the guys slowly get back into action. More later.