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WSI News - WSI Spotlight

Kansas City Blues

A Ray of Sunshine Anywhere?

by
Guy Bacci

For the first time all off-season, Iím truly depressed. Iíve remained relatively positive through the loss of free agents, the bitching and moaning of White Sox fans, the relentless attacks by the media, the goofy performance by everyone involved in SoxFest. Iíve even managed to brush off the latest idiotic war between Hawk Harrelson and Jay Mariotti. (It helps that I canít listen to Mariottiís show -- Iíd love to get a taste of it for a few seconds, just to hear how self-serving Mariotti supposedly sounds, but I guess Iím better off not being able to listen altogether.)

Iím depressed because the New York Yankees are reportedly on the verge of signing Alex Rodriguez to play third base. The shocking news is a cruel and abrupt reminder that there are only a few real teams in baseball, and a whole bunch of also-rans. What does Aaron Boone have against Boston anyway? First he hits the devastating homerun in last yearís ALCS, then he tears his ACL in a pick-up basketball game, opening the door for the Yanks to get A-Rod. I suppose Aaron Bleepiní Boone has just become Aaron Bleepiní Bleepiní Boone.

Harold Reynolds was on ESPN as soon as the rumor was released, saying that A-Rod in pinstripes is fantastic for baseball. I just donít get this train of thought. Maybe itís good for baseballís October ratings, but MLB wants to turn the magic of October 2003 into more interest during the regular season. That was the purpose of their first-ever Super Bowl commercial, ironically featuring Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez, who now represent only one market. With the weight of baseball so heavily tilted toward the east coast, fewer and fewer fans are going to care. The Yankees lineup is like a fantasy-league team: Lofton, Jeter, Rodriguez, Giambi, Sheffield, Matsui, Williams, Posada. Good Lord. Whatís the point anymore, why not just throw Barry Bonds in there and make things really interesting?†††

I have to go around the league and share in othersí misery just to cheer myself up. At least our team isnít in the AL East ... Baltimore must be thrilled they spent so much money only to finish a distant third. Toronto and Tampa Bay? Heck, they might as well not even suit up this season. We all know the woes of the AL Central. The Twins are hurting. The Royals added several players, but weíre talking Matt Stairs and Juan Gonzalez. And they lost the heart-and-soul of their 2003 run, Jose Lima. The Tigers now have I-Rod, but theyíre still the Tigers.

The Mariners and Aís will be solid, but neither team has added the necessary pieces to improve, and fans are growing impatient. The Angels may be one of the few teams that have nothing to complain about -- heck, the owner even lowered beer prices. But despite all of the Angelsí additions, they wonít pull a 2002 over the All-Star Yankees.

At least teams in the National League donít have to worry about the Bronx Bombers, but beyond the Astros, Phillies, and maybe the Cubs, no National League team has had a great off-season. The champs lost I-Rod, the Giants canít put together a decent offer for Greg Maddux, the Dodgers failed to improve their offense, the Cardinals have a miserable pitching staff.

There, that makes me feel a little better. Sox fans can focus on the Central and worry about the play-offs when they get there. But I canít help think about 2000 and wonder if itís even worth the journey. How is anyone supposed to match-up against Kevin Brown, Javier Vazquez, Mike Mussina and an All-Star lineup? Or Pedro Martinez, Curt Schilling, and the top-producing offense from 2003? There will be no Angels, no Marlins in 2004. At least, thatís how it feels right now.

The White Sox would need Mark Buehrle and Esteban Loaiza to be pitching beyond expectations, and theyíd need to add another stud before the trading deadline. Theyíd also need their lineup to be on fire, not cold as ice (as in the 2000 first-round sweep). Itís a long shot, but I suppose it always has been. The A-Rod deal just served as a slap in the face, a wake up call to reality.

Still, thereís not much point in complaining. Moan about JR all you want, thereís no way he could beat George Steinbrenner. Nobody can. With the lineup the Yanks have now, I say they would have defeated Arizona in 2001, the Angels in 2002, and the Marlins in 2003. The Yankees havenít won in three years, nothingís going to stop them from getting back to the top.

It will be interesting to see where the Anaheim Angels go this season. Their new owner is a hero of sorts, adding Bartolo Colon and Vlad Guerrero, while lowering ticket prices. If Arte Morenoís plan actually works -- his team wins and heís able to keep prices down -- then every baseball fan in America can point to the Angels and wish his teamís owner was just like Moreno. But if the Angles donít produce and are saddled with large contracts in years to come, then there will be no ammunition to change the method of owners like Reinsdorf. In that sense, I think weíre all rooting for Anaheim.

Baseball will someday need to figure out its mess. The players need to realize they canít stack themselves on one team, and owners need to realize they have to spend equally. Otherwise the game will suffer. Iíve said it before and Iíll say it again: You can only ride the cute curses of the Red Sox and Cubs for so long. Soon enough, theyíll be as hated as the Yankees.

Despite it all, the sun comes up tomorrow. Pitchers and catchers are right around the corner, and thatís always a good thing. And best of all, the White Sox reside in the worst division in baseball, the AL Central.


Guy Bacci is from the north suburbs of Chicago, where he couldn't avoid growing up as a pampered and snotty Cubs fan. Luckily, he saw the light in 1985 and never looked back.† He loved the hard-working, old-school tactics of Carlton Fisk, who would become his all-time favorite player.† His most memorable moment was going to a Sox double-header with his grandfather, who insisted on staying all nine hours (including a long rain delay).† Guy is a journalism grad from Northwestern, currently residing in Seattle, where he works as a computer programmer and freelance writer. He can be reached at guybacci@yahoo.com.

More features from Guy Bacci here!

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