While the weather remains chilly and rainy here, in the warmer climates of Florida and Arizona, teams are gathering for spring training. The start of this yearly ritual means one thing: a brand new season of baseball is just around the corner. For every team, the beginning of spring training signals a fresh start.
While the weather remains chilly and rainy here, in the warmer climates of Florida and Arizona, teams are gathering for spring training. The start of this yearly ritual means one thing: a brand new season of baseball is just around the corner.
For every team, the beginning of spring training signals a fresh start. Everyone, from the high-dollar Yankees to the budget-conscious Devil Rays, start with a clean slate. While the outcome of spring training games means nothing and starters usually do not play past the fourth inning, they serve to prepare players for the grueling 162-game regular season schedule.
Every team heads into spring training with uncertainties, but by the time they break camp just before opening day, they hope to have settled those issues. Already there are several key questions yet to be answered. How will Daisuke Matsuzaka perform at the Major League level? Is Jeter and A-Rod’s relationship on the rocks? Can Sammy Sosa really make a comeback? Where is The Rocket going to land?
The 100 million dollar man
Over the winter, the Boston Red Sox signed highly touted Japanese right-hander Daisuke Matsuzaka to a six-year deal that cost them in excess of 100 million dollars, when you include the 51 million they posted just to negotiate with him. It is a huge investment for a guy who has never thrown a pitch in the Major Leagues. However, Matsuzaka was the MVP in last year’s World Baseball Classic. Additionally, the Red Sox desperately needed to solidify a rotation that was shaky at best last season. The pressing question that has all Red Sox fans clutching their tickets is will he live up to the hype? If he does, the Red Sox may have a new ace up their sleeve.
A Bronx tale
Since Alex Rodriguez was shipped to the Bronx in 2004, the Yankees have been disappointed in the playoffs each year. Colossal misfortunes are easy to place on the highest paid player in the game and the attitude of Yankee fans reflects that. Jeter, on the other hand, always performs on the highest stage and to speak badly of him would be blasphemous. It’s no wonder why their relationship, or apparent lack of one, gets played up by the media and the fans alike. However, both Jeter and Rodriguez cleared the air recently, saying the two are still “good friends” and that their relationship has no bearing on how the Yankees will perform this year. Whether that is true remains to be seen. If these two are not on the same page, the Yankees will go nowhere.
Sammy “Say It Ain’t” Sosa
Remember this guy? He chased down Roger Maris’ homerun record in 1998 alongside fellow masher Mark McGwire. He got into trouble when his bat exploded all over Wrigley Field, revealing pieces of cork. He was on pace to becoming one of baseball’s greatest homerun hitters before he ran out of ‘juice’. Any of this ringing a bell? If not, it may be because Sosa disappeared from baseball last season when no team offered him a serious contract. In fact, the Nationals offered him the Major League minimum for one year, which he passed on. Declining production and high strikeout totals made teams weary of the slugger who has also been surrounded by allegations of steroid use. Now, Sosa is looking to return to the big leagues with the Texas Rangers. The question is can he return to form after a year off, at a time when steroid testing is at its peak?
Last week, Roger Clemens said that there was an 80 percent chance that he was going to retire this season. The fact that he leaves an enormous 20 percent chance for coming back seems to indicate that it is actually more likely than not that he will pitch this year. The Rocket himself said he was “failing at retirement.” Every year, he tries to make it look like he is going to call it quits, but every July where do we see him? Working the count on a Major League mound. A better question than if he will pitch is where will he pitch? Since his first plan to retire at the end of 2003, Clemens has turned in three tours of duty with the Houston Astros, pitching next to his best buddy Andy Pettitte. Now that Pettitte has returned to the Yankees, however, will Clemens follow him there? Or, Clemens may prefer to continue to pitch in Houston in order to remain close to home. Also, there is chance he could return to where it all began in 1986 with Boston in what would be a fitting bookend to his career. Clemens did not pitch a full season last year and likely would not join a team until well after the season has begun. The Rocket’s destination could heavily rely on who looks like the most legitimate contender at the point when he decides to return, as there is no doubt Clemens wants to add another World Series ring to his fingers.