Welcome back baseball my old friend

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Posted Wednesday, February 25, 2009 - 5:18pm

Rogers Hornsby played second base for the St. Louis Cardinals in the early 1900s. He said, "People ask me what I do in winter when there's no baseball. I'll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring." For all of you who, like Hornsby and me, sit and stare out the window waiting for the return of baseball, I am pleased to announce baseball is back!

Many stories unfolded during the offseason, like the circus that is the New York Yankees, who first spent ridiculous amounts of money on CC Sabathia, Mark Teixeira and AJ Burnett. The Yankees racked up an impressive tab of $423 million on those three players. Here is an example of how insane the Yankees payroll is: the trio's combined salary is more than the entire payroll for the Pittsburgh Pirates, Oakland Athletics, Tampa Bay Devil Rays and Florida Marlins. New York now owns the four largest contracts in Major League Baseball. Their total payroll is more than the Gross National Income of Luxemburg ... okay, maybe I made that one up. The Yankees are trying to buy a World Series' title. Whatever happened to grooming young players and bringing them up through your farm system?

I'm sure that by now everyone knows the other big story with the Yankees this year; Alex Rodriguez has been in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons. First Joe Torre outed him as an egotistical jerk, earning him the locker room nickname of A-fraud ... everyone saw that one coming. What came as a surprise was when he admitted to taking performance-enhancing drugs from 2001-2003, earning him another new nickname, A-roid.

He said in a Feb. 9, 2009, interview with ESPN's Peter Gammons that he had taken a banned substance during a two-year period. During the interview, A-rod said he had taken a performance-enhancing drug, but was unsure what the drug was. He said he was sorry, that he'd been naï ve, stupid and said all the other groveling things we've come to expect to hear from stars that screw up. Then a few weeks later, the near yearly ritual of a Yankee apologizing for using steroids on the first day of spring training. First it was Jason Giambi, then Andy Pettite, now Rodriguez. Okay enough about the Yankees.

For those of you who don't know me, I am a die-hard Boston Red Sox fan, and excited for the Sox this year. David Ortiz is healthy and in great shape and ready for a big season. Jason Varitek, veteran catcher and the heart of the Sox, just signed a one-year extension and is excited for the year. Reigning American League MVP Dustin Pedroia is set to have another solid season for Boston. The Sox signed some veteran pitchers, including John Smoltz, who is one of the most dominant pitchers in modern baseball, with a career ERA of 3.26. Smoltz should help the Red Sox late in the season. Team management has said that he won't pitch in a game until at least June.

Another big story of the offseason was the plight of Manny Ramirez. He is still one of the best hitters in baseball, but with the season drawing near, is without a team. During the 2008 season he was traded from the Red Sox to the Los Angeles' Dodgers, and put up big numbers with the Dodgers, helping them reach the National League Championship Playoff Series, where they fell to the eventual World Series' champion Philadelphia Phillies.

After the season ended, Ramirez said he wanted a big contract, demanding $25 million for five years. The Dodgers were unwilling to meet that offer. Ramirez was sure some team would pay the bill, but so far no one has been willing to sign the often troublesome left fielder. He is one of the best hitting players in Major League Baseball today, his career batting average is .314, and ranked 33 for his career on-base percentage of .410. According to ESPN columnist Bill Simmons, Ramirez is one of the most underrated players in the game.

There are two main reasons why Ramirez is still without a job. One, he's old. He's 37 and turns 38 in September. A six-year deal is a bit unreasonable for someone his age, but he still performs at an amazing level. Last year he ended with a batting average of .332 and a crazy on-base percentage of .430. Those are great numbers. Based on last year, Ramirez is still capable of putting up great numbers, can he do it for six more years? Probably not, but I'd like to have him on my team for as long as he can keep performing at a high level.

The other reason, why he is still on the market is because of his nasty break up with the Red Sox. As a Red Sox fan, I openly admit Boston is as much to blame for what happened as Ramirez is. The Sox are notorious for alienating star players, it happened before, most notably with Johnny Damon. Boston hung Ramirez out to dry, of course he didn't like that.

Who would? Sure he didn't handle it well. Getting in dugout slap fights with your teammates isn't a good way to handle your problems but then again, neither is trying to turn the fans against one of the best hitters in baseball. He will probably end up playing for the Dodgers this season and playing for a lot less than he's worth after scaring other teams off with his antics. In the end, Simmons sums it up by saying "Forget the sheer entertainment value that comes from following Ramirez on a daily basis. Just look at the stats."

The last story I'd like to mention this week is that Ken Griffey Jr. just inked a deal sending him back to the Seattle Mariners, where he started his impressive career. Griffey Jr. was the first baseball player I idolized as a kid. He is a fearless center fielder, often-times running head on into the wall to make a catch. And he has hands down the prettiest swing in baseball.

When I was little, I had two posters of "The Kid" in my room, a Mariners hat, shirt and Griffey Jr. shoes. He was my first hero. I am happy that he will most likely end his career with the Ms, in a place where he is loved by the fans, on a team he raised to glory in the mid '90s.

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