Looking for vacation to end

added 1/18/2004 by Willie B. Lakey

We’ve all had those vacations or long weekends that leave us physically and, sometimes, emotionally drained. By the time you hit the sack at the end of your holiday, you’re actually looking forward to returning to work where you can rest up.

Such has been the present offseason for yours truly.

When the Florida Marlins capped a remarkable season with a Game 6 win over the granddaddy of all major league teams, the New York Yankees, little did any of us know just how exhausting, controversial and out of the ordinary this winter would be. One of the first salvos was fired quietly in mid-November when one of the game’s best players ever, and certainly the top player of his generation, Barry Bonds announced he would not be part of future MLBPA marketing agreements and would, instead, seek his own deal.

This really wasn’t earthshaking or precedent-setting since top players in other sports have done the same in the past 10-15 years. The biggest effect it will have is that from now on in many of the computer games, the 50-HR slugger in the heart of the Giants’ order will be named John Doe instead of Bonds.

Collusion, that ugly word that cost the MLB owners a pretty penny or billion back in the 80s, has also been tossed around again this offseason. The players union seems happy enough to just keep giving the owners all the rope they want. Assuming this ever does go to court, we should know the score by the time it’s settled early in 2009.

Steroids and drug testing was also in the news for a while. Baseball will presumably figure out a new way to test so that fewer than 5% of the players get caught.

The humongous, colossal, enormous trade talks between the Red Sox and Rangers, and possibly 15-20 other franchises on the side, occupied most of the offseason news. A deal to relocate the game’s two highest-paid players, Alex Rodriguez and Manny Ramirez, fell through. Personally, I think they should do away with allowing any money to trade hands in a swap. But then, I’m really not familiar with the numbers baseball throws around these days. Once you get past needing just one comma in a dollar figure, well, that’s a whole new, uncharted world for me.

Pete Rose and the Hall of Fame were also in the news this winter. I bet that 90% of the casual sports fans out there know Rose has admitted to betting on baseball now and that Cooperstown is his next hopeful stop on his Feel Sorry For Petey Tour. But I bet fewer than 10% of those same fans can tell you that Paul Molitor and Dennis Eckersley were recently elected to the Hall of Fame after careers in which they did not gamble on baseball and were, for the most part, good guys who promoted what is good about the game.

The Astros and the Hall of Fame also generated some controversy, though most Houston fans probably don’t realize it. The San Antonio Express-News recently ran a story about the fact no players elected to Cooperstown to date have entered with an Astros cap on their bronzed noggins. The article ran under the subheading “Analysis,” then opened with the words, “In the 40-plus years of what has masqueraded for big-league baseball in Houston…”

Some analysis, huh?

And then the Astros, that quiet little squad that calls the Bayou City home, somehow fell into the offseason fracas. All they did was sign a couple of homeys, usually no big whoop to folks outside Houston or the Lone Star State. But the fact the two boys coming home have been part of that vaunted Yankees rotation in recent years, and the fact one of them stayed retired just long enough to catch 417 [i]Law & Order[/i] reruns on TNT, that made it all the more newsworthy.

Bringing Andy Pettitte home started the tsunami that has, if nothing else, at least served one positive note, that being flooding owner Drayton McLane’s reservoirs with serious coin. Hard to understand how a guy as quiet and reserved as Pettitte could cause much of a commotion. But out the gossipmongers did come, especially once Andy’s friend started hinting that maybe he did have one more year left to play.

Roger Clemens has always been a love-him-or-hate-him guy. Take it from me, someone who has been on both sides during the Rocket’s pitching career. I’ve always liked him in the majors, he reminds me of Don Drysdale and Bob Gibson, a pair of pitchers I used to hate watch beat my Astros, yet at the same time admired for their tenacity and toughness and talent.

But early on, I was not a Clemens fan. He just happened to pitch for the wrong college, wearing that putrid orange instead of majestic maroon!

Clemens has been called everything from a traitor to a liar to a schemer by those who seem happier when wallowing in the negative than soaking in anything positive. Heck, if an old, stubborn and cranky Aggie like myself can get past his burnt orange dress shirt at the press conference, you’d think the others would come around. But I guess not, those folks will always exist, sadly.

Maybe now things will quiet down in baseball while many of us anxiously count the days until spring training cranks up. God knows I can use the rest.

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