This column is dedicated to Prof. Ryckman, who wanted more opening day, and less cricket. This year, however, opening day has been more like opening week. There were the two games the Yankees and Devil Rays played in Tokyo (yes, that would be Tokyo, Japan). Then we all went back to spring training for three days. Then Boston played Baltimore on Sunday night. It wasn’t until Monday that we actually had the first “day” of baseball. Of course major-league baseball’s odd opening schedule hasn’t been the new season’s only talking point.
The subject of steroids has dominated the off-season (post-A-Rod), and continues to feature prominently in any discussion of baseball. Just a few days ago Barry Bonds’ lawyer accused federal investigators of trying to trap Bonds on a perjury charge. Accusations of illegal steroid use have been flying back and forth, from both current players and past players, yet Major League Baseball and the players’ union are dragging their feet on the issue. The campaign against illegal substances in the athletic world has been at the forefront of most sports worldwide for years, with the IOC taking the lead. Even the U.S. federal government has seen fit to comment. It’s simply unacceptable for baseball to be lagging behind.
On the field the two biggest stories have been the Yankees and the Sox, who continued to try and one-up each other all through the off-season, and the retooled pitching staffs of the Cubs and the Astros.
The Chicago Cubs are a lot of people’s pick to be playing in the World Series come October. A lot of the same people have them playing the Boston Red Sox in the Apocalypse series that we were so close to seeing last year. Naturally the Yankees will have their say in how the scenario unfolds, especially after they managed to snatch Alex Rodriguez from the Rangers.
And then there is Houston. The city has a real buzz to it after the signings of Andy Pettite and Roger Clemens. The consensus here is that the Astros could, and probably will, give the Cubs a run for their money.
In other words, stay tuned because this baseball season is one to watch closely, both on and off the field.