ORLANDO, Fla. – You can make the argument, as many have, that last October was the greatest, most dramatic and most thrilling postseason in Major League Baseball history.
You also could argue that there never has been an offseason – from the arms race in the AL East to the bulging arms of BALCO Labs – like the one we just witnessed.
So what is baseball going to do for an encore?
We plan on trying to find out.
Over the next week Yahoo! Sports will embark on every baseball lover's spring dream, a six-day, six-city, six-team barnstorm through the Grapefruit League of Florida. And just because we can, we even bilked the Yahoo! expense account for a convertible.
All so we can best serve you, the valued reader.
We'll start Monday in Kissimmee, Fla., where Andy Pettitte and Roger Clemens have reunited (after a very brief separation) with their hometown Houston Astros. We'll head to Dodgertown on Tuesday, check in with the pigeon-holed Baltimore Orioles on Wednesday and hit the defending champion Florida Marlins on Thursday.
And for Friday and Saturday, we save the best for last. We'll take a firsthand look at baseball's current (and perhaps always) U.S. vs. USSR, Coke vs. Pepsi, flame broiled vs. fried, Fox News vs. CNN, Britney vs. Christina, Monica vs. Hillary mother of all rivalries, the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees.
You can check the schedule running with this column.
Again, just for you. Not because it will be nice and warm down there.
We are only hitting franchises playing in Florida (completely shunning the Cactus League) for a few reasons. It's not that there aren't great teams and stories out in Arizona (the Chicago Cubs, Barry Bonds, etc.) but we like driving around, not flying on these trips.
We've done four similar tours for college basketball (see Road to College Hoops), and a road trip should involve as few airplanes as possible.
The beauty of going to Arizona for Spring Training is you can stay in the same hotel and hit just about every camp. But in Florida, you get out on the highways and low ways, which we prefer. Plus there is the beach.
Besides, this should fill your baseball needs. No matter how much you may hate the current salary structure that seems daunting to small-market teams, and no matter if you are a fan of the Milwaukee Brewers or Tampa Bay Devil Rays or Detroit Tigers, the upcoming season has to be at least a bit exciting.
First off, for all the salary disparity in baseball, the last three world champs are the Arizona Diamondbacks, Anaheim Angels and Marlins. So while I doubt the Pittsburgh Pirates are going to win it all this year, I wouldn't have thought Florida would last year. You just never know. Baseball is funny that way.
Second, what the heck, hope always springs eternal at this time of year. Wait 'til next year is finally here and everyone has a reason to feel good. Even the 119-loss Tigers signed Ivan Rodriguez.
Not to mention baseball hasn't had this much momentum since before the strike. Last September things looked pretty ho-hum normal.
Then Pudge held onto the ball against the Giants, Manny went yard at the Coliseum, Bartman became a household name, Pedro and Zimmer got in a fight, Grady Little acted like Grady Little, Game 7 at the Stadium went to extra innings, Josh Beckett didn't realize he wasn't supposed to do the things he did, and the Marlins, of all teams, wound up on top.
You didn't have to be a roto-guy, a Bill James disciple or a religious watcher of "Baseball Tonight" to get into it. Baseball was that good.
And then came the offseason. Even with the Cubs adding a fifth ace, BALCO scientists rolling over for the Feds and the St. Louis Cardinals keeping Albert Pujols, all the attention went to the Northeast.
In December, the Red Sox made great improvements to its pitching staff, antagonized George Steinbrenner and, at least until the union squashed it, looked like they had Alex Rodriguez. By February the Yankees struck back, getting more bats and finally, A-Rod. Last week John Henry and Steinbrenner were firing off sniping missives faster than a Mariano Rivera fastball.
Even if you have nothing to do with any of these teams, by October it stands to reason the nation will be divided along Red Sox or Yankees lines.
So it starts now, pitchers and catchers are in the house; full workouts begin this week. There is plenty to see, plenty to write. So follow along each day, if even just for the Extra Innings column which is designed to amuse, at least. We know you have work, school, a life, a wife and taking a week to bum around Florida isn't possible.
So we'll do it for you. Because we are great guys like that.
- Major League Baseball