Welcome back, everyone: Running down the first issues of 2009

And we're back! After a nice break that included a hockey game played at Wrigley, some holiday high school hoops, two roof-cracking MMJ shows and more than a few of these, I feel relaxed, rested and ready to go. A new year is here and it's time to raise the flame and start stirring the Stew as we head toward pitchers and catchers which, believe it or not, is only just over a month away.

For now, let's take a look at the current questions in baseball's ant colony as 2009 begins ...

Whither Manny Ramirez? As our own Tim Brown reports today, the market for Manny Ramirez remains as wobbly as your grandmother's layered Christmas Jell-O. Running down Brownie's list of potential suitors, it's clear that the Dodgers and Giants are the only viable landing spots while the rest of the teams can bring up oodles of good reasons not to add Man-Ram before getting to a reason why they should. That's fine, though, because a good Dodgers-Giants throwdown is always welcome — even on the free agent market in the middle of winter.

Is Andruw Jones washed up at age 32? His performance in '08 provided us with plenty of arguments that his career was as dead as Paul Reiser's and Buster Olney got a jump start on last rites with a pseudo-obit on Sunday morning. In the blog post, one source calls Jones "fat" (which is nothing really new) and Olney says there's doubt that the outfielder has the type of work ethic to remodel his body for a statline resurrection. It's a foregone conclusion the Dodgers and Jones are headed for a divorce, which should make for a fun game of Hot Potato should a few teams convince themselves they might be the team that Jones could use to enhance his HOF candidacy (which Olney contends is already stronger than you think).

Will Jeff Moorad extinguish the Padres' fire sale? So long as the sale actually goes through, I'm thankful that Moorad is leaving Arizona and saving a Major League Baseball team from being further involved in the icky divorce proceedings between John and Becky Moores. Though the Moores could always push through a Jake Peavy trade before the expected first-quarter sale, we should all be happy that Padres fans can look forward to a life without slash-n-cut bickering.

Is Brian Roberts headed to Chicago's South Side? My favorite rumor of the holiday downtime involved the White Sox sending Gavin Floyd ('n more!) to Baltimore for perennial Cubs' target Brian Roberts. It would have been a great move had the Sox not already traded away innings-eater Javier Vazquez and considering the recent history of exiled Chicago pitchers — Brandon McCarthy, Freddy Garcia and even Fautino De Los Santos — the O's would be wise to proceed with caution.

Will Mark Grace get more than one Hall of Fame vote? Rickey Henderson will be voted into Cooperstown a week from today. I'm still thinking the same holds true for Jim Rice. But when the voting is revealed on Jan. 12, I'm most curious to see if Mark Grace garners more than the one tally he's already been promised by Phil Rogers of the Chicago Tribune. Remember, the ol' SlumpBuster will need 5 percent of the vote to stay on the ballot and make Rogers explain again next year why he voted for the one player always guaranteed to fill a notebook.