I'm prepping for tomorrow's BP Radio and one of our segments will be on "what to watch for" this offseason. Here's my top ten:
1. Baseball in DC - no owner, a hostile city council, and a rapidly expanding stadium bill. MLB's done nothing right with this so far; why start now? Bringing in Jim Bowden is an interesting first step, but who's money is he spending?
3. Carlos Dineros - Carlos Beltran is the best free agent since Alex Rodriguez. How close will his contract come to some of the 2001 bubble? He's looking for 10 years, 200 million. He probably won't get that, but it will be the biggest deal since A-Rod's without much effort.
4. BALCO - the story that won't go away finally goes to trial. It's bad for all sports, but baseball has the worst record of spinning damaging info. Barry Bonds is the "sexiest" name and expect the media to follow him. His run at Babe Ruth earlier in '05 might be as hard on him as it was on Hank Aaron.
6. Anaheim Gold Rush - spending big on Vladimir Guerrero and Bartolo Colon put the Angels in the playoffs. Will Arte Moreno open up the checkbook again for Pedro and Beltran? He *was* an owner in the spend-now D-Backs. Unlike Boston and New York, no one really knows how high the Angels can go besides their owner.
7. Cursed Again - the Red Sox have more free agents than any team. Will the ring on Theo Epstein's finger give him free reign or will he elect to bring back as many "idiots" as he can? A weak (but improving) minor league system might force their hand at a couple positions.
8. No Cooperstown? The only legitimate first time candidate is Wade Boggs and his media problems make him the type that the BBWAA makes sweat it a couple years. It could be a big year for the Veterans Committe (Santo?) and guys that didn't make it last year (Sandberg and one of the big closers?)
9. The Next Threat - With Montreal moved - probably - baseball needs another threat. The likely culprits are Oakland and Florida, two teams that haven't convinced their communities to cough up a new stadium. These two both legitimately need it. Mike Lowell gives us some indication that Miami isn't expecting a new stadium this season.
10. Hockey - What? Baseball is closely watching the current NHL strike. If the hockey players cave to a salary cap, baseball will be the only major sport without one - and labor negotiations are only two years away. Baseball might actually get involved in this one, either on the player and owner side. (Rangers owner Tom Hicks is also the owner of the Dallas Stars.)