Baseball season is like a World Wrestling Entertainment show. Oftentimes, there is more excitement in the prelude than the actual event.
It's December. Free agency is heating up, the arbitration window is about to close, and I can't wait for the big New Orleans winter meetings, where the unlikeliest of deals fall into place as easyily as a Hurricane is poured in the French Quarter.
This is the point in the Major League Baseball season where true fans of the national pastime can really relate to the overweight guy who orders a WWE event on pay-per-view and then invites the entire block into his house to watch it. People surround him on the couch while sipping cold cans of Old Style, enthralled with the three hours of threats, betrayals, and gruff voices of professional wrestling. By the time Vince McMahon comes out on the microphone, the actual main event has been reduced to a superfluous expression of male aggression.
This is the essence of the baseball season. The most exciting part is all the winter maneuvers, insane trades, and horrible double-crossing perpetuated by the Emperor himself, George Steinbrenner.
Every morning, I'm hanging over my computer, nearly spitting out my coffee at the sight of the latest trade, bargain, or outrageous quote from Agent Scott Boras, as he proceeds to overrate every client he has.
Granted, he has some strong players. But this is the audacious guy who tried to pawn off an over-the-hill Greg Maddux to the Red Sox when Curt Schilling was online.
If Steinbrenner is the Emperor, then I think I would put Boras somewhere close to the bounty hunter Boba Fett - who simply sides with the ebbing flow of profit.
His work on the A-Rod trade was a thing of beauty, though. In bed with everyone, I really admire his style as Da Fino of the Big Lebowski would say.
I picture Scott Boras in meetings with club owners, general managers, and lawyers, and he is holding a zenlike stare off into space.
Some Big Wheel like Steinbrenner makes a lame threat and Boras drops a Hansel, waving his arms left and right as he quotes from Zoolander.
"Phew . . . Phew . . . Phew . . . Who are you tryin' to get crazy with ese? Don't you know I'm loco."
But there is no "walk off," no warnings from Billy Zane, these GMs just give Boras and his players what they want.
Regardless of the ridiculous style of negotiations this winter, I think the most profound and effective moves are going to come from the L.A. Dodgers and the Anaheim Angels - two clubs bitterly scrapping over the Southern California market. This is an intra-city rivalry that will completely make up for the pathetic and fake tension between the Mets' and the Yankees' in-city relationship. And it will top the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry if L.A. and Anaheim ever go to the World Series together.
It could happen if the Dodgers shore up their weakened pitching staff of last year and pick up some more consistent bats. Pitcher Brad Penney looks to be the guy who will take the lead in L.A.'s rotation, if he is healthy.
The team batting average is largely dependent on a productive Shawn Green, a solid hitting second baseman, and a replacement for Milton Bradley, who is on his way out after nearly assaulting a fan. His recent arrest in Ohio probably will cement the Dodgers' intention to pawn him off to whomever will take him.
This all could be useless speculation though if the Blue doesn't manage to hold down Green and Adrian Beltre.
Beltre conceivably could name his price after a season like last year. But I have a sneaking suspicion he has Blue blood running through his heart. With the Mets going after Green, who knows in December? I just don't like the looks of him in the silly looking black, blue and orange mesh jersey. But if it means getting Mike Piazza back in blue, maybe.
If the Angels continue to make genius medium-market size moves, they should be all right too. But I live in Atlanta, so how much should I really be expected to know about an American League team.
Atlanta and Braves' General Manager John Schuerholz will continue making conservative moves, trying to reduce their big market team to the payroll of Milwaukee or Tampa Bay. This will be the year they miss the playoffs. (Or am I just saying that to evoke some doubt early, a tradition of Atlanta's that has proven to be quite effective in winning the division in the past.)
My long digression is why the baseball free agency-trading season is so much like the prelude to a Royal Rumble. It's so irrational and unpredictable it appears to be fake. I guess that's why it's so fun to follow. Your favorite player could be gone in a flash over some drinks at a Bourbon Street bar. Or from the shady confines of the Faubourg district, your favorite team could trade a future hall-of-famer to cut salary and rebuild. This is the cold winter, a December in Major League Baseball.
Justin Boron is the government reporter for the News-Daily. His column appears Monday. He can be reached at 770-478-5753 or firstname.lastname@example.org