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Baseball previews for the New Millennium

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In the old days, baseball fans hungry for the new season had to be satisfied with season preview editions of Street & Smith and the Sporting News. No longer. With baseball becoming an ever bigger, ever more lucrative business, everyone seems to be getting in on the act, as samples of these varied season previews demonstrate:

The Joan Rivers Baseball Preview
Live from in front of the batting cage in San Juan, Puerto Rico!

Joan Rivers
Joan Rivers critiques all of baseball's beautiful people.

Joan: Welcome to the show, and as you can tell, the field is already filled with celebrities behind me. Look, there's Alex Rodriguez. Alex! Alex! Alex, you look absolutely gorgeous. Who are you wearing?

Alex: Ummmmm, Rawlings, I guess.

Joan: Really? I've never heard of her. Are you sure it's not Vera Wang?

Alex: I don't think so.

Joan: Alex, I loved your work with the Mariners last summer. What's your next project?

Alex: Well, I signed with the Rangers over the winter, so I'll play shortstop for them.

Joan: Delicious. Isn't he delicious, Melissa?

Melissa: He's delicious, mother.

Joan: Have you met my daughter? You're not married are you? Would you like to meet my daughter?

Alex: Errrr, I have to be going. It's my turn to hit.

Joan: Good luck hitting, Alex, it's been amazing talking to you. Are you sure you're not wearing Vera Wang? Oh, look! It's Carlos Delgado! Carlos! Carlos! Carlos, come over here! Talk to me! Damn, he's talking to Dave Campbell. ...

"Highlights for Children" Baseball Preview Issue
Gallant Ripken Jr. arrives for spring training a few days early so he's ready to go when pitchers and catchers report.

Frank Goofus shows up late, then leaves camp in a big snit because he's only making $9 million a year when Alex Rodriguez is making $25 million.

Mark McGallant scrupulously rehabs his knee all winter, then negotiates his contract by himself, insisting on a paycut if he winds up on the disabled list.

Goofus Sheffield demands a trade, then says he wants a lifetime contract, then threatens to give less than his best, then changes his mind again and expects all to be forgiven. Fat chance.

Gallant Maddux experiments with the new high strike zone, carefully using it when he's ahead in the count to get batters to chase borderline pitches.

Goofus Clemens takes advantage of the new strike zone, recklessly using it to throw at Mike Piazza's head. ...

CNN's "Crossfire" 2001 Baseball Preview
From the left, Bill Press. From the right, Robert Novak. And in the Crossfire, Dodgers general manager Kevin Malone and Athletics general manager Billy Beane.

Novak: Kevin, your 2001 payroll will be over $100 million this season. You're spending $55 million on your starting rotation alone, including a $15.6 million contract for Carlos Perez, a pitcher who will begin the season in the minors. You paid Kevin Brown more than $100 million and gave him a private plane, even though he's 36, has won only 31 games for you and isn't healthy enough to start Opening Day. Aren't you just another tax-and-spend general manager who pays ridiculous amounts for mediocre players, succeeding only in raising the salaries for everyone else while passing the costs onto the fan?

Malone: Well, I think if you look at what we're trying to do with our farm system ...

Press: Bob, if you want to point fingers, how about the president's former team? The Rangers gave Alex Rodriguez $252 million this winter. And your friend George Steinbrenner ran up the cost of competition long before Kevin or Billy ever reached the scene. It's up to the commissioner's office to institute an effective revenue-sharing plan that levels the playing field, giving teams in small markets a chance to compete.

Novak: That's your solution to everything, isn't it, Bill? Punish success. Vilify the winners. Socialize the league. The NFL did that and look what it got us -- two wild card teams in the Super Bowl.

Beane: I think Barry Zito is going to take a step forward for us ...

Audobon Magazine Baseball Preview Issue
Randy Johnson
Diamondbacks seem to be the natural enemy of doves.
The environmental terror continues. Barely 18 years after Dave Winfield wantonly slaughtered a seagull with a thrown ball in Toronto, Randy Johnson, aka the Big Unit, fired a pitch in the path of a flying dove this week, killing the harmless bird instantly.

When is baseball going to halt the carnage? How much longer must baseball fields also be killing fields? If baseball insists on throwing baseballs at a dangerous velocity, the least commissioner Bud Selig can do is set up netting around the diamonds to protect our beautiful creatures. If baseball allows the murder of the very symbol of peace, who is safe? What must happen before baseball acts? Roger Clemens beaning a bald eagle? ...

The History Channel 1982 Season Baseball Preview

Voice-over: Oakland pins its hopes on its young superstar, Rickey Henderson, whose speed on the bases reminds many of Herb Washington. Lou Brock's unbreakable stolen base record is beyond his reach, but otherwise the sky is the limit for this humble young man, whose aw-shucks personality is so refreshing in this age of inflated egos (are you listening, Reggie?). And best of all, Rickey is an Oakland native, so he can play his entire career in his hometown! ...


Voice-over: Talk in the Orioles camp this spring was that manager Earl Weaver might move third baseman Cal Ripken Jr. to shortstop. What is Earl thinking? Ripken is 6-foot-5. No shortstop is that tall. It's always been a position for shorter players who help you with their gloves, not their bats. And it always will be. Playing short not only risks injury to Ripken -- a player that tall won't hold up game after game at such a demanding position -- it also will leave Baltimore fans pining for the days of Mark Belanger. They will sooner move from their beloved Memorial Stadium than forget the great Belanger. ...


The good news in Minnesota is the grand opening of the spectacular Metrodome, the latest in state-of-the-art stadiums. The Teflon roof is supported not by beams, but by air pressure -- what will they develop next -- allowing the Twins and Vikings to both play inside happily in all kinds of weather. After enduring the Minnesota outdoors for two decades, the Twins are confident that playing indoors -- no more rainouts! -- will keep them financially secure for generations to come. ...

The "Who Wants to be a Millionaire" Baseball Preview
(Unfortunately, the show is postponed because of a lack of baseball players willing to take a paycut.)

Jim Caple is a regular contributor to Page 2.

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