Baseball: The big man and...the artificially big man

After taking a bit of a break from thinking baseball, I got back into the swing by watching the Phillies' 2008 highlight film on Friday night, and now things continue to click on all four cylindars for the WFCs going into the long-anticipated start of spring training next week. Actually, it's the best of times and the worst of times for fans of the greatest game here in Philly.

The good news, as you've probably heard, is that Ryan Howard is in da house for three years, at $54 million, which should make everybody happy, while eliminating what has become an annual annoyance. Now the big man can focus on what he does best, which is hitting a baseball 450 feet, and learning to cut back on what he does worst, which is not hitting the baseball at all. Repeating as world champs is darn near impossible in baseball because stuff happens, like the suspension of J.C. Romero and Chase Utley's hip surgery, but the overall vibe going into Clearwater is still a  very good one...

...except that the Phillies are WFCs of a sport that's getting dragged further into the muck by the likes of A-Fraud. The fact that so many of the game's "greats" were juiced in the late 1990s and early 2000s isn't something that a fan can easily let go of -- because baseball is a sport in which both tradition and statistics are a huge part of the appeal, and what Bonds, McGwire, Clemens and now A-Rod have destroyed is something that cannot be repaired. I'm still looking forward to 2009 and what takes place on the field, but now there's no looking back in baseball, and that used to be part of the fun.