Good news for baseball fans: Only 36 days remaining until pitchers and catchers hold their first workout in Clearwater.
Good news for mankind: Only 20 days remaining until the premiere of Lost: The Final Season.
With both events looming on the horizon, here's a run down of things to ponder as your work-week crests.
1) Call me now: Covering Jimmy Rollins can be a frustrating task. But I mean that as a compliment, in a twisted sort of way. I'm sure if I thought long enough, I'd be able to name another athlete who has as good of an understanding of the media business as Rollins does. But it would take some thought. When something that he says makes news, there's a very good chance he was aware before he said it. He's a really sharp dude - if I had to name two guys in the Phillies clubhouse who would make great politicians after their playing days, Rollins and Chad Durbin would be the no-brainers. But that can make like difficult for a reporter. Case-in-point, a few weeks ago, Rollins appeared at an event at the Independence Visitor Center where the Phillies donated some memorabilia to the Atwater-Kent Museum, and where former politician Sam Katz unveiled a documentary about baseball in the City of Philadelphia. It was the first public appearance by Rollins this offseason, and it came in the wake of the Roy Halladay trade, so I dropped by, as did several television cameras and reporters. Problem is, Rollins knew full well that we didn't have much interest on his thoughts on the documentary or the museum. The way these things usually work, the athlete answers a bunch of questions about the cause he is representing before the reporters steer the conversation toward on-the-field matters. But Rollins was aware that if he said anything Phillies-related, that would be the sound byte that ended up on the evening news. So he flatly declined to answer any baseball questions. And I'm guessing the TV stations were instead forced to run a soundbyte of Rollins extolling either the museum or Katz's documentary.
I mention all this as a prelude to Rollins' appearance on Baseball Tonight today. It wasn't really an appearance, as much as a phone call. And if Aaron Boone hadn't kept me tuned in with some refreshingly thoughtful and direct analysis -- note to ESPN: keep him around -- I probably would have turned it off before it aired. But I continued to watch, so my ears perked up when Karl Ravech asked Rollins a cleverly-disguised version of "Are you the team to beat this season?" Now, my least favorite part of this job is the tattle-tale aspect (Mommmmmm! Guess what Jimmy Rollins said!!!), but I was interested to see how Rollins would handle it. Ravech is great, and the way he worded the question, you needed to have your radar on to realize what a direct answer to it might have elicited. Rollins always has his radar on, and the chuckle and slight pause has he digested the question told me there would be no bulletin board material today.
"On paper, and it's a cliche, yes I think we have a very good team," Rollins said. "But we have to go out there and exectue. Getting Roy Halladay doesnt give us another National League title."
Rollins didn't have much else to say. He raved about the Halladay trade, and indicated that he felt the Cliff Lee trade was a fair price for doing business. He is getting married in a few weeks. Other than that, not much.
Seems Rollins is determined to put his Miss Cleo days behind him. We'll see how long it lasts this time.
2) What the Hall: We touched on the Mark McGwire issue yesterday, but another thought popped into my head as I was walking to the always-bustling Palm Market at 2nd and Fairmount. Is the Hall of Fame a shrine, or a museum? Is it's mission to provide an accurate record of the history of the game, or to honor excellence? Coincidentally, less than an hour later, Ravech was interviewing the director of the Hall on Baseball Tonight, and Jeff Idelson spelled it out: The Museum and the Hall of Fame are two separate venues under the same roof. The Hall of Fame is for honoring excellence. The Museum is for archiving history. So while it sounds like the Hall will someday have an exhibit on the steroid era (Come see Roger Maris' used jersey, and Roger Clemens' (allegedly) used syringes!), don't count on the mention of steroids on Hall plaques.
We've already addressed the should-he-or-shouldn't-he issue. But I'd just like to say that I feel even more strongly now that writers should not participate in Hall of Fame voting. Our job is to cover those who have been honored. Not to honor them ourselves.
3) Tim Brown of Yahoo Sports reported today that the Cardinals have made an offer to Jose Valverde. It's interesting because Ryan Franklin saved 38 games and posted a 1.92 ERA last season. Why didn't the Phillies, who have more obvious need for a reliever with closer-experience, make a play for Valverde? For starters, they are already paying Brad Lidge, Ryan Madson and J.C. Romero a combined $20 million. The Cardinals, meanwhile, are paying Franklin, top lefty Trever Miller, Scott Eyre-ish lefty Dennys Reyes, and young righthander Kyle McClellan a combined $6.75 million.
Question: If the Cardinals do sign Valverde, how close to the Phillies are they?