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A-to-Z Guide to 2001 Major League Baseball

This week, in my wee corner of the sports page, I could regale you with my thoughts on the surprisingly competitive NBA All-Star Game or explain why the XFL does not represent the downfall of American sports culture as we know it. Or I could continue to cut a swathe through the Virginia athletic department by bashing the Cavalier men's basketball team.

Yet I will do nothing of the sort, because pitchers and catchers report this week. That's right, gentle reader, major league baseball is ready for another rollicking - if slightly overlong - season. Herewith, I present to you this year's definitive MLB guide (or at least as much as can fit in my predetermined A-to-Z format).

Batting average is quickly becoming as irrelevant a statistic as touchdowns are in football. Both stats are highly touted but only slightly useful measures of a player's offensive capabilities.

Does anyone realize how good Barry Bonds still is?

Clutch hitters" do not exist. There is no statistical evidence that some players are better suited than others to producing in "pressure situations."

Maybe this is the year the Dodgers grow up and play to their potential. But probably not.

Related Links
  • Official website of the Major League Baseball Association
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    Arizona is a popular retirement destination. This season, the Diamondbacks will field a lineup featuring the elderly Jay Bell, Steve Finley, Mark Grace, Matt Williams and Curt Schilling. Coincidence? I think not.

    Remember when Cecil Fielder hit 51 home runs in 1991 and everyone went nuts? Now a guy hits 50 and sports fans barely look up from their beer nuts.

    Ken Griffey Jr. actually played much better than you think last year. Check the numbers.

    How is it that Kirby Puckett and Dave Winfield make the Hall of Fame and Gary Carter doesn't? If Carlton Fisk is a Hall of Famer - and he is - then so is Carter, who was just as good, if not better.

    Oh no, you mean the Indians will actually have to play well to make the playoffs this season? What is the AL Central coming to?

    Derek Jeter, $189-million deal and all, is still not as good as A-Rod or Nomar. Jeter is the worst hitter of the three and his defense is vastly overrated.

    This column is degenerating into a fractured rant the likes of which have not been seen since Larry King's last piece for USA Today.

    It is with great joy that I report that Red Sox reliever Bryce Florie threw off a mound Friday for the first time since his eye was crushed by a line drive five months ago.

    Hopefully you haven't forgotten about St. Louis righthander Matt Morris just because he blew out his elbow in 1999 and spent last year in the bullpen. He'll be back.

    If you haven't read Rob Neyer's baseball column at ESPN.com, you should. There are few other national columnists who cut through the sentimental myths and pointless credos of baseball (such as "clutch hitting") better than he does.

    Not that it's news or anything, but the Orioles are going nowhere as long as Peter Angelos is at the helm.

    General managers only use the term "professional hitter" when the guy they've just signed to a three-year deal has no appreciable skills (see: Wil Cordero).

    You might think this column would have more answers than questions, but that is not the case.

    The Rockies can win in Coors Field if they continue to build around ground-ball pitchers and fleet-footed outfielders instead of aging sluggers.

    Remind me to avoid picking up Mike Sirotka in my fantasy baseball draft. I've had him for two straight years, but something tells me 2001 isn't his year.

    Why did the Rangers and Cardinals give up on Fernando Tatis so quickly? The Expos may have a steal, though Tatis will at some point have to fulfill the promise he showed in blasting through the Texas system.

    With YankeesNets entering into an unholy alliance with Manchester United, it's only a matter of time before George Steinbrenner challenges Bill Gates for world supremacy.

    Vladimir Guerrero is an absolute beast. Look for him to best A-Rod's record contract - just don't expect the Expos to be the ones shelling out the cash.

    Philadelphia GM Ed Wade doesn't seem like he knows what he's doing.

    Barring xenophobia, Seattle's Ichiro Suzuki, the first Japanese hitter to make the jump to the majors, could go a long way towards filling the offensive gap left by A-Rod's departure.

    The Yankees' dynasty will end one of these days. At least I hope so.

    And the final sign that the apocalypse is irrevocably upon us? Gregg Zaun, a 29-year-old backup catcher who played tepidly in just 83 games for the Royals last year, will make $1.15 million this season after winning his arbitration case.

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