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What happens when u mix the Oscars and the MLB?

Ramp

Muckdog
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credit:mlb.com
And the winners are ...
By Brian Wilson / MLB.com

It's "Godzilla" ... coming soon to a ballpark near you. (Kathy Willens/AP)
Oscar time has arrived, and like Hollywood, there has been an endless number of great storylines worthy of screenplay adaptation since Darin Erstad caught the final out of the 2002 season. Which have been the feel-good (or bad) stories of the past five months? What blockbusters await you as the 2003 season unfolds? Dim the lights, please ...

The Hunted (or How to Lose a Guy for Five Days) -- Dodgers pitcher Guillermo Mota just has this way of bringing out the beast in otherwise mild-mannered Mike Piazza. After being plunked last spring, Piazza collared Mota as he was leaving the field later in the game. This year, Mota exacted some revenge for the affront by throwing two inside pitches to the Mets catcher, the second of which not only struck his left shoulder, but apparently his behemoth backstop's last nerve. Doing his best rendition of Jack Nicholson's "Heeeeere's Johnny", Piazza sent Guillermo on his Mota-cycle, speeding off the field "running backward faster than I can run forward," according to Mets manager Art Howe. Piazza wasn't content to stop there, conducting a hunt for Mota so complete he's likely to land a recurring role in the revival of Dragnet. Piazza and Mota both were issued five-day suspensions.

Adaptation -- Many players find the transition to New York a difficult one. Hideki Matsui and Jose Contreras take it one step further, adjusting to a new country and in Contreras' case, freedom. Add the throngs of Japanese media to the already plentiful, omnipresent -- and in their own not-so-humble opinions -- omnipotent New York press and you've got quite a bit to get acclimated to. Good luck.

The Hours -- Based on performance -- and no thanks to a lack of run support -- the Mets' re-signing of Steve Trachsel was a no-brainer. But Mets fans could be excused for their lack of enthusiasm. Though they generally appreciate what he's done since being sent to the minors for a mechanical/mental adjustment during the 2001 season, the oh, so deliberate righty annoys Shea home fans so much they broke into a "throw the ball" chant during a 100-degree afternoon game against the Dodgers. Yankees fans were forced to share the experience during a rain-soaked Subway Series marathon. Fortunately, fans watching at home are endowed with the option of cooking a meal in a nearby kitchen while the momentous decision on what pitch to throw is eventually made.

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers -- If the mound is a ring, the towers are Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling. And until these perennial preseason Cy Young candidates are either no longer teammates or no longer perennial preseason Cy Young candidates, it's difficult to predict the Diamondbacks won't come away with at least one of the four NL playoff spots.

About Schmidt -- Jason Schmidt is the de facto Giants ace with the departure of Russ Ortiz. Coming off a World Series appearance, Giants GM Brian Sabean dealt his No. 1 starter to the Braves for sophomore southpaw Damian Moss. With Livan Hernandez constantly on the block, Schmidt gets his first opportunity as the perceived ace -- a title he basically abdicated on the also-ran Pirates in favor of Kris Benson and Todd Ritchie. He did fine when slotted in behind Ortiz. Is he now ready to assume the responsibility on a contender?

Enough -- Two years and no championship? George is baaaaaaack. Even Derek Jeter had to take his share of tough talk from the Boss. Luxury tax be damned, the Yanks have opened the wallet to sign not only foreign icons Jose Contreras and Hideki Matsui, but to gain negotiating rights to a young Dominican playing in Japan.

Far From Heaven -- Even with Sweet Lou at the helm, the Devil Rays have quite a long way to go. Talented youngsters like Aubrey Huff, Carl Crawford and Rocco Baldelli will get every chance to succeed, as will the lefty-righty combo of Joe Kennedy and Dewon Brazelton in the rotation. There might even be a happy ending to all this. But there will be plenty of growing pains, and will Piniella have enough time or patience to see it through?

Anger Management -- See Enough.

About a Boy -- The image of J.T. Snow dragging pre-preschooler Darren Baker from home plate fresh in their minds, the powers-that-be have seen fit to bar those who have yet to pass fingerpainting from the dugout. We have apparently seen the last of bat boys toting lumber that is taller than they are.

Panic Room -- See Enough.

Catch Me If You Can -- The Marlins' top of the order, Juan Pierre and Luis Castillo could bring back memories of the 80's Cardinals, minus artificial turf. Pudge Rodriguez is no dummy -- there might ALWAYS be someone in scoring position when he steps into the batters box.

Empire -- In a likely effort to endear himself to Red Sox fans who were about to witness a winter without a major addition made to their team, team president and CEO Admin Lucchino decided to dig at the Yankees, referring to them as the "evil empire." The Commissioner has issued a cease-and-resist-diss order, so all has been quiet since -- with the exception of the Yankees' involvement in Bartolo Colon diversion to the "other" Sox.

The Sum of All Fears -- What happens when Dusty Baker's Cubs face Barry Bonds for the first time? The bet here is that after witnessing all that carnage first-hand as Bonds' manager in San Francisco, we can expect Barry to set an all-time record for walks in a series.

Windtalkers -- Agents' claims of collusion are surely based more on frustration than reality. Isn't it possible that the masses have merely come to their senses? The lengths teams went to this offseason to unload players for budgetary reasons should be proof enough that teams didn't need to conspire. And if there really was a master plan at work, the Mets, Yankees and Phillies must have had their fax machines turned off.

Return to Never Land -- Fans won't go unrecognized during Montreal's 35th anniversary season. Of the 59 dates in Montreal, 30 will be a special event, and half-price tickets will be available for almost every home date.
 

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