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Saturday, December 18, 2004

The Arms Race Continues

If this were realpolitick, if this were something more than a Peter Sellers' movie about global diplomacy, if this were, well, the height of the Cold War with Nikita Khruschev banging his shoe on the desk in the well of the United Nations, we all would have reason to be concerned. We'd all pay contractors to build underground bunkers in our backyards, stock them with canned food, and wait for Armageddon to happen.

After all, the superpowers are stockpiling arms, not leaving much for the rest of the world, and they are priming themselves for a confrontation in 2005 that could change civilization the way we know it. No, it's not that Celtic fans in Scotland are switching to the Rangers, it's not as if Stanford alums are wrapping themselves in blue and gold and singing campfire songs with Cal Bear alums, and it's not as though rabid red-state Republicans are going to take up the causes of Al Sharpton and James Carville anytime soon. It's just that there are two baseball teams out there hell-bent on destroying each other, the rest of baseball be, well, darned.

And during this off-season, they're taking their competition to a new level.

The latest news in the arms' race is that the Boston Red Sox signed free agent pitcher Matt Clement to a three-year deal, thereby giving them a younger pitcher with a decent past and promising future who should prove to be a solid complement to the current staff. So, as we reach for comparisons, here goes:

Boston Red Sox

Curt Schilling
David Wells
Tim Wakefield
Bronson Arroyo
Matt Clement

New York Yankees

Randy Johnson
Mike Mussina
Carl Pavano
Kevin Brown
Your brother-in-law.

Those are two pretty powerful staffs, somewhat long in the tooth, but still a who's who of outstanding pitching talent past and present.

And then there's the NL East, where the stockpiling also is taking place, as follows:

Atlanta Braves

Tim Hudson
Mike Hampton
John Smoltz
John Thomson
Horacio Ramirez

New York Mets

Pedro Martinez
Tom Glavine
Kris Benson
Steve Trachsel
Victor Zambrano.

Those staffs are pretty impressive too. While the AL East will get most of the focus, there could be quite a competitive storm gathering in the NL East as well.

And while it is arguable that the Yankees' and BoSox' pitching staffs are aging and therefore vulnerable, they both have some outstanding names on their staffs. And they're both spending a lot of money.

And they are not finished.

The question is whether all of this is good for baseball. It's certainly good for the hot-stove talk, good for back-page headlines of the NY tabloids and good for the ESPN pundits in the off-season.

But is it good for the game?

The answer is that time will tell. If the Yankees and BoSox can replicate last season's drama year after year, then the answer is a resounding yes. But if there are major injuries, or if other teams really fall by the wayside because they cannot buy the latest talent, or because they lose the latest talent to the Yankees and Red Sox, then perhaps the answer is a resounding no.

Meanwhile, the stockpiling continues.


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