It's staying light longer, the Leafs are all-but-eliminated ... that can mean only one thing: We'll soon see the first halter dress of the season! OK, two things: It's time for baseball, the timeless game that involves committing to a team for six months after reading all winter about why they won't win jack squat. Here's a "starting nine" for the Los Angeles Dodgers.
- It's nice to see John Ferguson Jr. is doing consulting work: Dodgers GM Ned Colletti has a fetish for burdening his ballclub with veterans who, if not over the hill, have at least crested. See: Nomar Garciaparra -- he's likely to start the season on the disabled list; you don't say -- Juan Pierre, Andruw Jones and Luis Gonzalez (now playing for Florida at age 40). Hey, in 2001, that would have been one hell of a core group.
In fairness, Jones isn't that bad.
Now, here's where the Leafs analogy kind of dies. The Dodgers' young guys who have been blocked -- Matt Kemp, James Loney and Andre Ethier (pictured) -- are actually talented.
- Joe Torre works Blue: Ya, it's going to take some getting used to after his 12 seasons in the Yankees dugout, where he mastered the art of appearing to be deep in thought when he was really just staring straight ahead in David Puddy fashion.
The Dodgers moving their spring training home to Arizona, that's an adjustment as well. The upshot is that Torre probably won't burn out star catcher Russell Martin (he's Canadian!) the way that then-manager Grady Little did last summer. Martin crashed in the second half; Torre might have a better concept of "rest."
(Remember, Little is the same manager who couldn't figure out that Pedro Martinez was knackered in Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS, even when it was obvious to people in parts on the world where they actually use the word "knackered.")
- Nine out 10 baseball geeks agree... That they would want to date 20-year-old lefty Clayton Kershaw if they were a woman or gay. Failing that, they'll just draft him in their keeper leagues this season. He's 6-foot-3, 210 lbs., has electric stuff and a smooth motion and averaged 12 strikeouts per nine innings in his first full pro season. He's got it all, except for a tougher-sounding first name.
- That's why Donnie Baseball left the Yankees: New hitting coach Don Mattingly's son, Preston Mattingly, is a 20-year-old infielder in the Dodgers system. He has potential, but he also hit .210 with no power or walks in Single-A last season and couldn't handle shortstop. It can't hurt to have his dad working for the club, eh?
- I don't know... third base? The Dodgers have had a hole at third base since Ron Cey retired his home-run waddle more than 20 years ago. L.A.'s third sadsackers had a gadawful .713 OPS in 2007. Naturally, Ned Colletti looked long and hard at the problem, and did nothing.
- Wouldn't that be rich: Second baseman Jeff Kent could make it to the Hall of Fame before archnemesis Barry Bonds does. The 40-year-old Kent's comparables are a Who's Who of Hall of Famers and near-misses and he hit (875 OPS) in 2007, so he's not slowing down.
- So much depends on: Well, the Dodgers can't have their 40-year-old second baseman be the team's best everyday hitter again. Jones is still only 31 years old; he should recover from his 2007 season that killed a thousand fantasy teams. Torre is probably smart enough to realize Rafael Furcal and Juan Pierre should only bat 1-2 on '80s Night, when the clock gets turned back to a time when most teams put a couple speedy slap hitters with no power or no plate discipline at the top of the lineup.
(Pierre is actually decent when he leads off an inning; the rest of the time, he's "astonishingly awful," to quote Bill James.)
- Can't make too much of this: It's an election year in the States, which means superfan-sportswear mogul Alyssa Milano, who's been known to date a Dodger in her day, might end up spending more time campaigning for the Democratic nominee than hanging out at Dodger Stadium and being romantically linked to half the roster, including a few of the more mature-looking batboys.
Hmmm, didn't the Dodgers' last division title came in 2004, which was also an election year? It did. Based on that alone, they're sure to win!
- Need-to-know: The National League is such a slag heap that any team which comes close to breaking even can't be ruled out as a contender in the new season. L.A. (82-80 last season) is basically a poor man's version of the Blue Jays: Good if injury-prone pitching and a below-average lineup by the standards of the Quadruple-A league. A reprise of 2007 -- when they had the best record in the NL on July 19 and faded away -- seems likely.
That's all for now. Send your thoughts to email@example.com.