The Book of Mike

"This is no junior college. This is the notorious University of Miami.” -- Marlins starter Dontrelle Willis, after getting knocked around for six runs in 2 1/3 innings by the Canes.

Sunday, February 29, 2004

The Book is Back

After a long offseason, I’m pleased to announce that The Book of Mike is back for the 2004 season. In the coming weeks before the season starts I’ll provide some commentary on the upcoming season, both in terms of how the teams and players are shaping up and in how others are writing about the same.

There’s a lot to look forward to this year. Maybe more than in any year in recent memory. Here are some of my potential highlights for the year:

1 - Barry Bonds passing his god-father Willie Mays on the All-Time home run list. Barry is currently at 658 home runs. Willie retired with 660. After passing Willie, Barry will set his sites on the number two man, Babe Ruth, who has 714. We’ll surely hear a lot all year about steroids and (at least for the time being) unsubstantiated rumors about Barry’s use of steroids. I'm also afraid that the BALCO/steroids scandal could turn into the biggest sports story of the year, potentially bringing sports down and changing how we know our favorite games forever.
2 - The implosion of the Cubs. Expectations are high this year for the Cubbies, and surely they can’t treat us all to a debacle of the magnitude of what they suffered last year in the NLCS against the Marlins, but we can hope. Well, at least I can (and will) hope.
3 - Booing Roger Clemens and the Astros when they come to town to face the Marlins. This will probably be unique this year as Roger makes some of his final appearances in stadiums around the league. For those of us in South Florida who were fortunate enough to attend game four of last season’s World Series (like me) where it was widely assumed we were witnessing Roger’s last game, I think many will greet Roger with some friendly jeering for robbing everyone of a special memory of the generous and moving applause and curtain call given to Mr. Clemens in a tight and well played World Series game on enemy turf. I found the tribute that the South Florida fans gave to Roger to be very moving (for a baseball event) given that baseball fans down here have always seemed to me to be confused about whether they are attending a football game, baseball game, or rock concert (as evidenced by the randomness and inappropriate timing of their cheering). The cheers for Clemens however, were well timed and well deserved. Unfortunately we didn’t all know that he would unretire when his boyfriend Andy Pettite signed with Roger (and Andy’s) hometown Astros.
4 - The implosion of the Yankees. While I think this is likely to happen, like with the Cubs, if it happens early enough with the Yankees, the question will likely be whether or not they go out and acquire Jose Vidro, Geoff Jenkins, and a stud pitcher before the trading deadline. Most of us probably couldn’t afford the Yankees starting line-up on our fantasy team. Big salaries, big egos, and inevitably injuries (Bernie Williams is already likely out for the opener after having surgery for appendicitis) could spell doom for this potential Murderer's Row.

Yesterday’s Miami Herald had some entertaining articles about the Marlins post-season run and how the Miami Heat think they are poised to make a Marlins-like run through this year’s NBA playoffs. In the Marlins World Series article, a number of players relate previously unpublished accounts of funny incidents that took place during the 2003 season. Some of the highlights included Dontrelle Willis’ recollection of the advice he received from Jack McKeon on the mound as the D-Train entered game one of the World Series in relief, Mike Redmond’s tale of how his taking naked batting practice inspired some winning streaks, and Brian Banks revealing that Mike Lowell was in so much pain before the last two World Series games that he wasn’t able to throw across the infield. Possibly most entertaining of all was Mike Lowell revealing that after now infamous Steve Bartman interfered with the foul ball that Moises Alou might have caught, the Marlins started a chant in the dugout of “Let’s make that guy famous!” Sounded like even Mike feels badly for poor Mr. Bartman now, but maybe he did inspire the Marlins to come back.

The Heat article was also entertaining, particularly Rafer Alston’s saying, “One thing that’s shocking to me and people don’t realize is we’ve been on the bottom of the list in field-goal percentage. So what happens if we break out and have oru best string of shooting the ball from April to June?” Interesting. Kind of like me going up to Heat Head Coach Stan Van Gundy and saying, “Hey coach, you guys should really give me some playing time. I have a feeling that I’m going to break out all of the sudden and start dunking over Shaq and beating Gary Payton off the dribble.” Unfortunately Rafer, I think people realize that the Heat is towards the bottom of the league in field-goal percentage. Most everyone just realizes that’s because there are other teams in the league with better shooters. Coincidentally those are usually the teams that win in the playoffs.

That’s all for today. Tonight I’ll be on the University of Miami campus to watch the Hurricanes face-off against the Minnesota Golden Gophers. Too bad I didn’t think of it sooner or I would have tried to put together a wager with Gleeman. Maybe I could have gotten him to agree to give me plugs for a week or a month to try to drive some traffic to this site. I probably would have had to spot him a bunch of runs though.

Happy Leap Day!