- The Washington Times - Monday, February 12, 2007

1. Barry Bonds’ pursuit of history

No story will dominate spring training like the mother of all stories. Bonds stands 22 homers shy of breaking Hank Aaron’s all-time record, and there appears to be no stopping him now. Unless Bud Selig suspends him for steroid use or a federal grand jury indicts him for perjury. Either way, everyone will be watching.

2. Daisuke Matsuzaka’s arrival in Boston

The latest — and priciest — import from Japan, “Dice K” joins an already stacked Red Sox rotation that includes Curt Schilling, Josh Beckett and Jonathan Papelbon. Whether Matsuzaka is worth all the money Boston spent remains to be seen, but there’s no question he will become an instant celebrity in baseball-mad New England.

3. The Cubs’ spending spree

They spent about $300 million to bring in Alfonso Soriano, Ted Lilly, Jason Marquis and manager Lou Piniella and re-sign Aramis Ramirez in an effort to turn things around. But what good is it if Kerry Wood and Mark Prior are injured again?

4. Roger Clemens’ annual retirement tease

Is the Rocket done for good this time, or does he have yet one more farewell season in him? And if so, will it come with the Yankees, the team he left four years ago at the time of his first so-called retirement? Stay tuned.

5. Sammy Sosa’s last gasp

The once-beloved slugger sat out all of last season when no one was willing to offer him a major league contract. This time, he agreed to a minor league deal with the Rangers and now must earn his way onto their roster. Can Slammin’ Sammy restore his good name, or is he doomed to be saddled with steroids suspicion forever?

6. Detroit pitchers’ fielding practice

After the Tigers all but blew the World Series thanks to a ghastly run of errors by pitchers, manager Jim Leyland promised “PFP” would be emphasized from day one of spring training. Has there ever been more anticipation over the pitcher-covering-first base drill?

7. The Mets’ lack of pitching

With Pedro Martinez out until at least midsummer, New York is hoping to make another run at the pennant with a staff of Tom Glavine, Orlando Hernandez, John Maine, Oliver Perez and rookie Mike Pelfrey. The Mets have plenty of offense, but as October showed, it doesn’t mean anything if they don’t have pitching.

8. The A’s without Barry Zito

The last (and perhaps best) of the Big Three pitchers has left town, leaving Oakland with a staff of little-known pitchers. But general manager Billy Beane always gets the benefit of the doubt, and it’s quite possible the post-Zito A’s could be better off in the long run.

9. St. Louis’ attempt to repeat

It’s still somewhat of a mystery how the Cardinals won the World Series after an 83-win regular season, but there’s little chance of a repeat performance in 2007 after St. Louis lost Jeff Suppan, Jeff Weaver and Jason Marquis from its rotation.

10. The Big Unit’s return to Arizona

Randy Johnson was a bust in the Bronx, but the Diamondbacks think he still has a few more fastballs in that left arm of his. Along with Cy Young winner Brandon Webb and workhorse Livan Hernandez, Johnson could be part of a formidable rotation in the desert.

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