White Sox pitchers and catchers don't report for another nine days, but spring training for Major League Baseball officially starts today. The Diamondbacks and Dodgers will be getting a head start, as they will open the season a week before everybody else in Australia, and Arizona will crack the champagne bottle against the hull of the Cactus League this morning.
Take that, Winter Olympics Opening Ceremony.
The White Sox have their positional logjams, their service time quandaries and their growing pains, and we'll take a deeper look around the time the Sox's battery components arrive at Camelback Ranch on Feb. 15. Even though it could be a bumpy ride for one reason and/or another, at least everybody knows where they're trying to go.
For some teams and some players, 2014 is still a mystery at this late date.
Christan Marrero Reading Room
In 2012, the Baltimore Orioles' postseason had all the makings of a fluke thanks to stunning (read: unsustainable) success in one-run games. In 2013, they regressed something fierce ... and still won 85 games. That suggests that the Orioles have a legitimate core, but they've had flat offseasons the past two years. They didn't add to insure themselves against a fluke, and they didn't add themselves to build up.
So ... what are they doing? Jonah Keri takes a deep dive and discovers that a lot of their apprehension is tied to their unorthodox TV deal. It's assumed that Peter Angelos hammered MLB and the Nationals with his incredible leverage when Bud Selig moved the Expos to Washington before settling territorial matters. As it turns out, the Orioles have the upper hand, but both Beltway clubs are still hamstrung.
Scott Boras has a point when he says that draft-pick compensation really screws over some players. He might or might not have a point when he complains that teams are too liberal with comments to media to depress the market for some players. And Ken Rosenthal has a point when he says that the sluggish market for an abnormally high number of prominent free agents could complicate the next round of CBA discussions if any of the root causes carry over into next winter.
But it's hard not to experience some measure of schadenfreude when his aggressive marketing of clients falls flat.
 RT @MLBNetworkRadio Boras on Kendrys Morales "this is clearly one of those players that takes a team over the top"— Craig Calcaterra (@craigcalcaterra) January 3, 2014
After winning the winter last offseason, the Blue Jays have been frozen out of the action this time around. A trade fpr Brett Anderson fell through when a player involved failed a physical, and their attempt to trade for Ian Kinsler hit a wall when the Blue Jays discovered that Toronto was on Kinsler's limited no-trade list. Kinsler didn't have the Tigers on his list, and so the Rangers sent him to Detroit for Prince Fielder instead.
Here's a reason why prospect rankings matter -- of the top 30 position players from 2011 to 2013, 28 of them were a team's top-five prospect at one point, and 24 of them were on Baseball America's Top 100 list. Pitchers are a little less conventional (hi, Jose Quintana!), but not by much. Of the top 30 pitchers, 23 were top-five prospects in their organizations, and 22 were Top-100 prospect material overall.
Sexy prospect rankings don't ensure stardom, but the evaluation circle seems pretty good at creating a pool from which stars emerge.
- White Sox introduce "FirstMerit Bank Stadium Club" - whitesox.com
- Texas Ranger stadium name change: Globe Life Park - Lone Star Ball
This week in corporate name changes -- the Stadium Club has its first-ever sponsor, and the Rangers' stadium has its fourth name in three years (or so it feels). It's the first I've ever heard of either company, so ...
- Fun with the photo tool: Baseballs as weapons, artistic inspiration - SBNation.com
- Miller Park sausages murdered, in somebody's basement - SBNation.com
Grant Brisbee is the wurst, but "Tube Meat Continued..." is inspired.