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Jose Canseco, Mark McGwire

This whole thing about McGwire simply permits sportswriters to imagine themselves to be Woodward and Bernstein, people who see themselves as guardians of a sacred portal, the last best hope for truth and justice and its all hogwash and baloney. – John Thorn, baseball historian

On November 26, 1961 the rules committee for Major League Baseball voted 8 to 1 against legalizing the spitball. Four months later, Gaylord Perry the most-celebrated of all spitball pitchers made his major league debut.

Irony? Coincidence? Foreshadowing?

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Since last week’s announcement of the National (San Francisco Giant ace Tim Lincecum, 15-game winner) and American League (Kansas City Royal pitcher Zack Grienke, 16-game winner) Cy Young Award winners, a bubbling debate has begun over the value of a “win” placed on a pitcher’s statistical line.

Sports Illustrated columnist Joe Posnanski to suggested, “the win is dead … why would anyone count on something as vague and misleading as wins?”

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Potential. That’s the word that may eventually haunt Lastings Milledge most. Not now. No, he is still only 24 years old, and has the time and, er, potential to silence his naysayers.

Potential has two definitions in sports: one, for a prospect, rookie or young professional like Milledge, potential is a hopeful, optimistic word. The second definition is reserved for mostly former first-round draft picks, ballplayers well into their thirties, lingering on a bench in Peoria, Syracuse or Las Vegas, hoping for one last opportunity. The latter is an ugly word, often shadowed by a question mark.

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Circuit City announced they are pulling the plug. More than 35,000 employees will be out of work. It’s the latest slap in the face to a fragile U.S. economy.

And what’s this have to do with the baseball Hot Stove? A lot.

There is a seismic shift taking place in the baseball industry. Budgets are constricting, teams are thinking twice about free agents, and the free agents: they are defiant, turning down offers and holding out. The player-agent strategy is: Be patient and a more lucrative offer will come … eventually.

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