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January, Month of Empty Pockets!
2005-12-31 12:22
by Mike Carminati

January, month of empty pockets! … let us endure this evil month, anxious as a theatrical producer's forehead.
—"Umpire Nick" Colette

My heart is on a budget.
It keeps me on the brink.

—Anne "Richie" Sexton from "January 1st"

Billy Ray Valentine: Merry New Year!
Mr. Beeks: That's "HAPPY." In this country we say "HAPPY New Year."
Billy Ray: Oh, ho, ho, thank you for correcting my English which stinks!
—"Trading Places"

Happy New Year to you... in jail.

—Mr. Potter's cheerful response in "It's A Wonderful Life" to George Bailey's "Merry Christmas, Mr. Potter!" (after Potter pilfered $8,000 from the Bailey family, then issued a warrant for George's arrest just one day earlier, and then suggested that he kill himself for insurance money which Bailey almost did)

Ah, 2005. I can't wait for the VH1 "I (Heart Symbol) the 2000s" episode on this magnificent year. Ah, redolent 2005….good riddance.

If you were a Philly sports fan, 2005 was a wasted year—as are most, come to think of it. Our best team was on strike for half the year. 2005 started with the Eagles reaching and then losing only their second Super Bowl and ended with the team gasping for air and Terrell Owens getting the last laugh.

In baseball, the Phils highlights consisted of young players performing well after being pressed into duty. They even somehow stayed in contention until the last day of the season. Actually, it wasn't until they had played (and won) their last game that they found out that they had lost the wild card to Houston (and the Nationals PA announcer was kind enough to inform those of us in attendance as we strode, heretofore, triumphantly to our cars).

The Phils have since seemingly been passed by the Mets as they opened their coffers—or at least divvied up the money they had been paying to Mo Vaughn to a new batch of free agents. And a new youth movement in Atlanta bodes well for their future. The 2006 Phils seem a solid bet for third as the Nats and Marlins worry more about stadium deals than actually on-field product (and as the Marlins cut unprecedented 70% or so from their payroll).

Amazingly the White Sox came out of nowhere to ride an up-and-down season (or rather up-up-up-down-and-up season) all the way to a World Series victory, their first championship victory since Julio Franco was a rookie or 1917, whichever was later.

In the real world (or rather the made-up world our wives have created to distract us from baseball), the year started with the president beginning his second term. What a difference a year makes. As Paul Krugman points out a year ago, "Mr. Bush [actually] made many Americans feel safe". And we all expected social security to be privatized and the Alaskan wilderness to be completed plundered by now.

A year ago, no one knew what "Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job" meant. Irony, where was thy sting before 2005? It's amazing to me that we could fit everything from Tom Cruise's

Anyway, December typically has ended with some with more business of baseball matters than baseball matters. I expect such matters to take center stage as the baseball world tires of the spate of Miggy Cairo signings and World Baseball Classic reports. Baseball will start to gird its loins for what could be a protracted labor dispute at season's end. I expect increased threats of the Nationals and Marlins being contracted and/or moved unless a new stadium deal is reached.

So as 2005 ends, it might be interesting to review how past years have ended. Here are past December 31st events with a little help from Baseball Library.

You might notice that the matters changed from business being conducted among the owners prior to free agency to matters between the owners and the players:

Three players purchased from the disbanded Kansas City AA franchise by the National League are divided by lot among the bidding NL clubs. Billy Hamilton is assigned to Philadelphia, while Boston is lucky enough to get both Herman Long and Dan Stearns in the drawing.

Charles H. Ebbets, 38, who "has handled every dollar" entering the Brooklyn club's treasury for the past 15 years, gains a controlling 80 percent interest in the team.

Ban Johnson's efforts to strengthen the New York Yankees succeed when he arranges the purchase of the team by Colonel Jacob Ruppert and Cap Huston for $460,000 from Bill Devery and Frank Farrell. After Detroit owner Navin refuses to let Hugh Jennings go, the new Yankee owners will name longtime Detroit pitcher Bill Donovan as manager. Donovan was recently manager of Providence (IL).

The state of Ohio withdraws a suit against the Reds when owner Bill DeWitt agrees in writing that the club will stay in Cincinnati for 10 years.

Happy New Year. The Yankees sign Catfish Hunter to a 5-year contract worth a reported $3.75 million. This is triple the salary of any other ML player. Catfish will win 40 games over the next two seasons before suffering arm trouble.

The Basic Agreement between players and owners expires, precipitating more than 19 months of bitter negotiations, culminating in the 1981 player strike.

Despite six weeks of negotiations, the Basic Agreement between the players and owners that was reached after the 1981 strike expires. The players are now seeking increased contributions to their pension plan from the clubs' additional television revenues, while the owners are hoping to slow the rapid growth of player salaries.

Baseball's collective bargaining agreement runs out with no new agreement yet signed.

Merry New Year. Let's just hope that 2006 doesn't join this unhappy list.

2006-01-01 21:58:36
1.   das411
The bold new owners of the renamed Florida Marlins Of Major League Baseball, attempt an innovative strategy: in an effort to build on the success of their "Zero Players With MLB Experience" experiment of 2006, the team attempts a "Zero Players, Managers, Affiliates, or Fans" strategy.

The Washington Nationals quickly copy the FMOMLB's tactics, and the two engage in a thilling, down-to-the-wire race to determine which team is officially eliminated first. Or last. I guess it doesn't matter either way.

--insert sound of zero fans booing--

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