Urban: Dice-K, A-Rod and, yes, more Barry

We’re more than a quarter of the way through baseball’s 162-game grind, so it’s time to check in on the stories we suspected might be the big stories coming out of spring training.

» CAN DICE-K CUT IT? When the Boston Red Sox ponied up more than $50 million for nothing more than the right to chat with Japanese sensation Daisuke Matsuzaka, then gave him a deal that brought the total outlay of cash to more than $100 million, it felt a little desperate. Now it feels like a steal. Dice-K is everything Boston hoped for and more and, barring an injury, he’s a lock for American League Rookie of the Year. Might just be the AL MVP and Cy Young, too, if he keeps making people look this hapless at the plate.

» IS A-ROD DONE IN THE BRONX? Alex Rodriguez polarizes a good columnist or a good sports-talk radio host. You either love him or you hate him, but you always pay attention. And his dysfunctional existence in Gotham is nothing short of fascinating, so when he was booed for an error on opening day, things looked poised to turn into an epic, summer-long melodrama. Then A-Rod started hitting homers and getting cheered every day and, by the time he cooled off, the New York Yankees were such a mess that nobody seemed to notice or care. How will it all shake out? With Mr. $252 Million in orange and black next season. He’ll opt out of his deal in theBronx and sign with the Giants.

» IS SAMMY DONE? The last time we saw Sammy Sosa before this year, he was a shell of the dynamic player who helped bring casual fans back to the game with that great home run chase with Big Mac way back when. In 2005, Sosa’s hacks for the Baltimore Orioles made him look like he was under water. The year off seems to have done him right, though. That bat speed still isn’t what it was when he was in his prime, but he’s back to being dangerous and, when he’s dangerous, he’s flat-out fun to watch and good for the game.

» WILL BONDS SURVIVE? If you didn’t think he would, you haven’t watched his career very closely. He thrives on conflict and not surviving isn’t an option. If anyone had a single thing on him, he’d already be suspended or behind bars. Instead, he’s closing in on the most hallowed record in the game, laughing inside at all the haters along the way, and actually looking like a sympathetic figure at times. (Like when frauds such as Curt Schilling pop off). Bonds isn’t going anywhere but to Cooperstown, like it or not.

Mychael Urban is the author of “Aces: The Last Season On The Mound With The Oakland A’s Big Three — Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder and Barry Zito” and a writer for MLB.com. He also hosts the weekend edition of “Sportsphone 680” on KNBR (680 AM).


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