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It's Hot Stove Time!

Baseball fans had much to be thankful for in 2012: An exciting and historic campaign capped off by a ten-team post-season; the first Triple Crown since 1967; surprising advances by formerly down-trodden teams in Oakland, Baltimore, and Washington (where Teddy Roosevelt finally won his first race); and over 74 million fans passing through the turnstiles, the best attendance since 2008 and perhaps another indication that the nation's economy is finally showing some signs of healing and life.

Changing-of-the-guard scenarios played out in the National League East where the five-time consecutive winner Philadelphia Phillies huffed and puffed to a third-place, .500 record and face an off-season of uncertainty; in the NL West, where the Los Angeles Dodgers finally shed the odious ownership of Frank McCourt in a stunning, $2.1 billion purchase by an ownership group headed by LA Lakers icon Magic Johnson, and showing further life by aggressive trades with teams such as the Phillies and Boston Red Sox; and in the American League East where the formerly-dominant Hubmen found themselves denuded of recognizable names and heavy contracts.

The Miami Marlins, newly ensconced in a $600 million-plus mostly taxpayer financed ballpark in a bad part of town, big spenders in the previous off-season, began off-loading stars in-season and then followed up by backing up the truck and delivering most of their big names and recently-signed big contracts north of the border, where the deep-pocketed Toronto Blue Jays seem to see a chance to once again compete in the still-crowded AL East. It's a bit early to consign the gonfalon to the Canadians, but they may have bolstered their depleted pitching staff, especially if Josh Johnson recovers, and adding Jose Reyes to the top of their lineup should benefit sluggers Jose Bautista and Juan Encarnacion. The Yankees, who barely slipped by the resurgent Orioles in the ALDS, may be running up against time and tide, compounded by a new spending discipline sought in advance of a 2014 lift in the luxury tax.

Meanwhile the Hot Stove League has been slow to develop in big-name free-agent signings. There is a paucity of talent in this class, although there are some talented starting pitchers such as Zach Greinke who will be writing their own tickets. Otherwise, there seems to be a wait-and-see attitude among many of the teams, especially in regards to some of the position players like Michael Bourn, late of the Atlanta Braves, and B.J. Upton, late of the Tampa Bay Rays. Both are runored to be seeking long-term, nine-figure contracts and neither seems to bring the skill-sets normally considered commensurate with such largesse. Whether or not we see a repeat of the Collusion trials from previous eras is still an open question. It seems to me that the owners have probably covered their tracks if there is any such thing in reality, and I am not sure that there is.

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