A-fraud is on the juice, Manny scoffed at $25 million to keep his Benny-Hill-theme defense in L.A., and the Cubs are having a fire sale. The most exciting off-season in sports is at fever pitch.

It was about this time last year that the Mitchell Report implicated some 16 million Major League Baseball players for steroid usage, most of whom were washed-up and on a slippery slope into the farm system. At the time, I had a conspiracy theory that ESPN intentionally manufactured the report for a ratings boost during the post-super bowl/ pre-March Madness sporting slump (George Mitchell is the former Chairman of the Board at Disney, which owns ESPN.)

Now that Alex Rodriguez has admitted using steroids - albeit the kind that stop working in the 5th inning - everyone is suspect, and the "Steroid Era" of baseball has inarguably been extended into the end of the decade. Spare the A-Rod, spoil the children.

The innocent naiveté embraced by the last hopeless defenders of baseball as the national pastime over football, have lost traction with A-Rod's guilt. Where before we could quietly believe that the steroid epidemic was confined to quick-rising burnouts (Gagne, Tejada ) and freakishly top-heavy home-run monsters (Sosa, Bonds, Maguire) from the first few years of the new millennium, the truth is that the users could be, in fact, more than just a glutinous presence on stat sheets.

Pujols, Zambrano, Ortiz, Manny…all guilty until pissing innocent.

Which brings us full circle to Man-Ram. Under the contract he declined from the Dodgers, he would have made $154,320.98 a game; many of those which he would inevitably be phoning-in, and many more where he would be benched in the late innings as a defensive liability. With the money they offered him, The Dodgers - or any other interested team for that matter, could buy Garret Anderson, Jim Edmonds, Ben Sheets, AND Adam Dunn - giving them unmatched depth of firepower, and an extra $5 million to fill plugs in their rotation.

Meanwhile, the Cubs, in their infinite determination to almost win, have unloaded Jason Marquis, Rich Hill, and Kerry Wood - apparently banking on Zambrano's fat ass to just eat all of the bats in the ballpark before the game starts.

I can't wait for April.

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