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DIAMOND MUSINGS
Freelance sports journalist Jay B. Webster delivers some chin music from the world of Major League Baseball


Diamonds for Christmas
December 19, 2013

While this time of year is known as the 'Hot Stove Season' in baseball, when fans and General Managers alike sit around the fire and talk a lot about baseball ndash; it's also the Holiday Season when fans and front office personnel make their wish lists for baseball Santa. A left-handed power-hitting first baseman, perhaps, a lights-out closer or, maybe even a speedy new lead-off hitter.

As for the players, while some get to sit in their mansions and count the dough in their over-stuffed stockings, others are sending letters to the North Pole ndash; or their agents ndash; hoping for a sleigh load full of greenbacks and a fat new contract with all the trimmings.

The season ended way back in late October with an entertaining, if not particularly elegant, World Series. There was sloppy play and runs were sometimes hard to come by. But there was suspense, there were big hits (how about Jonny Gomes' three-run sixth-inning home run in Boston's 4-2 Game 4 victory), and there were quirky endings (Allen Craig scoring the game winning run in the bottom of the ninth on an obstruction call at third base in Game 3 was perhaps the most bizarre ending to a game in World Series history). Oh, and there were beards. Lots of them. Santa must have been proud.

In the end, David "Big Papi" Ortiz batted a gaudy .688 and the Red Sox capped off a worst-to-first fairy tale, prevailing over the St. Louis Cardinals in six games. There were also more epic story lines than War and Peace, it seemed, each more poignant than the last.

Boston Red Sox 2013
From beer and fried chicken to glory: The Boston Red Sox in 2013. Photo Keith Allison
After finishing in last place a season ago, the Red Sox become laughing stocks, supposedly more interested in drinking beer and eating fried chicken in the clubhouse during games than winning them. Then they go into the new season a team supposedly full of has-beens and wanna-be's, who put the city on their backs in the wake of the heart-rending Boston Marathon bombings and clinch a World Series title for the Red Sox faithful at fabled and venerable Fenway Park for the first time since 1918.

It was hard not to root for the Sox. They played the game what baseball purists call the "right way", with a passion and exuberance that was infectious, and this baseball fan, at least, won't begrudge their glory one bit.

Now every baseball fan and player once again writes 'World Series Title' at the very top of their wish list to Santa. Even the ones in Boston. Once you get one (or three in ten years, even) you always want another.

But as we saw with the Red Sox, things have to fall the right way, and the right pieces have to be put in place. And teams have been very busy so far, as pieces have been moving all over the place. The Tigers and Rangers exchanged Prince Fielder and Ian Kinsler. The Yankees brought in catcher Brian McCann from the Braves, outfielder Carlos Beltran from the Cards and snitched center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury from the rival Red Sox. Then they watched Curtis Granderson defect to the cross-town Mets and the Mariners throw a hook into the free-agent pond with a juicy $240 million on it to lure Robinson Cano to Seattle.

And that's just the marquee moves. There have been a host of signings and trades across baseball as teams look for just the right ingredients, from pitcher Doug Fister and outfielder Nate McLouth arriving in Washington, to the likes of Hector Santiago and Tyler Skaggs moving from the White Sox and Dbacks, respectively, to Anaheim to help shore up the Angels leaky rotation.

And there are still some big fish out there waiting to be landed. Shinn-Soo Choo, Nelson Cruz, Matt Garza and Bronson Arroyo are all available, and teams like the Rangers and Braves have been especially quiet so far this offseason.

There are more moves to be made and dreams of a new season to be dreamt before pitchers and catchers report to spring training in February.

So settle in and make out your own baseball Christmas list, then stuff yourself silly and savour the festive season in the midst of family and friends. Here's wishing you all the Merriest of Christmases and a joyous New Year. May your ground balls turn to base hits, your fly balls to home runs. And may 2014 bring peace, prosperity and a great baseball season to all.


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