Jerry Jones wants desperately to restore the Dallas Cowboys' glory. Ditto Daniel Snyder with the Washington Redskins and Herb Simon of the Indiana Pacers. But like every other NFL and NBA owner, they picked the wrong sports in which to try to throw around their weight.
With no salary cap and a disparity in revenues, baseball remains the sport in which an owner's resources and sense of urgency can set the agenda for a season. That's in evidence in 2012, with 82-year-old Tigers owner Mike Ilitch committing $214 million in mid-January after a player signed for $50 million was lost to a major knee injury a year earlier.
The audacity behind Prince Fielder's signing still was echoing around the American League as April began.
"To lose (Victor) Martinez and then say to myself, 'What shall I do?'" White Sox general manager Ken Williams said, laughing. "Then to go out and get Prince? That's a nice luxury to have. They do a bang-up job of getting talent."
Driven to win the World Series after being upset by the Cardinals in 2006, Ilitch keeps increasing the Tigers' payroll. Angels owner Arte Moreno has gone almost a decade since winning a championship, and he gave Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson a combined $317.5 million to turn back the upstart Rangers, who have won consecutive pennants.
Undaunted, Nolan Ryan and the Rangers' money men, Bob Simpson and Ray Davis, answered by sending the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters $51.7 million for the right to sign Japan's best pitcher, Yu Darvish, then getting a deal done with Darvish for another $60 million.
Hoping to become a player at baseball's highest level, the Marlins' Jeffrey Loria captured headlines with a spending spree that captured Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle, Heath Bell and manager Ozzie Guillen for a combined $201 million. These are the kind of moves expected by the Dodgers' new ownership group, composed of Magic Johnson, Stan Kasten and the Chicago-based Guggenheim Partners.
Dodgers center fielder Matt Kemp not only doesn't want a recount in last year's MVP vote, he even has called Ryan Braun a few times to show his support.
"I'm doing the right thing," Kemp told the Los Angeles Times. "See if he's OK, see how he's doing. ... He's one of my good friends. I have tremendous respect for him as a player, as a person and everything he's accomplished."
Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki likewise is providing public backing for Braun, who successfully appealed a positive test for a performance-enhancing drug that could have left him suspended for the Brewers' first 50 games. Braun's appeal was based on the handling of the sample he submitted during last year's division series, not the sample itself, and he's going to look bad if his hitting falls off.
He wasn't himself in spring training, hitting .220 with two home runs in his first 41 at-bats. He batted .332 with 33 homers last season and has career averages of .312 batting, .371 on-base and .563 slugging. That's a high standard to maintain under any circumstances.
At 33, Kobe Bryant leads the NBA with 28.1 points per game through Monday, his best performance since he turned 30. He credits improved health, particularly an absence of pain in his right knee, which followed a blood-spinning procedure performed by Dr. Peter Wehling in Dusseldorf, Germany.
Acting on Bryant's advice, the Yankees' Alex Rodriguez was treated by Wehling after playing only 99 games last season. He received treatment in his right knee and left shoulder.
"If I can play as well as Kobe, we're in business," said Rodriguez, 36, who has six years and $143 million left on his 10-year contract. "My knee does feel a lot better."
New world order
Life is progressing as normal in Atlanta after the Braves' 2011 collapse, except with manager Fredi Gonzalez under pressure to win every game. But it didn't take long for the housecleaning in Boston, and even a new manager and general manager can't be expected to pick up the pieces cleanly after a 7-20 September remembered as much for reports of video-game playing and fried-chicken eating in the clubhouse as for Jonathan Papelbon not closing the door against the Orioles.
"I don't think we can have a meeting, say, 'That's it. We're turning the page. It's over!'" said Bobby Valentine, who replaced Terry Francona as manager. "I don't believe that. ... Saying forget it is like saying relax. The words mean nothing. It takes breathing and confidence and those wonderful things to relax."
Valentine was hired by Ben Cherington, who was appointed as GM when Theo Epstein took an offer to run the Cubs. That move would lead to changes in three front offices, as Epstein recruited Padres GM Jed Hoyer to join him, a move that cleared the way for Josh Byrnes -- another former Epstein lieutenant -- to take over in San Diego.
The fallout since Sept. 28, the night of the Game 162s that will live forever, oddly has included even the victors. The Rays cut Dan Johnson loose even though it was his two-out, ninth-inning homer off the Yankees' Cory Wade that prevented the Red Sox from wiggling off the hook, and he since was signed by the White Sox and sent to Triple A. And the Cardinals, who wouldn't have reached the playoffs had Gonzalez's Braves not lost eight of their last 10 games, have said farewell to Pujols and manager Tony La Russa, who retired to a cushy job working for Commissioner Bud Selig.
Jamie Moyer and his wife, Karen, have eight children, including two 5-year-olds they adopted as their oldest headed for college. They started a foundation 12 years ago that helps children deal with grief and substance-abuse issues in their families, and it provides support for more than 3,000 children annually. He completed his degree from St. Joseph's University at the height of his baseball career, not because he was going to need it but because he frequently was asked to visit classrooms and stress the importance of education.
Moyer, 49, has pitched long enough that you can trace his career to dead-ball era Hall of Famer Eddie Collins in five degrees of separation (he was a teammate of Nolan Ryan, who pitched to Ernie Banks, who faced Vic Raschi, who pitched to Doc Cramer, who was a teammate of Collins). After missing 2011 while recovering from Tommy John surgery, he won a job in the Rockies' rotation. He will become the oldest starting pitcher to win a game if -- or when -- he gets a win, if you look at it like he does.
Reliever Octavio Dotel needs only to get in a game to make his mark. The Tigers, who signed him to a 2012 contract with an option for '13, are the 13th team Dotel has played for, breaking a mark he had shared with Mike Morgan and Matt Stairs.
Spreading the wealth
Ten teams, not eight, will advance to the playoffs as MLB adds a second wild card in each league. Had that rule been in place a year ago, it would have eliminated the Game 162 drama. But it is more likely to create compelling stretch-run games than eliminate them.
Had MLB used a system of two wild-card teams in each league during the era in which it has had one, there would have been ties for the second spot in 1996, '99, '02 and '07, and on nine other occasions the gap between the second wild card and the first also-ran would have been one game.
Which teams are most likely to benefit? Maybe the Rays or Red Sox (expect a fierce fight behind the Yankees). Maybe a surprise team such as the Nationals or Blue Jays. Maybe the Dodgers (the new ownership group could authorize major midseason acquisitions). Maybe even the White Sox, Cubs or someone not even in the discussion.
The magic number of wins for wild-card teams drops to 89. That's the average for teams that would have grabbed the second spot in the last 16 seasons.
Because MLB is shoehorning the new one-game wild-card playoff into a schedule that has the regular season ending Oct. 3 and the World Series beginning Oct. 24, it eliminated a travel day in the best-of-five division series.
It made a mistake by adopting a 2-3 format in which the team with the better record must open the playoffs with two road games in order to get Game 5, if necessary, at home.
It would have been better to make teams travel between Games 4 and 5, even if it meant a long, overnight flight. Teams do that all the time in the regular season.