Welcome to The Pulse, the place to find out what the sports world is thinking. Every day on ESPN.com, SportsNation registers its opinion on a wide range of topics by casting votes and chatting with experts in The Show. We collect the daily highlights and put them in The Pulse.
Story of the Day: Old Dogs, New Tricks?
Nomar Garciaparra, Mike Piazza and Frank Thomas. Three names that still carry a lot of weight with baseball fans, or at least those baseball fans who remember bouncing to the beats of Chumbawamba and sailing the Atlantic with Leo and Kate.
If this was 1997 and we talking about an inaugural World Baseball Classic, there might be A-Rod-sized debates over which country Piazza and Garciaparra should suit up for. Instead, few have noticed that Garciaparra will play for Mexico, Piazza will play for Italy in the March tournament and Thomas wasn't even an afterthought for the American team. And along those lines, relatively little has been made of the fact that all three players are set to play for new MLB teams in 2006.
Have three of this generation's greatest players really become aging afterthoughts, heading out to pasture in California? SportsNation holds out the most hope for Garciaparra, thinking he's far more likely to have something left than Piazza, Thomas, Bret Boone or Bernie Williams.
Which player do you think has the most left? (35,741 votes)
67.3% Nomar Garciaparra, Dodgers
9.3% Bernie Williams, Yankees
9.0% Frank Thomas, A's
7.3% Mike Piazza, Padres
6.8% Bret Boone, Mets
Roger Clemens is older than any of those guys, but few doubt his ability to make an impact if he returns. But will he? Andy Pettitte says it's likely, and 80% of SportsNation voters agree. Vote!
Will Mike Piazza be able to catch at least 90 games this season? (7,335 votes)
Which team will win the NL West? (32,084 votes)
46.4% Los Angeles Dodgers
28.6% San Diego Padres
18.5% San Francisco Giants
3.8% Arizona Diamondbacks
2.4% Colorado Rockies
How many home runs will Frank Thomas hit in 2006? (6,863 votes)
7.5% 40 or more
Which team will win the AL West? (74,570 votes)
51.2% Los Angeles Angels
28.6% Oakland Athletics
13.3% Texas Rangers
6.7% Seattle Mariners
SportsNation's Show: Expert Opinion
Danny (Poway, Calif.): What are your thoughts on the Mike Piazza signing?
Jerry Crasnick: I'm like everyone else -- I thought Piazza would really benefit from a switch to the AL. Given his age and defensive issues, I find it hard to believe he'll catch more than 70-80 games. And that park certainly isn't going to help his production. But he didn't break the bank, and the Padres catching situation certainly looks better now than it did with Doug Mirabelli and David Ross.
It's harsh to say Ichiro hit just .303 last season considering just 22 players fared better at the plate, but that's the standard Seattle's star has set for himself. Entering his sixth MLB season at age 32, Ichiro is picked as a future Hall of Famer by 74% of SportsNation voters, most of whom expect him to bounce back in 2006. And when it comes to who voters would want at the plate needing a clutch single, only Albert Pujols and David Ortiz received more votes.
Randy (Houston): Can you give me your take on the Bagwell-Astros situation? I think Baggy may actually be able to throw some this year, and the Astros seem to be burning this bridge.
Jerry Crasnick: I made a bunch of calls to baseball people about this yesterday, and it's really hard to cast the entire blame on one side or the other. If I'm the Astros, I don't want to spend $17 million on a guy who can't throw the ball across the infield. But Bagwell is the consummate pro, and he's not doing this for the money. He gets paid either way, whether it's from Houston or the insurance company. He just doesn't want to retire without giving it an earnest shot. The whole thing is really unfortunate.
Brett (Minto, N.D.): Do you see the A's winning the AL West? How much help will the Big Hurt provide to a lineup that needs more power?
Rob Neyer: Yes, I do. Though I'm not convinced that Thomas will make a big contribution to the effort. I think the Thomas signing was a good one, because the A's aren't risking much. But between his injury problems and his relatively poor numbers away from home in recent years, I just don't see him making a real difference.
Jim (Newark, N.J.): Does Piazza hit 20 HRs and drive in 80 with the Pads? If so, does that make his signing a good one?
Rob Neyer: I wouldn't bet on those numbers, Jim. Not while playing half his games in the Grand Canyon. I would say 15 and 60 is a more reasonable projection.
Voice of the Fan
It's almost time for the four best words in all of sports: pitchers and catchers report.
Goose (Chicago): Any truth to the rumors about Mark Cuban buying the Cubs?
Rob Neyer: Hadn't heard that one. But I think he should buy Cuba. Better players.
Rob was just kidding, but what do you think of Cuba's WBC chances?
Can't wait for Alex Gonzalez's .316 OBP for the Red Sox! Great!
Who knew Mike Piazza was still playing baseball?
I can't think of a worse place for Piazza to sign than San Diego. No rest as a DH and no chance to hit more than a dozen HR's playing in that ballpark.
Rob (New York)
The Cubs sign already-injured Wade Miller, and Dusty Baker gets blamed for pitch counts.
The Orioles trade Jorge Julio for Anna Benson? Can you imagine what they'd get for Miguel Tejada? Kirsten Dunst? Halle Berry? Both? And prospects?
Tom (Parkville, Md.)
Why aren't guys like Mark Shapiro, who put together contending teams on a $40-million payroll, getting any love? Theo Epstein and Brian Cashman get so much press, for what? Having twice the bankroll of anyone else to buy up the best veterans? Any fantasy baseball player could put together a team like the Yankees or Sox if they had $200 million to spend.