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Today, Bud Selig announced that he is for sale.

No, wait. Chairman of the Board of Directors Wendy Selig-Prieb announced the Milwaukee Brewers are for sale. While not as famously troubled as the Expos, Milwaukee's situation does not inspire confidence. The new owner faces a litany of problems to overcome, including but not limited to:

Eleven consecutive years of losing baseball, declining fan support, allegations of deliberate failure to field a competitive team, questions about who owns the team's $110 million debt, and the team's previous acquiescence to an independent audit (a real one, not the flimflam offered in Congressional hearings in 2001).

So, with all that in mind, what would be YOUR first order of business if you'd just purchased the Milwaukee Brewers? Moving the team to a larger market is not an option. As quoted from the main story linked above, "the Brewers' 30-year lease at Miller Park, which opened in 2001, prevents new owners from moving the franchise."

Good luck.
In the latest installment of ESPN's Hot Stove Heater series, Eric Karabell gives a run-down of the top 50 fantasy players. No surprises in the top 5: A-Rod, Soriano, Pujols, Vlad, Helton. I wouldn't personally rank Randy Johnson as high as #10, but the only name on the list that really stands out to me is Jose Reyes at #48. 69 games in the majors batting .307/.334/.434 and he's one of the top 50 fantasy players? Wow. The Toronto big three all make the list: Doc is #22, Delgado #27, and Vernon #40.

But this ain't the real world, so let's see what this list tells us about the upcoming BBFL season...
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Fun for a bitterly cold afternoon ...

This simulation reflects free agent signings and trades through Tuesday, January 13th (up to and including Jay Payton to the Padres). In his recent file release, Dan Szymborski created starting lineups and assigned some of the pitching roles for each team, which I have tweaked and updated. As in the first edition, I created manager profiles for all the (NL) teams, including playing time for backups and utility players. The number of simulated seasons was increased to 25 and the "no injuries" setting was used. The following results are based on average (not median) performance.

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With the previous HC pushed off the main page and approaching the mystical 116-post mark, it's time for a new thread. Potential topics for discussion:

The likelihood of Pudge Rodriguez signing with the Tigers and his impact on the franchise.

The likelihood of Sidney Ponson, he of the career 99 ERA+, earning his contract.

The Dodgers’ mortal embarrassment at being upstaged repeatedly by their brethren in Anaheim, and the possibility that their offense might be even worse in 2004.

Baseball Headline Writing 101: Mixed Metaphors

Jessica Simpson’s potential role in the upcoming David Clyde movie.
Baseball America has published their top ten Blue Jay prospects on their web site. Numbers two through ten are only available to subscribers. John Manuel will be taking your questions about the list at 3 pm ET this afternoon (changed from 2 pm). John also has nice things to say about the Jays farm system. BA rates it as #1 in the AL East and we have seen in BA recently that it is one of the top five in the league.

Top ten are:

1. Alexis Rios
2. Dustin McGowan
3. Quillermo Quiroz
4. Gabe Gross
5. Francisco Rosario
6. Aaron Hill
7. David Bush
8. Vince Perkins
9. Russ Adams
10. Brandon League
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The Jays have signed Ted Lilly to a two-year contract, avoiding salary arbitration. The new deal calls for $1.9M in 2004 and $3.1M in 2005.

Lilly is a topic that divides the Box. Some see him as the number 2 starter, while others think he'll be 5A. I'm a little split myself, liking his potential to be a good number 3 but a little wary of the $3.1M now committed to him for 2005.
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Spencer Fordin looks at the Winter League performance of top Blue Jays prospects Alexis Rios and Guillermo Quiroz, as well as a few other prospects like Simon Pond and Miguel Negron in his article "Rios, Quiroz shine in Winter League". Like all of Fordin's work, it's a must read.
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The server I host Da Box on is undergoing an attack from an unknown assailant. This attack most likely has nothing to do with Batter's Box itself. However, its result is that I have trouble keeping everything up and running. Most recently our web server has been down for a short time.

If you notice any problems, please e-mail one of the Bauxites, who all should know how to get ahold of me at a moment's notice. However note that if you've been sending e-mail to any @battersbox.ca addresses, it has likely been delayed (but hopefully not lost forever).
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Thanks to Thomas for the update. According to the official Toronto Blue Jays site, the Jays have signed righties Juan Campos, Josue Matos, lefty Dave Maurer, and outfielder Noah Hall to minor league contracts with invites to Major League Spring Training. Pete Walker has also cleared waivers and has been invited to spring training with the Jays. I guess Major League General Managers like him a lot less than I do.

The Jays have also named Joe Breeden as bench coach for the big club. The Jays did not have a bench coach in 2003.
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John Sickels has graciously agreed to be Da Box's first interview of 2004. Most of you know that John publishes his annual Baseball Prospect Book. The 2004 issue will be mailed Feb 1 and can be ordered here.

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Aaron returns from Sin City, older and wiser, with a brilliant blog entry. He made a few rookie mistakes, but he's still a prospect.
The bete noire of Batter's Box, Hall of Fame-bound Roger Clemens, has unretired. Despite the memorable send-offs at Fenway, Yankee Stadium and Pro Player for the legendary fireballer, Rocket Roger will be joining his friend and training partner, Andy Pettitte, in the revamped Astros rotation.

It says here that the effect of this move will be keenly felt in the NL Central and Wild Card races. What does the pena think?

Thanks to Leigh for the heads-up!
Not much activity today, so I thought I'd hilight some Jays-related articles you may have missed.
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Here's a little diversion for those of you feeling uninspired about working on a Friday afternoon. This week, the Jays signed Terry Adams to be a part of the 2004 bullpen. The problem is, the guy's name doesn't work very well.
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I wish that Joe Morgan had never become a broadcaster. I wish he'd never written a book called Baseball for Dummies. It's not that Morgan is a bad colour commentator - there are worse. It's merely that some of the stupid things he says and writes these days chisel away at his exemplary playing record.
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