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They're never too far
away from men who made the grade
out in a world of their own
They'll never come down
until the battle's lost or made
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What I want
I want now
and it's a whole lot more
than 'anyhow'
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Prevention is better than cure
Bad apples affecting the pure
You'll gather your senses I'm sure
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Observations of an Ohio-bred Yankee fan writing from Texas ...

The Yankees is dead! The Yankees is dead!

You could almost hear the glee in the voices echoing from Chesepeake Bay to Boston Harbor, from the CN Tower all the way out to the Big A overseeing the stadium that is home to the California's Orange County Angels of Anaheim near Los Angeles and Beverly Hills 90210.

And, as I have speculated here many times, that day probably isn't far off; 2007 at the latest seems a likely time to pay the piper. Will the dark days Yankee fans know as The Horace Clarke Era one day be pined for from deep within the Ferdin Tejada decade? We don't know yet. But it is seeming less and less likely that the answer will come in 2005.

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I'm stuck with a valuable friend
"I'm happy, hope you're happy too"
One flash of light
but no smoking pistol
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It would be a mistake to overlook the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.

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What can we tell you about the 2005 Blue Jays squad that you, loyal Box reader, don't already know?
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Now that the Sox really know what it's like not to sing the blues, what will they do for an encore?

We asked the Batters Box roster for their opinions on some key Red Sox questions.

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The Orioles nudged closer to a winning record last year and climbed out of the fourth place cellar. This year they should be able to conclude the long journey back to a winning season, but not by much.
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Okay, so it's true, the fairy dust has been sprinkled, the hot place below has been covered in frost, swine are airborne ... the Boston Red Sox are the defending World Series champions.

Gosh, that's still hard to believe, even going on five months later, as I write the phrase. But you know something the Red Sox aren't? They aren't the defending American League East champions.
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Our 20,000-word "synopsis" concludes at last. Part One reflected on 2003, examined the front office and followed up on Craig's "Tosca in a Box" from last spring. Part Two counted down the 25-man roster, from most replaceable to most important player. So much for the past and the present; today is all about the future, which the late, great Dan Quisenberry assured us is much like the present, only longer.

For anyone not familiar with the Toronto organization, Syracuse is the AAA club, last year's AA affiliate was New Haven (it's now Manchester), the High-A team is Dunedin, Low-A is Charleston, and short-season Auburn is rated "above" Pulaski. For more on the fledgling Jays, see our depth chart and farm system links.

Though I do have personal favourites among these outstanding youngsters, when it comes to the minor leagues, I happily defer to our resident expert, Jordan Furlong. Take it away, "Gideon."

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Yesterday in Part One, I reviewed 2003 and gave the organization two thumbs up. Tomorrow, don't miss Part Three, Jordan's look at the system's best prospects. Now, let's meet your 2004 Fighting Jays.

Here's where I could have done some research, crunched the ZiPS numbers, factored PECOTA and invented a longevity quotient. It's more fun for me to rely on my eyes and my baseball instincts. However, I have refined my tried-and-true WAG (wild-ass guess) method — you know, the nonsensical approach that appraised Doc at 22-7 last March and foolishly predicted a career year for a 37-year-old backup catcher — into the COACH system, an acronym for Completely Optimistic, Analysis-free hunCH.

Don't laugh; I use the same unscientific style in fantasy ball, where I'm usually a contender and have won a league or two. I've loved baseball stats for more than 40 years, and Bill James and his disciples have greatly increased my understanding and even appreciation of the game, but I'm also from the Stengel-Berra school — if you know where to look, you still can observe a lot by watching.
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Many thanks to all my colleagues for their entertaining, informative work on this series, which would have wrapped up today if I had been more concise. This was quite an ambitious project for Batter's Box, and I'm extremely pleased with how it turned out.

Warning: unlike my thesis on the Cardinals, this one is really l-o-n-g, so it's being presented in three parts, beginning with this gaze into the rear-view mirror. The player "analysis" (my sabrmetrician friends may smile at my use of the term, or just shake their heads) comprises Part Two, which will be posted tomorrow. On Friday, most of Part Three will be devoted to Jordan Furlong's assessment of the Top 40 Prospects in the Toronto organization. I'm very grateful for that contribution, and to Craig Burley for allowing me to follow up on his remarkably accurate first impressions of Carlos Tosca.

Batter's Box regulars, so familiar with the Jays, may not learn much from this. I hope you enjoy it anyway.

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I awoke this morning to find that my newspaper was not, as I am accustomed, on my front step.

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If angst were apples, the Boston Red Sox would be an orchard. If the franchise were a movie production, it’d be Heaven’s Gate multiplied by Apocalypse Now. If it was a car, it’d be a 12-cylinder super-charged luxury SUV doing twice the speed limit yet convinced the wheels are coming off and the driver is lost. This franchise is wound tight with so much anxiety, frustration, disillusionment and self-esteem issues that it could keep every shrink in New England in Guccis and silk ties for years.
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