What a long, strange trip — Part deux

Last week I commented on some of the crazy things that have occurred in the NBA this year, but to stay on the topic, this HAS to have been the strangest offseason in Major League Baseball history. I mean, in what OTHER year did a former MVP winner call a press conference that went like this:

Player: I’m sorry.

Press: For what?

Player: I can’t tell you.

Press: Why?

Player: I’m not allowed. Are there any other questions?

Press: Does it begin with an “s” and end in “teroids?”

Player: No further questions.

Of course, almost all of the weirdness — including the aforementioned press conference — has been centered in New York. For example, the Yankees acquired Randy Johnson, who celebrated by attacking a local cameraman. The Mets’ locked up Pedro Martinez, who immediately defused his “prima donna” image by telling the media to treat him with “respect,” and to not write anything bad about him or his family (also, he wants PLENTY of rest in between starts). Then the Mets also added Carlos Beltran, although it later became known that he would have gone to the Yankees for less money, except that the Yankees ran out of money covering Jason Giambi’s medical expenses, and press conference bagels. To boot, Mike Piazza got married to a former Playboy model, which doesn’t seem that strange until you consider the fact that Piazza once had to call a press conference of his own to announce he was not gay (okay, we believe you now. Kind of). And speaking of player-wife relationships, Anna Benson, the wife of Mets’ pitcher Kris Benson, announced on “The Howard Stern Show” that she would sleep with the entire Mets organization if Kris ever cheated on her, to which new Met manager Willie Randolph replied, “Since we don’t have a bullpen, could I go twice?”

Not to be left out of the mix, Boston got involved in the fray when Red Sox outfielder Trot Nixon questioned whether or not Alex Rodriguez was a “true Yankee.” This basically opened the floodgates on A-Rod criticism, culminating with Sox pitcher Matt Mantei — Matt Mantei? — questioning the motives of one of this generation’s greatest players. (Mantei would later admit that he was just attempting to lure the media into using the names “Matt Mantei” and “Alex Rodriguez” in the same sentence, something that is actually illegal in 48 states.)

Other cities refused to be denied access to “Weirdville” this baseball offseason. Take Arizona, which is not actually a city, but experienced its share of absurdity nonetheless. The Diamondbacks hired former Mets’ player Wally Backman as their manager, only to fire him two days later amidst reports of Backman’s past indiscretions, which included spousal abuse, and connections to the ’86 Mets. In addition, the D-Backs were willing to part ways with Randy Johnson, citing their desire to rebuild, but then went out and spent gazillions of dollars on the injury-prone Troy Glaus, the slightly above average Russ Ortiz, and the underachieving Shawn Green. It was money certainly well spent, if you don’t like money.

The Seattle Mariners tried to improve on last year’s team, which shouldn’t have been hard, considering the 2004 Mariners lost over 100 games. So, like Arizona, Seattle went on a spending spree, obtaining free agents Adrian Beltre and Richie Sexson. Unfortunately, just weeks later, Sexson was pulled over on suspicion of DUI. Matt Mantei would later say that Sexson is obviously not a “true Mariner.” When asked what a “true Mariner” is, Mantei replied, “Technically, it’s like, a fisherman. Right?”
It was obvious that the Baltimore Orioles didn’t need help on offense this offseason. After all, they had one of the most potent lineups in baseball last year. They needed pitching. So Baltimore went out and traded second baseman Jerry Hairston, Jr. for Cubs’ pitcher Sammy Sosa. The only problem was that Sammy Sosa is NOT a pitcher. But at least he seems to be a good guy to have in the clubhouse. Except when he leaves said clubhouse early, and then lies about it, only to have been caught on camera doing so. Other than that, it seems to be a great trade for both teams. Except for the Orioles.

And let’s not forget the fact that the Montreal Expos officially moved to Washington DC, a city that has previously failed to maintain a baseball franchise. Twice.

Roger Clemens retired, filed for a record $22 million in arbitration, un-retired (again), and is now the highest paid pitcher in league history at 42 years of age.

The Marlins’ Jeff Conine needed shoulder surgery after running into a wall while playing paddleball.

Detroit Tigers’ closer Ugeth Urbina was finally reunited with his kidnapped mother after Venezuelan bodyguards had to raid the camp in which she was being held hostage.

Oh — and Jose Canseco sold his 2000 World Series ring on his website for a reported $40,000, and then nixed the deal, and is now being sued by the man who bought it.

And speaking of Jose, I think he wrote a book, too.