Alex Ciepley: I think that steroids will continue to be a big story throughout the season, but for different reasons than it currently is. I think a few players who have been under the spotlight--guys like Giambi and Sosa--will see an uptick in their production. How will the media react to their whipping boys putting up good numbers while they're assumedly off the juice?
Will Carroll: They'll respond, "It's not working! We need the death penalty for steroid suspicion. Never mind the tests, I can tell when these guys are juicing. Trust me."
Cliff Corcoran: Well, the big stories of the recent past have been Barry Bonds, steroids, and the Red Sox. It's not possible that the Red Sox could be as big a story this year. The steroids story always seems to recede some once the games are being played (though Will and I certainly have our reasons to hope that it remains big news throughout the season).
Barry Bonds, meanwhile, seems like something that will not go away. He'll either get back into action and start chasing down Ruth and Aaron, or he'll be out for a prolonged period, feeding speculation about retirement and suspicion about drug use (remember, Barry was supposed to be the one who didn't suffer the typical injuries).
And if he does retire, that will be huge. So no matter what happens, Barry Bonds seems like a sure bet to be a major story, if not the major story in 2005, for worse or worse.
Alex Belth: I think that the biggest stories of the year will surround performance-enhancing drugs. There are too many people with too much invested in them. If it's not Congress it'll be Barry Bonds. And I think that Bonds is a story that just won't go away until he finally steps down. He might retire before he can beat Aaron, but there nothing that is going to prevent that man from passing the Babe.
Scott Long: Steroids will continue to lead the headlines, but the biggest story on the playing field will be how this year's major free agents didn't live up to their contracts. Of the players who signed long-term deals over $7 million annually, I suspect only Pedro and Jon Lieber will be judged as good deals after the 2005 season.
The biggest positive for MLB will be the most competitive division races of recent times, as the AL Central, AL West, NL East and NL West could all come down to the final week, before anyone clinches a playoff spot.
Ken Arneson: There will be a lot of "I-told-ya-so" stories about the A's and the Dodgers. It doesn't really matter if they succeed or not. Either way, in the end, somebody's going to be gloating.
Alex B: There will be enough great stuff happening on the field to serve as a distraction from the bad stuff. But I can't think of a positive story that will overwhelm the drug talk. Who wants to hear about players like Vernon Wells, Johan Santana and Miguel Cabrera anyhow? Are they going to sell any papers?
Maybe the best story baseball could hope for is no Yankees, no Red Sox, no Braves or Cardinals in the Serious.
Cliff: I have to disagree about the Yanks/Sox/Cards/Braves in the World Series. Well, Sox and Cards for sure (they've been in exactly one each since 1987, even if it was last year). The Braves won't make the series so that's not a worry and if the Yanks have the right opponent (Cubs, Dodgers, Cards, Phils, Mets... really any contender other than the Fish or Pads) it should be compelling.
Baseball's vibe is to ride its signature franchises. A Rangers/Marlins series is not going to help baseball, nor is an Angels/Padres series.
Alex C: No! As a Cubs fan, the Cubs versus my corporate softball team would be ideal. I'd have to imagine the Cubbies would be able to overcome any of the horrifying curses left in the bank to pull out that one.
Cliff: Right, but for baseball, I think Cubs-Yanks would be ideal, as it would have been in '03. Imagine how much better that series would have been than Yanks-Fish.
Alex C: No! Don't mention 2003. Too much pain...
Mike Carminati: The biggest story may not be the best. The biggest stories will probably be steroids for the first half, followed by Bonds's injury, comeback, and the possibility of his breaking Aaron's record (further fueling the steroid debate), and finally the media will drum the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry into our heads with modulated regularity of a Jude Law movie premiere.
I think the best story of the year will be the development of a few young teams. The Indians, Padres, Twins, and A's, to name a few, will be the teams that I'll be watching.
Also, as the season progresses, both sides (but especially Selig and the owners) will start posturing in anticipation of the current CBA running out at the end of next season. There have already been a few minor labor-related stories a-brewing this spring. And boy, will the sport be missing Doug Pappas as the story progresses.
Alex B: Even in relatively calm years, baseball is always battling it's image problem. It's par for the course. Mike is right, by the end of the year, Selig and talk about the CBA will rear its ugly head, too.
Despite that, we know there'll be some incredible seasons to follow, hopefully there will be some decent pennant races, and, of course, a great October.
Ken: The best story for baseball would be something that defies all logic, all statistics, all predictions, and makes you believe, if just for a moment, in magic and miracles.