The Hot Stove League opened for business late Saturday night, a little earlier than confident Yankee fans were expecting. Between now and Opening Day of 2004, baseball fans will dissect the season that just concluded—not least, the Florida Marlins' splendid run to the World Championship—and speculate on what's to come.

As always, questions abound and rumors swirl. My family and friends in Southern California (where I followed the Dodgers from their arrival in 1958 until we moved to the Midwest in 1994) are wondering what the new ownership will bring to what was—before the Murdoch era—the best-run, most widely admired franchise in the game. There's talk that Oakland's wizard, Billy Beane, may be persuaded to move south.

A perennial Hot Stove question is What will George do? Surely there may be must be a lot fuming going on at the throne of the Evil Empire. After all, this was the third season in a row that the Yankees failed to bring home the championship. The excellent Chicago Tribune baseball writer Phil Rogers suggests that Steinbrenner may set his sights on Sammy Sosa and/or Frank Thomas. Which raises an interesting question. If you got a bunch of dedicated Cubs and Sox fans in a room and kicked that idea around, how many would regard it as a potential disaster for their team?

For Cubs fans, of course, the big question will be how the team will respond to losing the NLCS to the Marlins after mounting a 3-1 lead and returning home with Mark Prior and Kerry Wood set to start. What will loom largest: the failure that ended their season, or all they had accomplished up to that point? Even the way the question is framed leaves out a crucial ingredient. Contrary to a lot of the coverage, the Cubs didn't give away the victory. ...

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