Barring unexpected bias or backlash, Wade Boggs on Tuesday will become the first Tampa Bay area product to be elected to the baseball Hall of Fame solely because of his accomplishments as a player.
When he gets inducted in July, Boggs will join Tampa's Al Lopez, who was voted in by the Veterans Committee in 1977 mainly for what he did as a manager.
So who will be next to make the trip from Tampa to Coopers-town?
That's not an easy question. Of the dozens of major-leaguers from the area, here are the four most worthy of discussion.
+ Steve Garvey. He hasn't gotten elected in 12 years on the ballot, failing to get more than 43 percent of the vote in any year (75 percent is needed) and things probably won't change over his final three. He has one MVP award and four other top-six finishes, four Gold Gloves, 10 All-Star selections and the top fielding percentage in history for a first baseman, but with a .294 average, 272 homers and 1,308 RBIs that isn't enough.
+ Fred McGriff. He has a .284 average, 493 homers and 1,550 RBIs over 19 seasons, but his career was more about consistency than dominance (never hitting more than 37 homers in a season). If he doesn't get the final seven homers to get to 500 it's going to be tough for him to get in.
+ Dwight Gooden. He was off to a great start, breaking in as a 19-year-old and averaging 17 wins over his first seven seasons, but substance abuse led to him wasting some of that potential. Retired with a 194-112 record, and a large dose of what-might-have-been.
+ Gary Sheffield. With 415 homers, 1,353 RBIs, a .298 lifetime average and at least another couple years left in his career, the 36-year-old has the best chance of all. Playing in New York will help, though he tends to get himself involved in lots of controversy, including the latest steroids mess. Still, getting to 500 homers could make it all but automatic.
YANKEE POWER: If they complete the trade for Randy Johnson and sign free agent Carlos Beltran, the Yankees will have an amazing collection of stars.
And they'll have an astronomical payroll, somewhere in excess of $220-million, which would be about seven times what the Devil Rays are spending. On top of that, the Yankees will have to pay about another $40-million in luxury tax, and probably contribute another $60-million or so in revenue sharing.
Do you think George Steinbrenner wants to win another World Series?
RAYS RUMBLINGS: The lull in the market for the top free agents seems to have slowed the Rays' efforts as well, as lower-tier players are waiting to see what situations develop. The Rays are still interested in Tony Batista (though it may take a multiyear deal) and Alex Gonzalez as potential third basemen, are still talking to Danny Bautista about an outfield job and may continue talks with Mark Grudzielanek while considering Alex Cora and/or Miguel Cairo at second base. Ex-Ray Jared Sandberg signed a minor-league deal with the Nationals. Aubrey Huff said he didn't get too creative for his recent engagement: "I just asked her _ nothing fancy." The spring training schedule has not been released, but highlights include home games with the Dodgers (March 9), Red Sox (March 15, 26) and Yankees (March 20) and a trip to play the Orioles in Fort Lauderdale and the Dodgers in Vero Beach.
FULL DECK: Tampa's Tony La Russa is excited about bringing his Cardinals to the Trop for the first time in June, and expects to have plenty of friends and relatives in the stands. "It's going to be a big weekend," he said. "I've got to buy some tickets now _ there will be a couple hundred there."
MISCELLANY: Negotiations on a new steroid policy should resume quietly this week with the expectation of reaching a deal by spring training. Key will be how many tests a year are required and whether first-time offenders get suspended, and thus publicly identified. There is unrest in Philadelphia, where critics point out the Braves added Tim Hudson and John Smoltz to their rotation, the Mets signed Pedro Martinez and the Marlins picked up Al Leiter while all the Phillies have done is replace Eric Milton and Kevin Millwood with Jon Lieber and Cory Lidle. The Blue Jays are talking about installing FieldTurf, which would eliminate the last AstroTurf style surface in the big leagues.
Information from other news organizations was used in the report.