After the season kicked off in Australia about a week ago, the excitement for baseball’s return had reached its peak. Players were finally returning from Florida and Arizona, and games were actually going to mean something.

Before we could get to that point, though, we had to make it through one more week of essentially meaningless games, and although nothing too relevant happened on the field, there was more than enough to keep everyone busy.


Cabrera, Trout Sign Big Extensions

The two best position players in baseball each signed lucrative contract extensions, and they happened to be within 48 hours of each other. Though they’re both undoubtedly proven players, the reactions that were elicited from each contract were completely different.

The first deal to get done was the Detroit Tigers pact with reigning AL MVP Miguel Cabrera. The eye-popping 10-year, $292 million deal was the richest in total value in MLB history, and many fans and analysts alike panned it due to a combination of Cabrera’s age, and the length of the contract.

On the other hand, the 6-year, $144.5 million contract for the Los Angeles Angels and Mike Trout was widely considered to be a smart move for both sides, as it takes Trout through his arbitration years and ends when he is 29. When that time comes, he’ll likely unseat Cabrera (or potentially a different player) for the largest contract in history.

From my perspective, I’d have to say that I’m not against the Cabrera deal as many people are. Of course, many executives around the league are criticizing it, but that’s probably because the cost of the best player on their team just skyrocketed, along with any free agents they may bring in. Cabrera should remain one of the better hitters in the game throughout the course of his contract, as his blend of contact and power, and his utilization of the entire field will allow him to age well.


New Drug Testing Process To Be Implemented

Somehow, the MLB quietly agreed to a system that will enforce performance-enhancing drugs better than any of the four major sports leagues. It won’t get much mainstream media coverage, but Bud Selig, new Players Association Executive Director Tony Clark, and the rest of the executives really knocked this one out of the park.

Under the new guidelines, the penalties for positive tests will be much more strict than before. A first positive test will result in an 80-game suspension, which is up from 50 in the previous agreement, the second will be worth a full season (162 games), and a third will be a permanent suspension from Major League Baseball.

It’s not just the penalties that stiffened, but the testing process as well. Each player will be required to take Carbon Isotope Ratio Mass Spectrometry tests, which show if HGH was in a player’s system in the past two weeks. Along with that, there will be around 1,800 more urine samples collected (Side note: I never thought I’d ever write about urine at any point).

That’s not even the end of it, either. There will also be increased blood testing for HGH, and, as a positive for players, there will be some leniency with unintentional positive tests which puts an end to the “No Tolerance” era.


Spring Training Comes To A Close

It’s about time. After going through about a month-long tease, we’re finally going to be treated to regular season baseball, and I think I speak for everyone in saying that it couldn’t have come quick enough.

Throughout this spring, we got to see old faces in new places, like Robinson Cano in Seattle and Prince Fielder in Texas. These two players, specifically, stepped up to the plate for their teams and will look to build on their successes from MLB’s preseason. Of course, some teams weren’t so lucky with their big acquisitions, as the Yankees couldn’t have been happy with Jacoby Ellsbury’s play, same for the Twins and Ricky Nolasco.

Like every spring, there were some standout young players that made their mark on their team, as players like Nick Castellanos, Javier Baez and Addison Russell all put on a show throughout March. While those three might not all get up to the big league this year (Castellanos will start at third for the Tigers, and Baez should be up in no time at all), they showed that they’ll be a big part of their respective team’s futures.

It’s great to see all of the young players get to play against top-level competition, but I know I’m not alone in thinking that Spring Training couldn’t have ended soon enough. It’s finally time, ladies and gentlemen. Play Ball!

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Brian Rzeppa is an avid follower of the Cubs, and of Major League Baseball in general. You can find his basketball-related work at Sheridan Hoops, and you can follow him on Twitter @brianrzeppa.