4) What will the down economy do to the game?
Will the Red Sox' 469-game sell-out streak finally end? Possibly. What about the new Yankee Stadium and Citi "Bailout" Field in New York — will they be able to fill all those corporate luxury boxes? And will the Mets suffer for having their ownership victimized by Bernie Madoff? This much is for sure: from fan spending to player salaries, the economy is having a very real effect on baseball. The Red Sox have responded by freezing ticket prices and offering half-off select concessions. But I'm still waiting to see deals like the one offered by the A's in small-market Oakland: four tickets, four hot dogs, four sodas, and four bags of peanuts for just $50!
5) How will globalization affect rosters?
Now that Japan has won the first two installments of the World Baseball Classic, with even the Netherlands showing the powerhouse Dominicans how it's done, it's clear that America's game has gone global. The Red Sox have three Japanese pitchers on their active roster, and one more stashed in the minors. (Just three years ago, they had none.) Now we just have to find a fairer way of signing them, because the expensive "posting system" currently used to lure Japanese players doesn't seem to have many fans on either side of the Pacific.
6) Will baseball ever again be popular with blacks?
More and more these days, Fenway looks like a Dave Matthews concert: the audience a sea of well-dressed whiteys, and the few blacks in attendance actually doing the performing. And their numbers are shrinking faster than Barry Bonds's testes: barely eight percent of big-league players are black. Initiatives like Major League Baseball's RBI (Renewing Baseball in the Inner City) program are trying to attract more minorities to the sport, but in the meantime it seems only mildly hyperbolic to wonder if we'll soon have more black presidents than baseball players. Startling fact: with the off-season trade of Coco Crisp, the Red Sox currently have zero African-Americans on the active roster.
7) Is baseball getting dumber?
Carl Everett said there were no such things as dinosaurs, but baseball fans know different. Exhibit A: Hall of Famer Joe Morgan, whose truculence in the face of sophisticated statistical analysis is infamous. (He dismissed Michael Lewis's Moneyball by saying, "Why would I wanna read a book about a computer, that gives computer numbers?") The fact that ESPN has deemed it wise to place blithering idiot Steve Phillips in the booth with Morgan and Jon Miller for Sunday Night Baseball doesn't help.
8) Will the three best teams in baseball come from the AL East, and more important, will the Yankees blow it again?
The AL Beast is home to two 95-win teams, which pummeled each other until the last out of the last game of the '08 ALCS. Oh, and it's also home to the Yankees, who, global depression be damned, spent nearly $450 million this off-season on five elite free agents. But their spendthrift ways haven't won 'em anything in nine years, so why should it start now?