Alex Rodriguez dropped a bombshell when he admitted using performance-enhancing drugs while playing for the Texas Rangers from 2001 through '03. Now the biggest question in baseball remains: How will Rodriguez perform with the circus that will undoubtedly surround him all season? The Yankees' World Series hopes hang in the balance.
2 of 10AP
A-Rod isn't the only steroid-related story in 2009. Barry Bonds' perjury trial begins on March 2, Roger Clemens could be federally indicted and the 103 players besides A-Rod who tested positive on the 2003 survey test remain unknown -- for now ...
3 of 10Al Tielemans/SI
Can the Phillies repeat?
The Phils went 13-3 in their final 16 games to steal a second straight NL East title from the Mets and really took off in October. Philly rampaged past the Brewers (3-1), Dodgers (4-1) and Rays (4-1) to win the city's first major championship since the 76ers won the 1983 NBA Finals. The Phillies kept most of the roster intact and enter '09 as a serious contender again.
4 of 10David E. Klutho/SI, Mike Stobe/Getty Images, Damian Strohmeyer/SI
Beasts of the AL East
No division boasts a better trio of teams than the AL East. The youthful Rays shocked the baseball world by winning the pennant last year, but no one will be caught off guard by Tampa Bay in 2009. The Rays are one year older and added a quality, righty run producer in Pat Burrell. After snapping a 13-year playoff streak, the Yankees spent $423.5 million on left-hander CC Sabathia, right-hander A.J. Burnett and first baseman Mark Teixeira. And the Red Sox locked up young stars Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis while also making a number of savvy free-agent signings (Brad Penny, John Smoltz, Takashi Saito and Rocco Baldelli). But at least one of these teams won't be playing in October.
5 of 10Chuck Solomon/SI
Effects of free agency
Who will end up making the biggest impact with their new team? The Yankees unquestionably made the biggest splash in free agency (CC Sabathia, Mark Teixeira and A.J. Burnett), but many other clubs addressed needs as well. Will Derek Lowe help the Braves return to October? Can Francisco Rodriguez keep the Mets from choking in September? Will Milton Bradley (Cubs), Pat Burrell (Rays) or Bobby Abreu (Angels) be the bat that generates a deep playoff run?
6 of 10Al Tielemans/SI
Manny Ramirez is still homeless, though speculation has him returning to the Dodgers. How much longer will he remain unsigned? And once he does sign, will he carry his team like he did Los Angeles in the second half of last season? And how happy will he be with his new contract?
7 of 10Damian Strohmeyer/SI
Can the Cubbies end the drought at 101 years?
Carlos Zambrano predicted the drought would end in 2007, then Ryan Dempster followed suit before last season. But both seasons ended with the Cubs being swept in the National League Division Series. Is this the year the North Siders bring a world championship to Chicago for the first time since back-to-back titles in 1907 and '08? They enter the season as an overwhelming favorite in the NL Central.
8 of 10Thomas E. Witte/SI
Will Cliff Lee duplicate 2008?
No player enjoyed a more surprising surge in 2008 than Cleveland southpaw Clifton Phifer Lee. After spending much of 2007 in the minor leagues and barely winning a rotation spot in '08 spring training, Lee went 22-3 with a 2.54 ERA, running away with the AL Cy Young Award. It's unfair to expect Lee to replicate his 2008 numbers, but the Indians sure hope he can come close.
9 of 10Mitchell Layton/SI
The growing legend of Matt Wieters
Evan Longoria entered last season as baseball's most-talked-about prospect and he delivered: winning AL Rookie of the Year and guiding the underdog Rays to the World Series. This year it's Wieters who enters spring training as baseball's No. 1 prospect. The Orioles' switch-hitting catcher is described as a mix of Joe Mauer and Mark Teixeira. No pressure.
10 of 10AP
Record-setting futility in Pittsburgh?
With a current streak of 16 straight sub-.500 seasons, the Pirates are tied with the 1933-48 Philadelphia Phillies for the longest run of futility in American professional sports history. And looking at this year's roster, the Pirates appear poised to take sole possession of that dubious distinction.
You May Like
Sign Up for our Newsletter
Don't get stuck on the sidelines! Sign up to get exclusives, daily highlights, analysis and more—delivered right to your inbox!