Can he really walk away after a Cy Young--caliber season? Sandy Koufax did it in 1966, though elbow pain prompted his departure. A healthy Clemens (left), with 328 wins, needs only two to pass Steve Carlton for ninth place on the alltime list and become the winningest pitcher alive. Clemens is reportedly leaning toward retirement, and speculation is that if he were to return it would only be with his hometown Astros.
The valuation of Adrian Beltre, J.D. Drew and Carl PavanoAfter years marred by underachievement and injuries the Dodgers third baseman (major league--high 48 home runs), Braves outfielder (31 homers) and Marlins pitcher (18-8, 3.00 ERA), respectively, had breakout seasons just in time for free agency. But for how much and for how long are teams willing to wager that Beltre (left), 25, Drew, 28, and Pavano, 28, will continue to perform at the level they reached in '04?
The Rockies' garage sale
Outfielder Preston Wilson (left), catcher Charles Johnson and lefthander Denny Neagle are owed $40 million combined next year, including a $9 million buyout on Neagle's contract for 2006. The team can't fully rebuild until those contracts come off the payroll. Johnson will likely be traded or cut, but Colorado is probably stuck with Wilson (limited to 58 games by a knee injury) and Neagle (who missed all of last year after elbow surgery).
The autonomy of Omar Minaya
After three straight losing seasons the Mets publicly gave Minaya (left), their new general manager, free rein to pick the next manager--leading contenders Willie Randolph (the Yankees' bench coach) and Rudy Jaramillo (the Rangers' hitting coach) have no big league managing experience--and rebuild an aging team. Minaya's every move will be dissected by the New York media and fans.
Filibustering in Washington
Mayor Anthony A. Williams (left) and the denizens of D.C. are on cloud nine, but the artists formerly known as the Montreal Expos will probably not get a new owner until after the first of the year. With Major League Baseball continuing to run the team and restricting spending in the interim--and no G.M. in place-- Washington will remain at a competitive disadvantage through the sport's key acquisition season.
The Hall of Fame vote
Wade Boggs (left), with3,010 hits, is the only lock among the first-time candidates on the ballot to be mailed to baseball writers in December. Last year's top two runners-up, Ryne Sandberg (.285 lifetime average and 282 homers, solid numbers for a second baseman) and Bruce Sutter (300 saves, 2.83 ERA), could inch closer to, and maybe even into, the Hall, after the results are announced on Jan. 4. --T.V.